Claremont is about people having opportunities to shine and live happier, healthier and connected lives. Claremont is all about people mattering.

Members of Claremont, as well as volunteers, staff and those we work with in partnership, tell us that there’s something different and special about our Claremont community.

For years we’ve tried to describe what it was that seemed to make us different from some other places. Although we think we will never quite capture it all, because that’s the stuff of the actual relationships, interactions and creative processes and products of people at Claremont, we do hope that we’ve maybe caught the essence of an important aspect of it. The heart of what makes Claremont special is that people matter to each other.

Feeling that you matter to someone has two important elements. The first is that you want to matter to that person. If you don’t want to matter, if you are indifferent, the whole “mattering thing” becomes irrelevant. What you’ve got then is a fairly straightforward transaction, a bit like buying a ticket from a ticket machine instead of from a person.

The second thing is that the person you want to matter to needs to accept and welcome you wanting to matter to them! If you don’t know what I mean here, think of when you’ve encountered an indifferent shop assistant or tax official. This is “unrequited mattering” and it can be crushing if you go in thinking it might be otherwise.

And that’s a key point. At Claremont we try to establish an atmosphere where the expectation of people is that we are friendly – that we are open to them mattering to us and that they’re not going to be crushed or made to feel impersonal or like an object. The culture is about friendship much more than it is about the transactions of paying for classes, getting information, or getting food and drink.

The following diagram tries to show some of the various categories of mattering, along with examples, big and small, of people mattering to one another. At Claremont, and within safe boundaries, we try to make the most of the opportunities listed on the right hand side (click mattering for a full-size pdf of the image below and mattering-2 for a short document on mattering being at the heart of great day services):mattering1


Ways that Claremont institutionally gears itself towards mattering include all of the items on the right hand side of the diagram. Four examples help to illustrate this:

  1. Witnessing someone in a very profound way is possible in our therapy groups and one-to-one therapies, where it is safe and appropriate to be intimate.
  2. Witnessing is also encouraged by having exhibitions of members’ work, members’ concerts and variety shows, features and photos in the newsletter, the board in the corridor for people to post up pictures of themselves and friends, etc.
  3. We encourage members to do things for each other and for the Claremont community. Members take home tea-towels to wash them, do some washing up of tea cups from time to time, help put chairs away, etc. We would rather take a little risk (minor and unlikely) than stop people doing these kinds of things because them feeling that they matter to each other and to the community really matters to us.
  4. We train staff and interns in active listening skills because these allow us to be open to others and help us to understand other people’s experience of the world. We also train ourselves about power in relationships and we try to be self-aware in how we are interacting with others. We also raise awareness of body language and especially facial non-verbal communication.
  5. We call and write to people who we know haven’t been in as usual. With over 600 active members this is achieved through a CRM system. In the majority of cases, members are very pleased to be contacted and to feel that they have been missed. Indeed, we get many calls each week from people letting us know that they won’t be in for a class. There is no necessity or expectation on our part that they do this but they do it because they feel that they matter to us and their classes.

A key philosophical idea in all of this is the notion of experiencing another person as an equal rather than as an object. You can read more about this by clicking here: Intersubjectivity.

On top of this very important foundation, all of our services are embedded in the 5 Ways framework. The 5 Ways, first put forward by the New Economics Foundation (nef), runs through all we do at Claremont.

Finally, with help from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, we commissioned research to establish an evidence base for what consititutes outstanding day services. The report, by Oliver Boo Consulting, can be found here and is called the Flourishing Lives Report.

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