One of the first tweets I saw today was this one, from my mate Matt Bowsher:
Just over a year ago we got into a conversation on twitter about curry and who we’d most like to have curry with in the social care world. The twitter account was the first development, followed by a gmail account, an eventbrite account and the first wordpress blog post and the rest is curry history.
In the last twelve months we’ve arranged, and I use that term loosely because a chunk of the arranging work is done by local hosts, but we’ve had 64 Social Care Curry Club eat-ups across the globe. We’ve seen 861 plates of curry eaten in the UK, numerous connections and friendships initiated or rekindled. Hundreds of conversations about social care, as well as many other things. We know of a number of collaborations that have emerged, people applying for jobs, research projects being developed, placement students welcomed, all as a result of Social Care Curry Club.
We have firmly stuck to two inclusion criteria and one rule, since day one…. love social care, love curry, no sales. This seems to have worked brilliantly for us. Everyone is welcome, and we truly mean that. It was very, very important to Matt and myself from the start that everyone must feel welcome, there would be no hierarchy, no club, no bonus prizes for hosting, as much as we love them all. We checked people’s language in the early days, jumped in and tried to gently coax people away from the language of ‘inviting’ people to social care curry, because for everyone who was invited there would be someone reading who hadn’t been. It was really very important to us that it was by, and for, social care.
First Year Highlights
There have been many highlights. Personally for me, top three probably are (in chronological order)… the first ever gathering in July 2013 in Birmingham. A complete shot in the dark that could have gone so wrong, but actually set the tone for what was to follow:
Elephant ear poppadoms at NCASC Curry in Harrogate (Oct 2013), our biggest ever gathering with 80 people, a perfect mix of conference delegates and locals:
and the last eat-up I attended, at which I had the completely random experience of watching the now infamous #socialcarecurry selfie with Norman Lamb, the Minister for Social Care in London (March 2014):
All equally diverse, all equally brilliant.
One year on I feel it’s our duty to share the secret of Social Care Curry Club with you all. In just one year, without any resources, at zero cost to curriers, without sponsorship, we’ve facilitated 861 plates of curry in the UK and more further afield, we’ve supported networking and professional development, and we’ve been featured in The Guardian Social Care Network and on the BBC website. So what’s the big secret?
I think one critical component is our flat structure and that every decision has been made by the stakeholders, the curriers, right from what day should it happen on, through to where should eat-ups take place, and an open invitation to host. Social Care Curry Club wouldn’t have worked if curriers hadn’t got involved and contributed.
That said there is one other secret ingredient!!
A shed load of graft! Way more than you’d probably expect. It takes quite a substantial effort to (wo)man the twitter account, to write the blog posts (the astute amongst you will notice that they have dropped off since the early days), to coordinate offers to host, booking pages, and creation of attendee lists. To support hosts and occasional punters who are doubting that they have the confidence to attend. The success of such a flat, democratic structure does not come without a cost, a huge investment in time, and of course the risk of sharing your idea with the world and just hoping others will jump on board.
So what next?
Matt and I have been discussing this question and we don’t have any decisions yet. There are a few options, ranging from carry on as we have been and just suck up the time investment as a donation to improving social care, through to letting Social Care Curry Club fly (we publicise the dates for the next year, they’re quarterly on the first Thursday of the month, and let regions and hosts self-organise and don’t bother with a central identity). We’re not sure where we’ll go yet, but this last twelve months has been brilliant, just need to balance the investment of time with the results.
In the meantime if you’ve been to a Social Care Curry Club eat-up and would like to celebrate our birthday by buying us a drink, feel free to do so here. I’m shaving my head next month to raise money for two causes very close to my heart, Rowcroft Hospice and JusticeforLB, and your support is very much appreciated, as is the support of the many curriers who have already donated. We’d also like to thank the many curriers and hosts who have made Social Care Curry Club the success that it is, you made it work, each and every one of you.