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Think outside of the box?

In a week when Artisans Collective have received an award for innovation and “thinking outside of the box”. It has also taken some self discipline to remain inside the box.

outside the box box

One of the most well-worn phrases in the business world is “thinking outside the box”. It is supposed to mean thinking creatively, freely, and off the beaten path.

It’s the kind of thinking that ,  in an age of increasingly powerful algorithms and neural networks,  attracts significant attention. For now, it’s the kind of stuff that machines can’t do that well.

Sometimes we have to remain inside the box.

This week I received my Dementia Friends Champion Training. Which has an absolutely set format of delivery. Ensuring all friends receive very similar information. Regardless of the person delivering. To me this is inside the box thinking.

“A Dementia Friends Champion is a volunteer who encourages others to make a positive difference to people living with dementia in their community. They do this by giving them information about the personal impact of dementia, and what they can do to help. It’s easy to get involved. “

More information here.
inside the box

“If you never venture outside the box, you will probably not be creative. But if you never get inside the box, you will certainly be stupid. “

The origin of the phrase is not clear, but it became popular because of the nine-dot puzzle. Now a management consultancy staple that poses a problem: how to connect nine dots with four straight lives drawn by never lifting one’s pencil?

The temptation is to draw a box, which does not solve the problem. Rather, one must draw lines outside the confines of the box shape suggested by the arrangement of the nine dots.

The box puzzle

I wish I had a pound for everytime I have seen it used.

So why does it matter?

We are involved in lots of community activities, which brings us in to contact with lots of different organisations, agencies and groups.

Some of the organisations have very strict guidelines and procedures. I see them as restricted by the box. It is not a criticism as sometimes it is statutory requirements that dictate it.

However we are fortunate to have met some very innovative leaders within some of the organisations who see the benefits of co-producing with others “outside of the box”.

One such example is that we have been working recently with Heléna Herklots CBE, Older People’s Commissioner for Wales.

When you get messages like the one below from The Commissioner, it helps us realise that our “out of the box” thinking is sometimes appreciated.

“Thank you very much for coming to the session on Tuesday to review the feedback from the consultation on my priorities, and to contribute your knowledge, experience and ideas to the development of my work programme. I thought it was both an enjoyable and useful meeting, and I hope you felt so too.

I will be publishing my one year work programme and three year strategy in the first week of April and I will of course send you a copy. In the meantime if you have any other thoughts on the work programme please don’t hesitate to contact me.”

Other more regional organisations such as, North Wales Police and the Health Board. In my own personal opinion have leaders who are willing and indeed encouraging input from the grass root level.

Talking about Roots!

I have to mention another major organisation that “get” what we are trying to achieve here in Prestatyn. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Through Grow Wild, Kew is inspiring millions of people to grow as a group, get active, learn about and engage with nature, and give back through volunteering. All of which can improve health and wellbeing, as well as urban and unloved spaces across the UK.

They are supporting our efforts at The Morfa Gateway Project in 2019. Their objectives are totally in line with ours.

It has been a hectic March with lots more exciting things just about to emerge, including our BBC appearance on the box April 5th.

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Turning up the volume on action.

A personal highlight this week was speaking at the “Turning Up the Volume On Action” conference for Alzheimer’s Society Cymru at City Hall in Cardiff.

The week started normally over a coffee with Steve in Prestatyn, then my usual Monday lunch in Rhyl with friends who are going through a few things currently.

Finally closing with a Prestatyn in Bloom meeting in the evening.

Then I developed a very sore ankle, and I feared what was to follow. Emotionally this past week has been amazing for lots of reasons.

What a volume of emotions I have been through!

There are many different types of emotions that have an influence on how we live and interact with others. At times, it may seem like we are ruled by these emotions. The choices we make, the actions we take, and the perceptions we have are all influenced by the emotions we are experiencing at any given moment.

Psychologists have also tried to identify the different types of emotions that people experience. A few different theories have emerged to categorize and explain the emotions that people feel.

During the 1970s, psychologist Paul Eckman identified six basic emotions that he suggested were universally experienced in all human cultures.

The emotions he identified were:

  • Happiness,
  • Sadness,
  • Disgust,
  • Fear,
  • Surprise,
  • Anger.

He later expanded his list of basic emotions to include such things as pride, shame, embarrassment, and excitement. I have also had all of them this week.

So what has all of this got to do with turning up the volume ?

Let’s start with happiness. Naturally I was very happy and honoured to be invited by Alzheimers Society. To speak at their conference in Cardiff on the 7th March 2019.

 up volume
The start of the turn the volume up on action presentation.

I am very happy that we can promote the work going on in Prestatyn to such a wide audience.

While happiness is considered one of the basic human emotions. The things we think will create happiness are heavily influenced by culture.

For example, pop culture influences tend to emphasize that attaining certain things such as buying a home or having a high-paying job will result in happiness.

The realities of what actually contributes to happiness are often much more complex and more highly individualized.


A type of emotion often defined as a transient emotional state. Characterized by feelings of disappointment, grief, hopelessness, disinterest, and dampened mood. 

There are a number of reasons to be sad recently. I take strength that currently I can manage that sadness.

The truth is, we all deserve to be happy, no matter how we see ourselves.

“People don’t die from suicide, they die from sadness.”


When someone chooses to end their life, that choice is not what kills them. It’s the sadness that dwells within that has taken control. Depression, for instance, is an illness which takes away the willpower to live.

So when you get ready to judge someone for suicide or attempted suicide, please reconsider your stance on the topic.

I have and am about to undergo training to help understand more!


Fear is the emotional response to an immediate threat. We can also develop a similar reaction to anticipated threats or even our thoughts about potential dangers, and this is what we generally think of as anxiety. Social anxiety, for example, involves an anticipated fear of social situations.

Some people, (could I possibly be one?) on the other hand, actually seek out fear-provoking situations. Extreme sports and other thrills can be fear-inducing, but some people seem to thrive and even enjoy such feelings.

Repeated exposure to a fear object or situation can lead to familiarity and acclimation, which can reduce feelings of fear and anxiety.

This is the idea behind exposure therapy, in which people are gradually exposed to the things that frighten them in a controlled and safe manner. Eventually, feelings of fear begin to decrease.

I was really fearful on Tuesday that I would not be able to attend the conference on Thursday. It was a struggle to get out of bed due to a severe arthritis attack. I was upset to have to miss a social engagement in the evening. Something I had help arrange and was looking forward to.

On Wednesday the pain was still bad but I managed to get medical attention. I had to be up for 4am on Thursday so went to bed at 10pm on Wednesday not knowing what condition I would wake up in on the day of the event.

The fear that I would let somebody down kept me going. It also led to a warm debate between Jayne my wife and myself. More of that later, just consider What distinguishes stubbornness from determination?


This sense of revulsion can originate from a number of things, including an unpleasant taste, sight, or smell. Researchers believe that this emotion evolved as a reaction to foods that might be harmful or fatal. When people smell or taste foods that have gone bad, for example, disgust is a typical reaction.

I felt disgust this week and vented it on social media.

volume disgust

I was not disgusted with the homeless citizens, but disgusted that people are having to live this way for whatever reason.


Now then!

Anger can be a particularly powerful emotion characterized by feelings of hostility, agitation, frustration, and antagonism towards others.

Like fear, anger can play a part in your body’s fight or flight response. When a threat generates feelings of anger, you may be inclined to fend off the danger and protect yourself.

While anger is often thought of as a negative emotion, it can sometimes be a good thing. It can be constructive in helping clarify your needs in a relationship, and it can also motivate you to take action and find solutions to things that are bothering you.

turning up the volume anger.
Presenting at the conference moments after finding out we had just suffered a cyber attack on our online accounts.

I am not scared to admit that I have felt angry a few times this week. For what I guess could be considered major reasons. Thankfully with having lots of really positive things to focus on has helped me through that.


The biggest surprise this week was during our “debrief” in Cardiff was that the establishment were meeting in was once a cinema for porn movies.

You can only imagine the fun and laughter we had after that revelation.

turning up volume in Cardiff

Turn the TV volume up.

On Friday 5th March at 6:30pm on BBC Two. Prestatyn will be featured on the Britain in Bloom series.

The Morfa Gateway project is included please turn up the volume!

Prestatyn High School students being filmed by BBC
Filming with the BBC at The Morfa Gateway Project 2018

Stubbornness or Determination?

So back to the discussion taking place at 5am on Thursday as Jayne was driving me to the station.

“You are are One stubborn person” or words to that effect were said as I promised all would be fine, and I will look after myself.

My reply was “I am not stubborn I am determined”

So then with Four hours to fill on the journey, I run through my presentation timings. Next I look up Stubbornness and Determination.

  • Stubbornness is the unwillingness to change despite having good reason to do so.
  • Determination is the unwavering drive to accomplish something. 

Determination is what everyone who competes on the olympics and most sports have. Most people who get far in their field, have determination. You can’t get anywhere without determination.

Trying something over and over again, expecting different results, that is stubbornness.

The line between the two can be very greyish. It is just that determination is a positive attribute of anyone, stubbornness is not, it is very negative attribute.

Friday night arrives and over a couple of ciders I say to Jayne, “WOW what a week!”

“Oh and by the way I looked up Stubbornness and Determination. Her immediate reply was “I know you were determined to go, but were being stubborn towards me. Negotiation was not an option in your mind, that is being stubborn”

Arh OK, I think after a week of speaking alongside the First Minister, CEO’s, TV presenters, academics and good friends. Time to turn the volume back down.

Your loved ones keep you grounded. Maybe mum taught Jayne far too well.

I like to think mum would be proud of the way we are handling things.

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Community Engagement.

I feel very privileged to meet so many nice people in my role as a volunteer at Artisans Collective Communities. Especially when talking about community engagement.

What is Community Engagement?

Community organisations bring local people together to shape their own futures. Community engagement is all about involving communities in your work and giving local people a voice.

It’s essential for understanding your community’s needs and harnessing the talents and ambitions of local people.

Community engagement works best where it is an ongoing process of participation to unlock the power in communities. It’s invaluable in helping you design and deliver projects. Also making sure local people are part of the journey.

From Locality the national membership network supporting local community organisations to be strong and successful.

From the junior artisans to senior figures in major organisations. In the course of a week we engage with them all.

Tuned to your community.

On Friday 22nd February 2019 I was privileged to give a Presentation entitled “Working in partnership for the benefit of the town”. At Canolfan Henblas, Bala, Wellbeing event.

Recently I have attended a number of meetings where it has been stated that more needs to be done about health and wellbeing in the rural community.

According to NHS Wales two particular features distinguish the rural from the urban scene in Wales and both have an impact on health conditions.

They are:

  • The problem of access to services for those living in the remoter communities.
  • Difficulties with integrating services provided for the individual when some are NHS based. With others coming from local government and the voluntary sector.

I was inspired by the work of the nursing team from Dolgellau Hospital.

The presentation before our’s was by Staff Nurse Anne Thomas, from Ysbyty Dolgellau entitled Farming Connect Network.

It was fantastic to hear all about their efforts to engage with, in particular the farming community.

One of the ways they do this by attending farmers markets across North Wales including Ruthin. I mention this because it is in Denbighshire. Therefore relevant to a number of the steering and implementation groups that we currently engage with.

I am told the breakfasts at the market are fantastic. Therefore to complete my research I will be visiting soon!

The engagement techniques may be different but the problems and solutions are similar.

As you can imagine Anne and myself had a really interesting discussion, as a lot of what we do is very similar. Interestingly linking in to national campaigns to raise awareness being one of the key points.

community engagement

”The best way to raise awareness is to make information available whenever and wherever it is needed. We work closely with the Orchid Men’s Health charity which provides information on male cancers. Particularly testicular and prostate. Steven Evans-Jones is the Orchid North Wales Ambassador, covering a large area to give presentations.

The charity would like to train more volunteers to reach out to more men and to do that they need to raise funds.

 “The staff also work closely with the Farming Community Network which is an organisation that supports farmer’s mental health. They provide a helpline for farmers who are experiencing distress for whatever reason.

Volunteers are available to provide practical support for as long as it is required and again, more funding will allow them to train more volunteers. “Both organisations would also like to provide more written information in Welsh and the donations can help us do this.” 

You can see more of Anne’s work and awards here and also here.

It was fantastic for me personally to be invited to attend the event. Seeing a wider picture of what is happening in North Wales really helps me understand what is life is like in areas away from Prestatyn and Denbighshire. Therefore helping us in our input into some of the groups we are working with.

It was a great trip over to Bala. A place I have very fond memories of. Also fantastic to meet so many like minded people.