Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer

Report: “When bees meet trees”

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I read a fascinating blog recently by Owen Jarvis published by the Clore Social Leadership Programme. In ‘When Bees Meet Trees’, Jarvis argues that major funders have a critical role to play in building collective approaches to social problems.

The Clore Social Leadership Programme

Funders have the ability to design their programmes so that organisations work together as a community with a common goal. Some people call this “collective impact networks”.
As Ruth Marvel says, large organisations, ‘trees’, feel they have to do everything themselves – including social innovation. This doesn’t play to their strengths.
They can achieve social mission and find new ideas more effectively if they supported the work of others, “bees”. These are smaller groups like OPAAL, entrepreneurs and charities – nimble, creative and fast-moving, often lacking size and impact.
This support can include investment. However, the strengths of “trees”, working nationwide, strong brands, networks and influence, can be used to encourage adoption of new ideas by government, the public and other organisations.

Our Cancer, Older People and Advocacy project is one example, and has shown that large charities like Macmillan Cancer Support can play different roles in supporting individual organisations to overcome competition to work collectively.

We are very lucky having Macmillan’s support. In addition to funding us they play a very special role in making their many specialist staff available to us providing OPAAL with a readily accessible ‘extended family’ of experts to support our work to improve the lives of many older people struggling with the impact of a cancer diagnosis and the effects this has on everyday life.


We are currently reaching the end of a six months programme bringing together 24 partner organisations to help us plan our £1 million Flagship bid to the Big Lottery Silver Dreams programme. This funding is critical and (if successful) with additional investment by Macmillan Cancer Support will help us support over two thousand older people over the next three years. Together we’ve involved hundreds of older people up and down the country in this planning stage, we all hope the decision makers at Big Lottery are influenced by the “When bees meet trees’ report and willing to invest further in this type of social change.

Like Jarvis and Marvel I too believe social change happens when “bees meet trees”, this report needs to be widely disseminated to inform other potential ‘trees’.

Older people tell us our work is exciting, innovative and in many cases changes lives. Wish us luck with our bid, and if you are a social media ‘tweeter’ do please pass this one to your networks.

Visit the Clore Social Leadership Programme website to download a copy of the “When Bees Meet Trees” report


Author: kathparson

Chief Executive of Older People's Advocacy Alliance (UK)

One thought on “Report: “When bees meet trees”

  1. Older Citizens Advocacy York is a small local service and we are supporting older people affected by cancer on a daily basis. it is good to have the backing and support of OPAAL and their partners to continue the fight against cancer and ensure that those affected by it have a voice.

    Cancer is one of the contributors to the inequalities in life expectancy experienced by the residents of York and the incidence is rising in line with that across England, associated with an ageing population. Cancer is the most significant cause of premature death (death under the age of 75 years) in York. When analysed by gender there is no significant difference between the incidence rates of cancer in men and women in York.

    The 2010 York JSNA identified that the age-standardised death rates for cancer in the under 75 years age group had decreased substantially and remained below the national comparator rates. This trend has continued and the age-standardised death rate for cancer in the under 75 years age group was 102 per 100,000 population for the rolling period 2008-10 which would account for approximately 205 deaths in York for that period.

    Considering the burden of all cancers on the population of York, the directly standardised rate of years of life lost due to mortality was 139 years per 10,000 of the population under the age of 75 years which is not significantly different to the England rate, and there was no significant difference between York women and York men identified.

    Although the figures are not statistically significant, overall, York appears to have a higher incidence of cancer than the England average, but the death rate for cancer is lower. The implication is that services locally are identifying cancers and treating those with cancer appropriately.

    There is concern nationally that cancer survival in England is not as good as a number of other developed countries particularly in older people, minority ethnic and vulnerable groups and those with multiple long term conditions. The national awareness and early diagnosis initiative is being actively taken forward locally in York including cancer awareness campaigns and closer working with GPs to improve early diagnosis.

    Lung Cancer in York

    Of the cancers, lung cancer accounts for the largest gap in life expectancy between the most deprived communities and the remainder of the local population in both men and women. The major risk factor for lung cancer is smoking. Smoking is associated with deprivation and is estimated to account for 85% of lung cancers in the UK. The all-age mortality rate for lung cancer in the City of York is 33.0 per 100,000 population for 2006-10. For the same period, the most deprived quintile experienced an all-age mortality rate of 60.4 per 100,000 which is significantly higher than both the York rate and the rate in the least deprived quintile.


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