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April Newsletter


Message from Susan Ritchie

Well who would have thought that since our autumn 2019 newsletter so much would have changed in our world! We were having the best year yet which means we are in a strong position to support you in continued dialogue as we move all our products online.

Practically for us that means:

  1. MutualiLearn version II is underway and will be ready in two weeks. Our trademarked and accredited online platform provides individual knowledge modules or the fully accredited award in Building Social Capital through Community Engagement (level 3 and Level 4)
  2. We have mastered the art of online meetings, focus groups and world cafes so we can deliver those for you with ease should you wish to maintain some of your engagement plans
  3. We are working with partners to create new bespoke modules online – watch this space!

Two other Covid-19 related activities we are focusing on are our #virtualcuppas where you can have a chat about the most random of topics – fun and serious – do join us; and our #newworld call to think and act collectively for a positive legacy out of this awful time.

Click on any of the links below to learn more about any of our current work.

Accredited Learning

Available on and off line, our online learners in councils, police forces, and individual students continue to move successfully through the modules working toward their level 3 or level 4 qualification in Building Social Capital Through Community Engagement.


We have just undertaken our annual centre review with OCN (London) and passed with flying colours again.

Community Coaching

Dionne has delivered another great Community Coaching programme in Manchester. The focus of this one was health and wellbeing. The group set individual and community goals covering ‘men in sheds’,  confidence building goals, and securing funding (they got £4000 and were shortlisted for a “Be Proud Award”!).  The group was so pleased with their achievements they may be looking to do more as we move forward.

It wasn’t just the local people that got praise: this is what the Manchester Health and Care Partnership said about our coach, Dionne:

Can I please also take this opportunity to thank Dionne and also mention what a great job she did of keeping the group engaged, focussed to task and also make the shift without the participants even noticing when it happened”.

This is what the community said:

“Nothing is impossible,”
“Having a voice is rewarding,”
“How important it is to be connected to the community,”
“I feel proud of myself helping to improve the community.”

Three more Community Coaching programmes are in the pipeline in West London as part of our latest Metropolitan Police Service programme. We will share more on this as it gets started.

Community Curators

The London Muslim Community Forum and the Metropolitan Police Service have just completed the first phase of our Community Curators programme with the support of Garry Shewan. The group now has a co-created term of reference and a two-year shared action plan covering gangs and youth violence and tackling Islamophobia – can’t wait to hear the progress they make.

Liz Citron starts the second phase of the programme to bring the plan to life through another community coaching programme – this time delivered all online due to Covid-19.

Facilitation Training

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has appointed a new Community Engagement Team. You can see from the rest of this newsletter that they do a lot of engagement with residents there using a variety of techniques, all of which require good facilitation, so it made sense for them to be trained in facilitation! Here are some of the comments from those who were trained:

“Very practical and applicable, good atmosphere throughout – very engaging and thought provoking”

“I loved the trainer’s ability to engage each and every one to learn techniques and get involved – the role play exercise was great”

World Cafés

We have been busy training in the planning and delivery of World Cafes in a number of areas across the UK. Garry Shewan has been leading the programme in Hampshire where the plan is to hold five
World Cafes followed by five Participatory Budgeting events. To date, two of the World Cafes have taken place with the three remaining on hold until the Coronavirus pandemic is over.





Andrew Fisher has been leading on our programme in Shelton, Staffordshire. The Shelton community braved the torment of Storm Ciara and turned out in numbers to share their thoughts, insights and experiences in relation to community safety. There were some very frank exchanges and the feedback from the event was very positive.






Lewisham Council has taken the World Café programme a stage further. A team made up of council staff and community members were trained in the Word Cafe process.  The first World Café was badged as a ‘showcase’ event and was attended by over 60 people in October 2019.  The community then held a series of World Cafes throughout the borough.

The commitment from the community has been excellent and the feedback has been very strong with the programme featuring in the ‘Lewisham Life’ magazine. The results of the analysis of the data is currently being undertaken and the plan is to deliver a final report mid-May.

Further World Café and Participatory Budgeting programmes are due to commence as part of the West London Metropolitan Police programme. Watch out for more information in our next newsletter.


Participatory Budgeting

Safety Theme

PB programmes are growing as method of engaging communities in deliberation and empowering them to
help them develop solutions to community issues. Andrew Fisher is leading programmes in Shelton (Staffordshire Police) in relation to community safety, and Newtown (Dyfed Powys Police) again in relation to community safety.



Serious Youth Violence

Susan has continued with the PB programme with Bedfordshire Police which is focused on tackling serious youth violence.  They recently extended their deadline for bidding due to the Covid19 situation. Some bidders have already received support on how to present their ideas, and another support session is planned for new bidders.

Multiple Themes

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has worked closely with Susan to deliver a version of Participatory Budgeting that has resulted in local people bidding into a pot of £600k. The pot covered multiple themes and tapped into an amazing energy in the North of the Borough, particularly focused on the Grenfell area. Two decision days were delivered at the request of residents and the team are now working with residents and MutualGain to consider how they can strengthen this further next year

Independent Facilitation

Susan has been working on a further two separate programmes relating to facilitation in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea:

  • The independent facilitation of their community assembly structure. These are a key feature of their governance structure, bringing together various council departments and partner organisations around specific themes. The first was on health and well-being and the second on was on environmental issues.
  • Facilitating the Community Works programme which is a resident led co commissioning process to ensure the employment and skills offer for those affected by the Grenfell Tragedy reflects what is most needed.

Citizens Assembly

Newham Council under the leadership of Mayor Rokshana Fiaz commissioned MutualGain to design and
facilitate a Citizen Assembly on climate change. The MutualGain Team (Susan Ritchie, Andy Paice, Martha Cuffy, Andrew Fisher, Deb Cohen, Michael Keating, Baljit Lohia and Dawn Jones) supported residents to hear from expert witnesses, including academics, consultants, local councillors, activists from local and international networks and a spiritual leader.  Other voices from the borough were encouraged and included through online channels.

Their diverse opinions were debated, expanded, reviewed and voted upon and informally presented to the Mayor in advance of a more formal presentation. It was heartening to witness the growth in relationships between residents and between the residents and the representatives of Newham council. This process certainly substantiated the motto – Stronger Together.

At the end of the process:

  • 30 members wanted to continue with email contact from the Council
  • 17 members joined a WhatsApp Group
  • 27 members wanted to stay involved in other form of civic duty
  • 8 members were willing to present to the council





Engagement Delivery

Development of Hubs

Occasionally we are commissioned to deliver engagement for organisations (not training or supported delivery). We have been doing this with Redbridge Council for just over a year supporting a contract from INVOLVE. We have continued since we last updated you moving from the wider engagement in Phase 1 (pre-September) to Phase 2 which has been more focused on continued dialogue with a group of interested residents. In Seven Kings residents have worked with architects to develop plans for the Community Hub, and in Gants Hill residents have received their phase one engagement report and helped to appoint the architects for their area.  We are currently on hold due to Covid19 and will review how MutualGain might support them with the next phase.


Exploring Isolation

Early in the year the Government published its Loneliness Annual Report: The First Year with government departments reporting on 60 commitments. Baroness Barran, who remains the Minister for Civil Society with responsibility for loneliness, recently set out her suggestions for coping with loneliness during the pandemic.

Our work with an NHS Trust to develop thinking about how an organisation works collectively to tackle loneliness has been put on hold (although not the thinking of course). Up until early March the latest focus has been on measurement using a tool called DIALOG Plus, a set of questions teams ask to get feedback from their most needy service users. Three of these could provide a proxy measure of loneliness, asking as they do about relationships with partners and family, friendships and personal safety.

Much of what the service users have said will continue to be true, echoed elegantly in a Twitter conversation initiated by Cormac Russell a couple of months ago:

Addressing loneliness head on is as productive as charging a rhino. You’ll lose. Better get past the label *lonely* to discover the person’s passions and potential contributions to the wellbeing of others, and then find folks to receive those gifts; and connect; connect; connect.’


Connection is of course at the heart of MutualGain’s work.  Over the last couple of weeks, we have been holding a series of ‘virtual cuppas’ to explore a range of topics to keep our brains stimulated. there have been too many great ones to select any in particular for this newsletter so do head to the webpage and see which ones you fancy: Some have recordings so you can catch up if you missed them but some don’t.  If you would like us to host a #VirtualCuppa for you do get in touch at 

As you may know, Susan is a friend and advisory board member at the Consultation Institute. She recently undertook a CPD course on the Law of Consultation that they deliver and helped her colleague Brian to facilitate a toolkit development session for the airport industry.

This week she has been writing an online course for them called Creative Dialogue Methods – we will send you information on that when it is live.

That’s it for now – do get in touch if there is anything we can help you with.  Stay safe!