| Anna Eaton

We’ve recently come across an inspiring movement called Camerados. Camerados is a social movement of people that help each other out. They believe that we need just two things to get through hard times: connections and purpose. They want all of us to behave more like ‘a camerado’, more of the time. A camerado is someone who shows people respect; a friend when nobody has anyone else to chat to; someone who can actively listen; a person who has your back. Being ‘a camerado’ means I help you, you help me.

Connection and purpose

Camerados is the brainchild of founder Maff Potts who started the Association of Camerados in late 2015 after a long career in the homeless and housing sector. Maff and the team recognised that the root causes for so many of the problems people face, come from being lonely, being talked down to and being stigmatised by ‘the system’. When people are experiencing hard times, they often become isolated and bored. This can have a huge impact. When we caught up with Emma Burley from the Camerado’s team she explained that, “if you become isolated and bored, that’s when things can really unravel”.

The opposite of isolation and boredom, are friends and purpose. However, ‘the system’ doesn’t often value friendship as a solution. Therefore, the Camerados team started by looking at how they could go about helping create conditions for people to connect and find purpose. So far, this has been in the form of shared micro business projects and their public living rooms.

Public living rooms

Camerados’ living rooms are comfortable spaces open to anyone. They have set these up around the country, with two still running in Sheffield and Oxford. The living rooms are places to “make connections and enjoy being out of the house”. They come in all shapes and sizes. One was inside a tepee in a hospital entranceway! The living rooms reminded me of other community-based projects harnessing the strengths and solutions that already exist in our communities; such as our favourites the Library of Things community lending shop and Chatty Cafe talking tables.

Emma is very clear that “No one has an obligation to ‘fix’ anyone in the Camerado living rooms. It’s just about being with others”. What’s important is that ‘connecting’ doesn’t have to be about building a big network of best friends. They originally set out by focusing on “friends and purpose”, but now they’re leaning more towards “connection and purpose”. This is because, when asked to describe what ‘a camerado’ was to them, a person involved in their Blackpool living room told them that a camerado is something between a stranger and a friend. “We’re not saying the answer is about more deep friendships. It could just be a chat on a bus, it might be a smile, sharing a laugh or a more profound connection that you have spontaneously”.

What next?

Moving forward, the Camerado’s team are planning to gather and package all their learning from their projects to help and inspire others to do similar things. We’re excited to see what they produce.

For more information about the Camerados movement, check out their website. And if you want to get involved, contact them for your own Camerado badge and help spread the movement. And look out for an interview with their founder Maff Potts coming soon!

Photo by Duy Pham

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