Champion’s advice: How to get local businesses engaged with Dementia Friends

Dementia Friends Champion Rosemary Farr has had some brilliant success in approaching local organisations and getting them engaged with Dementia Friends. Here she talks about her experience and gives some invaluable advice for other Champions out there who are looking to connect with local businesses.

“After training as a Dementia Friends Champion, I was keen to start organizing some Information Sessions and thought that local community organizations would be a good place to start. However a number of email enquiries went unanswered and I asked my Regional Support Officer (RSO) for help. I was put in touch with some other Champions in my area and began to get some feedback and more ideas. Through one connection I discovered that there was a county-wide dementia awareness programme including a Dementia Action Alliance (DAA), and also that a branch of the charity Mind were working with the County Council to help make the area more dementia-friendly. These were key discoveries and contacting Mind and the DAA enabled me to be part of a much bigger picture and to deliver Dementia Friends Sessions in places that I had never imagined.”

“I helped to contact lots of the shops and businesses in my local town and then me and other Champions would deliver Dementia Friends Information Sessions to staff in shops and other customer-facing outlets in town, e.g. library, dentists, hairdressers. Often, as they were small businesses, I had to conduct Sessions during the shop working day and sometimes on the shop floor! The dental surgery held their Session in the staff lunch hour, with everyone munching on sandwiches whilst doing the games and activities! The hairdressing salon blocked out appointments for the last half hour of the day to enable staff to attend the Session. It was amazing to see the enthusiasm of the whole town to get on board a dementia-friendly community initiative and the Sessions were always well received. People attending the Sessions always learnt something new. I had to push some personal boundaries to have the courage to start delivering these Sessions but once I had done a few it became very easy and the positive aim of the programme helped to spur me on.”

My top tips:

• take some time to research DAAs in your area. Look on the website of your local county council to see if any initiatives are underway. Ask your regional AS office if they know of any other organisations that are involved

• it’s easily possible to approach small shops and businesses in your high-street and if you start small you might then be able to work up to larger organisations

• you might be able to team up with other Champions in your area

• think of the benefits of become Dementia Friends for customer-facing businesses and sell it to them (our new ‘Local Business Engagement Tool Kit’ can help!)

• One of the challenges in delivering Sessions to shops is finding times that staff can attend. The same was true for speaking to volunteer-based organisations. However even talking to some of the staff is better than none! Or you could offer open Sessions at shop closing times for businesses to come together

• You can do this without the support of a wider initiative – don’t be afraid to make the initial approaches

• I contacted businesses by telephone and email at times but often a personal visit really does the trick. Have some information on a handout as to what the awareness Sessions are about and leave your contact details. Follow up if you don’t hear from people. If shops know that others are doing it too, they will want to join in

Thank you Rosemary for sharing this great advice! If you are a Champion and are looking to engage with local businesses, download our ‘Local Business Engagement Toolkit’ from the Champions dashboard.

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