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Social reflections

In 2012, Nominet Trust funded RSA to develop a new digital tool to help people improve their sense of wellbeing and combat social isolation.

The Social Mirror app enables users to measure, visualise and positively change their social connections, helping them to take action to improve their health and wellbeing and to enhance potential feelings of ‘community’.

It also enables GPs and other health/community workers to support and spread healthy behaviour by adopting ‘social prescribing’. This involves linking people to appropriate community resources, organisations and networks of individuals that will benefit their mental, emotional and physical health.

The idea behind the interactive Social Mirror app is that by reviewing an individual’s social connections and re-focusing on those areas that empower them, rather than adversely affect them, that person can have a real impact on positive self-reported health and wellbeing measures.

Here, project lead, Gaia Marcus shares how Social Mirror works and the impact it’s made on people's lives.

See video

Social Mirror reflect on their journey

Gaia Marcus

Social Mirror for Community Prescriptions links people to activities and groups in their local area that might be beneficial for them by automatically issuing bespoke social and community ‘prescriptions’ in a digital form.  It’s a bit like a magazine quiz: you answer some questions about your community, wellbeing and health satisfaction, your personal connections and your interests, and Social Mirror will give you feedback on how you are doing. If you need it, social mirror will also link you to activities and groups that are suitable for your hearing and mobility levels, match your interests, and can help improve you happiness and mental wellbeing.

With funding from Nominet Trust, we have developed Social Mirror for Social Prescriptions (2012-2014), linking people in Knowle West, Bristol,  to activities and groups that might help or be of interest, thus addressing poor health, mental wellbeing and isolation.

This iteration of Social Mirror came about as we knew that social prescribing could be very positive for people, but that its use depended on the practitioners. Does the local GP think it’s a worthwhile endeavour? Does the local GP know what is happening locally? We decided to put our local knowledge and connections in Knowle West to good use, combining them with the RSA’s specialist knowledge in wellbeing science and social network analysis.

A retired gentleman who is isolated (has no social connections and/or says he is lonely) and has an interest in being active might be issued a prescription to a walking group:

“I can’t say enough about it because it has changed my life. If I hadn’t done it I wouldn’t have known about these walking groups. After I retired I felt like a recluse, three days a week I didn’t go out of the flat. I’ve now lost a stone in weight, I can talk to people quite freely which I didn’t before. I’ve stopped drinking alcohol – I don’t need it to help me sleep as the walks tire me out.”

A young mother who is new to the area (so comes up with a low community score), and does not know many people locally (so has very sparse connections), might be prescribed a children’s group:

“Social Mirror has made a massive impact in my life because when I moved here I had nobody and nothing. Going to groups through Social Mirror started the ball rolling – I’ve been going to groups for my children and for myself, I’ve made friends, and I know the area better. My life is a lot happier and more content now and I don’t feel so lonely.”
 
We are currently trialling out the same version of Social Mirror with the a Public Health team in Powys, Wales, and are seeing how to link our prescriptions with automated data-scraping by working with the Heresay team as part of Research commissioned by Nesta. We have had some interest from Scotland, and are partnering with their ALISSS team to see what we can cook up together.

Read the full blog here.