Earlier this year, we were working with the Lions Barber Collective – a charity promoting mental health and suicide awareness – training barbers (and others in the hair and beauty industry) to recognise signs of poor mental health, ask direct questions, listen effectively and signpost to support.   

As an organisation, they are inspiring, for many reasons.  Working with them makes me question assumptions about/within the charity and social enterprise sectors.  It particularly makes me question the benefit of the ‘divide’ between sectors.  The starting place for the charity, was a ‘look book’ aimed at raising funds for other mental health charities.  The main aim, now, is to enable people to access support and find out about what’s available in the place they already go – the barbers (or hairdressers), from people that they already trust.  The barbers already have a relationship with the individuals whose hair they cut.  Many of their clients have used the same barber for years – even since a child.  The barber sees them every 6 weeks or couple of months, touches their head and helps them to see themselves more positively.  With a little bit of training, those same barbers are now asking questions that enable their clients to open up about their mental health, listening to their responses and signposting them to the support they need.  It’s so simple.  It supports people where they are.  And potentially, reaches thousands of people EVERY DAY.  And it crosses lots of divides between traditional ‘business’ and ‘charity’ sectors. 

I’ve also been reading some research around the role that pubs play in reducing loneliness.  [Join Inn – Last Orders for Loneliness – Pub is The Hub].  There were a lot of pubs that offered free or low cost food during the recent holidays when the Government suggested they wouldn’t be supporting families on Free School Meals.  Pubs (and other food venues) stepped up in their communities – because they could see a need and could meet it.   

I’ve been thinking about how poorly the sector (particularly smaller charities/social enterprises) link with local businesses, and why that is.  If it does happen, it tends to be for sponsorship or a raffle prize.  How can we improve those links?  What could we do differently to create support and projects which work across sectors and make the most of the resources, skills and people within our communities.