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  • David Best, Ph.D.

Sowing the Seeds for Sustainable Recovery

The world of recovery is replete with innovation – and one of the aims of this blog is to highlight innovation and partnership. There are some consistent themes about all of the things I write about – that the two ‘golden threads of recovery are positive social networks and getting involved in meaningful activities; and consistent with this that the key to sustaining recovery is around jobs, friends and houses.

One of the things that I am incredibly grateful for is that I have the wonderful privilege of meeting some of the most charismatic and inspirational figures in the recovery area and through them I am able to visit and experience some incredible recovery services and innovations.

So what is the Seed Sower social recovery model?

The model recognises the two golden threads of recovery – the need for positive social networks based on a radius of trust; and the linked need for engaging in meaningful activities. Thus, when residents are admitted to Seed Sower residences (there are two Level 3 residences and one Level 2, based on the NARR standards so allowing for staged support), they sign up to engage with the social enterprise, Fruits of Labour. This means people are trained in a range of food tech skills, including bread-making, pizza-making, ice-cream making all following nationally accredited qualifications (In an American Culinary Federation certified Quality training program) in basic food handling and catering skills.

This is part of a visible recovery community through cafés that are open to the public and that are rapidly expanding. They fulfil the following key roles within a visible recovery model predicated on building personal, social and community capital:

1. Providing pathways to meaningful activities that inspire empowerment and a positive sense of self-identity;

2. Pathways to career opportunities – each café has four levels of employment and employees are expected to progress through public-facing to more managerial;

3. Providing a high-quality service to the local community in the form of an attractive café environment with good quality food;

4. Creating a hub for visible recovery – and the Fruits of Labour café in Beckley is co-located with Seed Sower’s Recovery Community Organisation, that is in the adjacent property;

5. Challenging stigma and stereotypes about addiction and recovery through effective community engagement;

6. Generating a thriving business that is both expanding its number of sites but also moving to new enterprises including the development of a 218-acre farm to supply the cafes;

7. (and this one is new to me) training other local businesses in how to combine social mission with effective business principles. More than 300 businesses in West Virginia have gone through the training, and so Fruits of Labour and their grant partners are effectively acting as an incubator for social mission.

Building personal, social and community capital

This is a perfect example of how community capital creates the conditions for building first social and then personal capital. Both Fruits of Labour cafes and Seed Sower residences and RCO constitute key resources for those in recovery – one directly supporting recovery processes and the other linking the residents to pathways to training and employment.

As was evident from our trip, there is a strong sense of team bonding, support and commitment (social capital) that generates a positive social identity (pride in belonging to both organisations) while also developing new relationships and networks that are positive and supportive of recovery. In this sense, creating the conditions at a community level – through partnerships of evidence-based and innovative organisations creates the conditions (which we have previously referred to as a ‘recovery cascade’ to maximise the chances of individuals achieving recovery. But in doing so, they are adding to the visibility and accessibility of recovery, to the positive social connections and networks in the community and to the vibrancy and wellbeing of the wider community. In the final section of the blog, the implications for the community are explored.

One of the most succinct and effective summaries of what is needed to support sustained recovery is Jobs, Friends and Houses – the Seed Sower and Fruits of Labour partnership changes that order to Houses then Friends then Jobs, but what it does is to add another core dimension which is building community connections through the recovery process that enhances the economic, social and cultural wellbeing of the communities in which this partnership exists.

Creating the foundations for an inclusive recovery city

On the 9th of May, more than 4,000 miles away from West Virginia, we launched the Inclusive Recovery Cities model based on the successes of Building Recovery in Middlesbrough. Our aim was always to create national and international networks for innovation and evidenced success in building recovery capital and creating the conditions that both raises recovery visibility and challenges exclusion and stigma. Across several towns in the southern half of Western Virginia, the partnership of Seed Sower and Fruits of Labour is an ideal candidate for blending innovative techniques and methods (farming with training with housing with jobs with contributions to the local economies) embodying the spirit of 21st Century recovery as attractive, visible, accessible and proud of its role in being both integrated in and integral to the wellbeing of the community it resides in.

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