The first ever National Champions Forum

Stacy Cannon, Dementia Friends operation manager, tells us about the first meeting of the national Dementia Friends Champions Forum.

Picture me, sat by myself in a meeting room in the heart of Birmingham, fretting and thinking, “I hope no one gets lost!”  That was me, awaiting the start of our first ever National Dementia Friends Champions Forum.

You may remember in October last year, we announced the creation of our brand new Dementia Friends Champions Forum. These are a series of regional (and a national) groups of Champions who come together to share their feedback on the programme and to help us develop the resources and support you need to run your Information Sessions.

After hosting our inaugural regional Forums in January, February saw our first National Forum, comprising of ten regional representatives from around England and Wales and ten representatives of special interests, incorporating businesses; health and social care; Dementia Action Alliances; children and young people; and Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

Thankfully, I needn’t have worried as my room filled with lots of eager Champions ready to share their thoughts with us on a range of topics – both positive and constructive.

We kicked off in the traditional fashion of introducing ourselves, our experience as Champions – and for something different, what we’d banish to Room 101.  Suggestions included Jeremy Kyle, inconsiderate gum chewing, Bluetooth ear pieces and low level street lighting!

After that, it was on to the good stuff and to kick off, we discussed diversity of Champions and Friends.  We want to make sure anyone can become a Dementia Friend, no matter their background.  This raises two tricky questions: how do we make sure Dementia Friends is accessible?  And how do we capture this information so we know who we’re reaching?  Our Champions had some great ideas for ways to collect this in future, that the Dementia Friends team will be looking at.

Next we discussed a fantastic initiative called Join Dementia Research.  You can read more about it online or even sign up to take part in dementia research!

After a little break, we were on to discussing ways for Champions to find and contact each other through an online message board on the Dementia Friends website.  After looking through some images of what a message board could look like, our Forum members had lots of ideas on how we could make it as useful as possible for our busy volunteers!

After some final thoughts, including learning more about local services (if you haven’t seen Dementia Connect yet, you really should!) and what further resources Champions need, our four hours were up and it was time to say farewell.

So after all that fretting, picture me again with a HUGE grin on my face (and sixteen pages’ worth of notes)!  My experience of chairing our first National Champions Forum reminded me yet again of why I’m involved in Dementia Friends – the passion shown by so many dedicated Champions to make a real difference to people affected by dementia.

There are still a few spaces available on some of the regional Champions forums. If you are interested in getting involved, email you Regional Support Officer.

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