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Can we make stone soup for rural wellbeing

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Executive Summary

The fable of Stone Soup tells the tale of a weary stranger arriving at a village.  He convinces the villagers to each contribute an ingredient in order to make a meal for everyone to enjoy.  The weary stranger elaborately makes use of a simple stone as the key ingredient, to start creating the soup, as a catalyst for the village coming together.   As the stranger leaves, the villagers plead for the soup recipe.  It is at this point the stranger reveals they have always had the recipe.  Simply put, it took each of them making a small contribution which ultimately provided a significant result.  The moral of the story is that there is value in collaboration to achieve a better outcome.

The question is – can we make Stone Soup for Rural Wellbeing?

Mental health and wellbeing is a wicked problem for New Zealand.  This report serves to explore if there is sufficient interest within the agricultural sector to pursue a working arrangement, commercial interest’s aside, in collaborating for the betterment of rural wellbeing.

Twenty three interviews were conducted with employees of organisations that have either a retail store presence, mobile employees visiting farmers and growers, or provide membership or professional services to the rural sector.  The discussions identified that the sector is acutely aware of an increasingly poor state of mental wellbeing within our rural communities, and acknowledges this is a growing concern.

Many within the sector are working individually to make a difference by way of providing educational opportunities for their staff and customers, introduction to wellbeing training programmes, providing links to various mental health and wellbeing online resources and inviting different speakers to events and workshops.

By taking a collaborative approach the sector could improve wellbeing within our rural communities.  Working in unison to simplify, standardise and share scientifically proven advice and techniques which are effective for self-wellbeing management, would achieve a much better result.

Farmstrong, as a reputable and established rural wellbeing programme, is proposed as the unifying force bringing the sector together for the purpose of promoting wellbeing in our rural communities.

The main recommendation from this study is that the agricultural sector should unite to agree a framework of working together, with Farmstrong, to effect social change.

Actions resulting from the recommendations include connecting to cement commitment, collating and connecting key contacts, and a program of continuous coaching for regional champions.

A paper is going to the Farmstrong Governance Group as a next step.

Aims & Objectives

The project sought to understand how a selection of the sector currently share wellbeing resources and messaging internally with their employees and externally with their customers, shareholders and industry, as well as the desire to collaborate in order to optimise reach and impact.  Furthermore, the research tested the appetite for a collaborative and consistent development and sharing of Farmstrong materials, research and community engagement as a collective approach to promoting rural wellbeing.

Ultimately, I want this project to be a catalyst for mobilising the sector in a collaborative effort to simplify and standardise messaging to rural communities and reduce duplication, by adopting the Farmstrong voice.  I also want to challenge the sector to truly work together in making a difference for rural wellbeing.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”
Helen Keller

Can we make stone soup for Rural Wellbeing? Michelle Stevens