4 Feb 2012

The importance of having a support network

It's just on nine o'clock on Saturday morning here in Dunedin, New Zealand, and I've been awake for two hours already.  With a second coffee within reach, it has been a perfect opportunity to just let my mind wonder about some ideas that had been jumbling about the last couple of days.  One such idea was the importance of a support network around us, and how much my own support network has helped me throughout the years and my relationship with it.

Now, for those of you in the field of community social service provision and education would have come across Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Model.  You know the one, with the micro, macro, meso circles and so forth.  To explain it, I stumbled across this youtube video that explains it in two minutes flat:

You see, Bronfenbrenner essentially linked networking as an important element of human development and that each of the systems within the model influences one another either directly or not so.  Admittedly, ever since my first year at the University of Otago's social work department (with a few papers thrown in
Diagram Courtesy of http://reginaldwilliams.blogspot.com/2007_04_24_archive.html
from Education and Psychology), this model had helped me make a lot of sense of how the other theories and practice models interacted between the individual and society.  But I am distracting myself, so let me get back on course to what's been bouncing around in my head the last few days.  The illustration shows you the three main systems within the model.  I would like to ignore the Macrosystem for now, and concentrate on the Micro and Exo systems.

From the illustration, you can see that the Microsystem encircles the individual's family, friends, religious setting and the classroom, along with what roles that individual plays (such as parent, sibling, offspring, et cetera), and how they perceive themselves (and more importantly, how the individual perceives how others around them see them as).  In turn, the Exosystem in the illustration links between the social setting in which the individual does not have an active role and the individuals immediate context.  It is there that the professionals reside, such as your employer, personal trainers, social workers, care givers, doctors, police officers, teachers and so forth.

From personal experience both systems are important, and contribute to what I like to refer as the Formal and Informal Network of Supports. The Formal Network of Support is pretty explanatory, it's the professionals that represent the organisations, agencies and community groups we involve ourselves in day to day - essentially the Exosystem as illustrated above. The Informal Network of Support being your family, friends and ordinary people that we come in contact every day.  While I will be the first to admit that I wouldn't have gotten this far without accessing the right avenues within the Formal Network of Support, I would also like to stress that I wouldn't have made it if it weren't for the Informal Network of Support:  My friends in other words, and family.

The general rule of thumb is that friends come and go, like passing ships in the night, and that family will be always there.  I definitely agree about the family part, as the love and support and encouragement I have received from my parents, older brother and aunts, uncles and cousins from every corner of the globe.  Friends, well . . . I disagree.  Acquaintances come and go, but friends stay for life.  I like to think that part of my successes are owed to my friends and family, whether they are here in Dunedin, up north in Auckland, Christchurch, in the States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, South Africa and Poland.  Whether in person or online, they have been there to cheer me on and encourage me to get back up when I fell flat on my face. 

Friends and family, my happily labeled Informal Network of Support is the key to any success.  Cherish them, and nurture your relationships with your family, loved ones and friends because with them at your side you cannot go wrong.

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