How the Community Builders Program creates an environment conducive to recovery
The New South Wales government developed the Community Builders program in response to evidence which indicated making communities stronger is an effective way of reducing inequality and disadvantage. For people with a lived experience of major mental health conditions the barriers to gaining future employment can be immense. The Big Heart Community Builders Project at Mission Australia bridges these barriers by creating a workplace which supports volunteer social inclusion and training. Systemic and individual barriers'facing the volunteers are addressed and for many participants have led to sustainable employment outcomes. Organisations are a form of social system. The volunteers can develop an understanding of working within an organisational culture and learn essential workplace skills through volunteering. The positive organisational culture at Big Heart was shown to restore confidence and trust in volunteers, by supporting and respecting individual diversity and valuing their contribution. This paper demonstrates how the Big Heart Community Builders program developed an organisational culture conducive to the principles of recovery i.e. breaking social isolation barriers; increasing confidence and building social networks, enabling people to create a sense of belonging in their community. The SCARF model was used as a theoretical framework to elicit the attributes of the program as they relate to an individual's: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and sense of Fairness. Further, an impact evaluation strategy of the Community Builders Program was adopted which included: the lived experiences of participants, staff and managers. Data were collected through a number of focus groups, surveys, and interviews. Results showed that this workplace culture was an important factor in preparing people to learn essential intra- and inter-personal skills, which in turn facilitated sustainable work and healthy lifestyle outcomes for people who have a lived experience of a mental illness.
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