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Warren Heggarty of the Physical Wellbeing CoP (Communities of Practise) and Debra Gibbons of the Peer Workforce CoP are going to give you a rundown of what actually happens in CoPs. But first, some preliminaries…

What is a Community of Practice?

A CoP is a group of people who share an interest or passion for something and want to learn how to do it better by regularly interacting with each other. Communities of Practise promote collaboration, improving recovery and strengthening on-the-job skills. They bring people together from distant locations to capture organisational knowledge (things we all learn on the job that could be of benefit to everyone within RichmondPRA).

Peer Workforce CoP: Debra

The first Peer Workforce Community of Practice was held in February via teleconference. There were 15 participants from across New South Wales and Queensland.
We talked about training for the Peer Workforce, about registered training organisations that offered the new Certificate IV in Mental Health Peer Work, and about Intentional Peer Support Training.

We all need to promote the three vital behaviours, that is, using strengths based language, having recovery conversations and engaging in reflective practice. At times it can be difficult to express and communicate lived experiences within the role. So with that in mind, we spoke about the benefits of “co-reflection” between Peer Workers.

We identified some of the challenges we face as Peer Workers. For example the issue of isolation of our role within the various sites we work at and how we can promote inclusion. Access to other experienced Peer Workers is very important. The role of Peer Worker can also have something of a stigma attached to it, so we had a positive discussion on how best to address this challenge.

We agreed to share information between one another by utilising email and perhaps setting up a shared network folder with information for Peer Workers, such as presentations and training opportunities.

Physical Wellbeing CoP: Warren

At the time of writing there had been three meetings of this CoP which now has about a dozen members. We have an interest in promoting the physical health of the people who access our services.

A big part of physical wellbeing is nutrition. People throughout RichmondPRA are involved in cooking and food preparation, supporting people who want to reduce weight, supporting people with special dietary needs (relating to diabetes, for example).The Community of Practice allows members to share ideas, so that what happens in, say, Bega can influence what happens in Wagga Wagga.

One exciting project revealed to the CoP was the cookbook put together by Amanda and people at Buckingham House, Surry Hills. The community discussed the merits of its approach: “Healthy and inexpensive cooking for one.” This complements the group approach to cooking found in some of our services. The CoP discussed ways of publicising the cook book and making it available to our other services.

Other ideas shared included having local pharmacists give talks to the people who access our services, where to find the best resources for quitting smoking and hosting New Moves programs etc.

It’s not just about meetings!

So as you can see, being part of a Community of Practice is not just about attending another meeting. The people involved are all as passionate as you are about the subject matter and it is exciting to share new ideas with our colleagues. Ideas that will help the people who access our services become empowered and help our staff develop their careers!

How do I join a CoP?

Talk to your service manager about what you want to get out of your participation and how you can share your experience with your team.

CoPs usually meet monthly by teleconference. To ring in, you will receive a special telephone number and a “participant code” that enables all participants to simultaneously connect to each others’ phones.

You can either participate every month, or just when your schedule allows. For example, Warren hooked up to his first CoP using his mobile during a break in mowing his lawn!

Peer Workforce: Contact Debra Gibbons, Senior Peer Worker, Hervey Bay QLD

Physical Health: Contact Jade Ryall, Manager, B.O.T.H., Olympic Park NSW

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