Sense is not alone in needing to raise awareness and understanding of who we are, so that we can reach more people. The question is how do you attract people’s attention in today’s incredibly noisy world?
People are bombarded with zillions of messages every day. To cope, the human brain cleverly filters out anything that isn’t different or doesn’t immediately connect in some way.
The challenge for a charity like Sense is that most people don’t have an immediate connection with us. It means that when we try to tell people about Sense, our message doesn’t get through the filter. It simply isn’t noticed.
We have to find a way of expressing Sense to the world that stands out from the crowd – and, most importantly, relates to common human experience. We need to bring to life our amazing, awe-inspiring work of Sense for those who have not yet had the pleasure of meeting any of us!
We need to start with why Sense exists
As author Simon Sinek explains in his book titled ‘Start with why’, people are inspired to take action because of why you do what you do as an organisation, not what you do or how you do it. And you need to explain why you exist in a way that people can understand and relate to easily.
So, we went back to why Sense first began. The journey started more than 60 years ago with a conversation between mums. Mums who discovered they had a lot in common. They had contracted rubella while pregnant and, as a result, gave birth to babies who were deafblind. They each had found little understanding or support to help their children to communicate. They felt isolated – and desperately worried that their children would be isolated and unable to connect with others and the world around.
Feeling connected is a basic human need. Feeling isolated is a common human experience. It’s something that people do understand. And, when you think about it, it does explain why Sense exists – because no one should be isolated, left out or unable to fulfil their potential. Surely we do what we do, because we believe everyone deserves the right to be connected and part of society.
We need to explain who Sense supports in a new way
When first introducing Sense to new people, we need to sum up who we support in a few words, just like charities do that exist for people with, say, cancer, or heart disease or dementia.
Sense began by supporting and campaigning for the rights of people who are deafblind. Over the years, though, it became apparent that our expertise, which stems from this specialism in deafblindness, would benefit many more people. Today we support a broad range of people with different needs.
We’ve tried listing some of the most relevant, broad labels that relate to the people we support – deafblind, sensory impairments, complex needs. The trouble is, it isn’t working.
People get confused. Do I have to have a sensory impairment to be supported by Sense? How complex do my conditions need to be for Sense to be relevant to me?
The truth is that there is no perfect way of summing up the people we support when introducing Sense for the first time. Everyone is different. We know listing the labels doesn’t work. More worryingly, it contradicts the way we work – we should always start with the person and their particular needs.
We looked at the challenge from another perspective. The more you discover about who Sense is, the more you realise that it is communication that lies at the heart of what we do. We are here for every person who faces tough communication barriers in a world that relies on being able to see and hear well to be connected. We strive together to unlock barriers to communication, so everyone can enjoy meaningful lives – be it through speech or sign, touch or movement, gesture or sound, art or dance.
Complex needs is an expression used when a person has two or more needs and requires high levels of support with aspects of daily life. This may be because of a disability or sight or hearing impairment – or a combination of these.
So, after a lot of thought, reflection, discussion, debate and consultation, we are introducing a new umbrella term, ‘complex communication needs’, as the best way of introducing who Sense supports in just a few words. It puts the focus on Sense’s expertise in communication and the person’s needs first.
Our aim, over time, is for ‘complex communication needs’ to become a familiar term to the world, closely associated with Sense.
We will make it clear that Sense continues to support people who are deafblind – and that our expertise, which stems from this specialism in deafblindness, enables us to support a wider range of people.
We will bring the term to life by sharing stories that show the life-changing impact that Sense has on individual lives. When referring to specific people, we will use the description most appropriate to the individual. This may be their specific condition, e.g. Usher syndrome, or it may be their preferred way of communicating, e.g. hand-on-hand signing.
We need to inspire people to join us in ‘Connecting differently’
There is nothing like a simple, yet powerful, idea to capture people’s hearts and imaginations.
We went in search of an idea that had the potential to inspire everyone. Reflecting on the many different ways to empower people to communicate, the idea of ‘Connecting differently’ emerged to capture the essence of Sense’s view on life.
Time and again Sense shows that it is possible for a person, with the right support, to make sense of their world and the world around them, no matter how complex their communication needs. Though we all connect differently, we are all connected.
From now on, we will use the idea of ‘Connecting differently’ to underpin and shape everything we do. We will use it to challenge ourselves – and the world – to connect differently every day, so that everyone, no matter how complex their communication needs, can be connected and part of society.
‘Connecting differently’ through our communications
‘Connecting differently’ challenges the way information is shared. We have reviewed our accessible communication guidelines and are setting new, higher standards to which we will work. Though it may take time to change the way we produce things, we are determined to demonstrate the idea of ‘Connecting differently’ through our communications – and to encourage others to do the same.
A more textured, sensory feel to the way we look
We have added some new visual elements to the design we use so that it feels more textured and sensory, and expresses a sense of energy and movement. These elements, which are in addition to our existing logo, strapline and orange/purple colour combination, will help us to stand out more from the crowd and be recognised more easily.
A new, mobile-responsive website
A new website has been launched to reflect our new way of making Sense to the world. It’s designed to make it easier to find what you’re looking for and to take action, be that to support Sense in some way or to get support.
Making sense of Sense to the world
This has been an important journey for us as charity. Whilst the changes will take time to roll out, we are excited about the opportunities they create for building awareness and understanding of Sense. We are very grateful to the teams at Heavenly and Shout, who have worked so hard and given so much of their time, to help us get to this point.
We are determined to use this new way of making sense of Sense to connect with more people so that, together, we can continue working towards a world where no one with complex communication needs is isolated, left out or unable to fulfil their potential.
Do explore our new website.
If you have any comments or questions on the changes we are making, do get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.