A visual representation
An ecosystem is a metaphor from nature which we often use in social science when talking about something which is complex and interlinked, and where no one is control of the whole thing.
Above we show our visual representation of a flourishing social care ecosystem, drawn by the artist Laura Brodrick (Home – Think Big Picture). It’s developed from the idea that a flourishing system has activity both above the soil line (visible) and below the soil line (invisible).
Things like care homes and hospitals are the visible part of the system – a bit like the mammals and birds that we see in nature. The invisible parts are all the small community activities which aren’t necessarily thought of as part of social care but are like the microorganisms that make the soil rich and fertile. These are the coffee mornings, choirs, sports clubs, dance groups, faith organisations, family and neighbourhood networks which help people to have purpose and meaning.
We need both the visible and the invisible for a flourishing social care ecosystem. When one part isn’t working well it overloads the other and we end up with a degraded ecosystem, like a barren landscape where nothing grows.
In our research for the Centre for Care we are looking at what characteristics of local social care ecosystems lead to flourishing. We explore whether the features of some local systems make them more likely to be degraded and failing, and how we can support flourishing everywhere.