We are here to support, promote and develop voluntary and community action in Middlesbrough

Ordinary radicals changing the world, one person, one day at a time

The impact of authentic relational connection

I cannot tell you just how much I am actually loving my job right now. You see, I am passionate about Middlesbrough, the town I was born, raised and continue to live in, and of the people who share this place with me. Despite the narrative of adversity and deprivation and impact of austerity on our services landscape, I love that day in day out I get to meet and work with some of the most inspirational, hopeful and driven world changers, relentlessly pursuing and achieving good for others. I call them ordinary radicals! 

I have met many of these people in the voluntary and community organisations I have contact with. But in the past few months I have seen this passion for influencing change and impacting lives for good more explicitly demonstrated in grass roots community activists. They are reaching out relationally, making a real difference through authentic relationships with those in their own area of experience and influence. This not only makes a huge difference for people at a personal and relational level. It has the capability to prevent the escalation of need and the knock on positive impact on supporting the services and the economy of our town too.

The need for informal peer-led support

One of the things we have been exploring widely at MVDA is how we can support the established systems of support for people, by connecting them with more VCOs and grass roots community initiatives. For example for Middlesbrough's early help hub one of the key areas of learning has been the need people have for a person, or people to complement the services we help them connect with. As I have been contributing to reviewing the needs of families and identifying services that can support we have also been identifying some of the barriers to engagement and problems with access.

Lots of these family members require some real, hands on, non professionalised relational approaches - befriending, buddying, mentoring - whatever we call this layer of informal, often peer-led support. This has been a real focus for us in thinking through potential solutions to gaps and barriers to engagement in current provision. This is an area of work at MVDA we are thinking about as a team.

It has been my real privilege to meet and develop relationships with some amazing people, often hidden in our communities, who have lived experience of issues and are using that experience to support others. I have met these people in work with asylum seekers and refugees, kinship carers, parents, children, young people and whole families.

Keep an eye on future blogs where I will share some amazing stories with you about my contact with these people, people having an amazing impact on their peers and communities; stories that will both break your heart and cause it to burst with pride. 

A better narrative rather than being overwhelmed

I am often overwhelmed when I think about the needs of Middlesbrough's people and what we need/can do to make things better for them and their communities. But there is a better narrative! A narrative that believes in people, believes in families, believes in communities, believes in Middlesbrough!

Reflecting upon my contact with the ordinary radicals doing just that, I am reminded of the phrase 'how does one change the world?' and I'm encouraged that the answer is both inside us and within our reach. We change the world by having faith in the value of people and the courage to connect with them right where they are. How do we change the world? By believing we carry something that can impact the world of another and having the courage to be authentically relational, one person, one situation and one day at a time! 

If you have any thoughts on this concept of authentic relational connection I’d love to hear from you!

Tracey Brittain


Senior Strategic Development Officer