Measuring Impact: the Winning Hearts and Minds Way

| Mel Parks

Winning Hearts and Minds is a joined-up approach in north Manchester to improve people’s long-term heart and mental health by stepping outside the traditional approaches to health improvement. For years people have been encouraged to smoke less, move more and eat healthily and yet, 2018 data showed that Manchester had some of the poorest heart and mental health outcomes in England. So Winning Hearts and Minds needed a different approach. They asked the question: What if we got to know them, understand their lifestyles, listen to what was important to them and came alongside them to make changes that impacted their communities in a positive way?

In an earlier blog, programme manager, Charli Dickenson reflected on how Winning Hearts and Minds evolved and responded to the Covid-19 pandemic. And now, one year on, their report: Be Brave: Building Community Led Initiatives in North Manchester, has been published, documenting their learning so far.  The report reflects their ethos and is filled with stories and inspiration on how to take risks and do things differently in community work. Measuring impact is one area of their work that stands out. Often, this can be dry and something tagged on to a project to please funders, but they have gathered stories of how their work has made a difference under their Behaviours which forms the Winning Hearts and Minds Framework:

Be brave: Consider new things that haven’t been done before, talk to people who aren’t the usual suspects, challenge the system, don’t do things just because ‘that’s the way it’s always been done’.

Just try something, don’t worry if it doesn’t work: Don’t sit around talking about something for ages, just get out there and do it, don’t be afraid of making mistakes or failing, we’ll learn more from those experiences than if we’d done nothing.

Be open, honest and vulnerable: Share your experiences, bring your whole self to conversations, don’t expect people to reveal everything about their lives to you without giving anything in return, working with people as equals.

Be flexible and adapt: Don’t over plan and be ready to adjust those plans if things don’t work out, and when things go really well — put some more energy in those places!

Be understanding: Come to new experiences with an open mind, don’t make assumptions about people’s lives, embrace complexity and put yourself in other people’s shoes.


Description automatically generated

Just try something

Instead of spending too much time planning or trying to guess what might have an impact, if one of the Winning Hearts and Minds team has an idea, they start small and try it out, accepting that they’ll learn more quickly about what works and what doesn’t. 

For example, in the summer of 2020, when they were thinking about how they could reach out and help people who needed a bit more support during lockdown, they decided to put together activity packs, including puzzles and colouring in as well as suggestions for home and chair-based activities. These activity packs developed into knitting packs, pamper packs and children’s activity packs organised by groups in different areas. The real magic of the activity pack idea is the connections and learning it has resulted in. The knitting project alone helped link residents into other community groups in the area, to food banks, to befriending services, advice and employment services and more. 

Be open, honest and vulnerable

Building relationships with people in the community really helped Winning Hearts and Minds to understand people and have a meaningful impact on their lives. Being honest, open and vulnerable has been an essential component in this, but with Winning Hearts and minds offering something in return, such as time, experiences or resources. For example, this is Zaida’s lockdown story: 

“I started to experience a variety of emotions of feeling anxious, worried, scared and helpless. It felt like work was everything and by not working I didn’t have a life. 

We got chatting about how my life had changed dramatically from working for the past 30 years to a life indoors, which was a shock to me. Every week I would talk to Parveen and tell her things like I only go out in the garden to hang out washing, and how I suddenly took an interest in growing tomatoes and beetroot in the greenhouse to see if I have green fingers.”

Zaida wanted to get out more but was worried about catching Covid-19. Parveen suggested that together, they go out for a walk in the park. Zaida enjoyed the early morning walk and said that it helped her face any challenges in the day. She is now part of a weekly Walking & Talking Group and volunteers for a befriending service.

Be understanding

Listening was always important at Winning Hearts and Minds, but adding a layer of understanding to that behaviour has helped them delve into how communities are really thinking and feeling. In one area, three team members regularly attended weekly coffee mornings at the library and were put in touch with a local history group, who were wary as they had been let down by previous consultations. So the team were really keen to show that they cared what they thought. Lots of the conversations reflected on how the area used to be and people noted a lack of community pride. This developed into a campaign, including a poetry competition, to help people remember what they love about the area where they live. 

Be Brave

Being brave for Winning Hearts and Minds feels uncomfortable and this tells them that they are doing something outside of the norm and that’s probably the direction they need to go. 

They say: 

“Being brave is tough, but is exactly what is needed when we’re trying to improve people’s lives.”

One example of their brave work is setting up a Neighbourhood Inclusion Group to bring a wide range of services and organisations together to start to tackle social and racial injustices. The contribution they made was to reinforce the need to be brave to meet community needs. This has been essential in building trust and creating strong connections to help people to work together. 

Be Flexible

Winning Hearts and Minds needed to be flexible with their soup recipe competition that they created with three other local organisations. They decided to design and print a local recipe book and create soup kits to give out across the community. There were a few logistical problems, but also successes: what started out as a community conversation, soon turned into a multi organisation, north Manchester approach which delivered 400 soup kits (including ingredients to make one of the soups) to elderly residents across north Manchester, as well as giving out 30 slow cookers – one to each person who submitted a recipe. 

To read more about the Winning Hearts and Minds project and their plans for the future, take a look at their report: Be Brave: Building Community Led Initiatives in North Manchester.

Share this article:

Similar articles

by Helen Sharp

Celebrating 7 Years: milestone moments and looking forward

2024 marks 7 years of Ideas Alliance. Over that time we’ve grown from a small story sharing platform to a social consultancy on a mission to make co-production and collaboration the norm across the country. Co-founder Helen Sharp starts our celebrations by looking back at how it all started and what's coming next.

Read article
by Mel Parks

Grenfell Memorial Community Mosaic: Collective Power Awards

Celebrating and learning more about CHWA Awards joint winner, The Grenfell Memorial Community Mosaic, which has brought almost 1,000 local people from North Kensington together to make large scale public artworks. Co-created with individuals and local community, resident, faith and school groups under the guidance of mosaic artists Emily Fuller and Tomomi Yoshida.

Read article
by Mel Parks

Gloucestershire Creative Health Consortium: Collective Power Awards

Celebrating and learning more about one of the CHWA Awards joint winners: made up of Art Shape; Mindsong; The Music Works; Artlift and Artspace. They all work in partnership to provide high quality, personalised, inclusive and accessible creative health services for people experiencing psychological and/or physical challenges.

Read article