Being part of our story and sharing the love

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A couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d start an experiment. I’d been working on collating all the data, stats, facts, figures and stories for our annual report – yes, it’s that time of year again! We always like to include some of the feedback we’ve received over the year, because we recognise that it brings our work to life.

This year’s annual report will be a story of the exciting stuff we’ve been involved in over the past year; it’ll show how we’ve helped people make connections, how we’ve tried to inspire others and how we’ve championed great things going on across Dudley borough. But it’s not only our staff who’ve been characters in this story; our story simply wouldn’t be as rich without others – the people, groups, communities, partners and places that are crucial ingredients for nurturing caring, vibrant and strong communities in Dudley borough.

So, I took a chance and posted an invitation on Twitter, asking people to let us know how we’ve 1) helped them to connect; 2) inspired them; 3) championed great work. This is essentially crowdsourcing an element of our annual report to get some authentic voices to demonstrate what we’ve done together.

I’ve been staggered by the responses we’ve received so far. Here are a few of them:

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The people who responded were:

Thank you so much to all of you for so readily responding!

If you’d like to share how you’ve been part of our story you still can! Simply comment below or use the #dcvsstory hashtag on Twitter or Facebook and join in!

Dudley CVS Trustee, Mary Turner, appointed Governor with The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust

Mary-Turner picLast week I had the pleasure of meeting with long standing Dudley CVS trustee, Mary Turner, to talk about her new role as an appointed Governor supporting the continued development of The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust.

Appointed in February this year, Mary will provide a vital link between the Trust and the community, representing and reflecting the interests of local people to improve health services and patient experience for the future.

What will this mean for local people?

“We have greater freedom from central government control in the way we develop and deliver healthcare services. It means that the Trust can deliver services that meet the needs and priorities of the local population and ensure they are providing services local people want, in the way they wish to have them delivered.” Mary then told me quite simply, “It’s about giving local people a voice.”

I asked Mary to tell me more about what the role will entail.

“Part of my role will include gathering views from local people and groups to identify and gain an awareness of general health trends to feedback to the Trust. It will involve working closely with Healthwatch Dudley and Dudley CVS’s Carer Co-ordinator to build up knowledge of what’s happening in the community.”

Mary’s working life started in the nursing profession but the majority of her professional career has been in social work and community development. After realising that her real passion was to work with families rather than in hospitals, Mary worked for many years for children’s charity, Barnardos. During her time here, she seconded to complete social work training and went on to manage services for children and their families.

With a wealth of knowledge and experience gained over her long career in social work and community development, Mary will quite aptly sit on the Foundation Trusts ‘Experience and Engagement’ subgroup.

Although now officially retired, Mary still works in the borough in a voluntary capacity mainly with Home-Start Dudley, (an organisation supporting families with young children) which she has supported for over 20 years, also, Dudley’s adoption panel as well as being a school governor and working within Dudley CVS.

This all keeps Mary very busy, but like a super-hero, she still finds time for leisure activities and spending time with family, particularly her seven wonderful grandchildren! She tells me “No two days are the same!”

“I have lived, worked, volunteered, and raised four children in the Dudley Borough. I consider myself to have some knowledge and understanding of the needs and views of the people and their communities.”

After listening to Mary’s story I can see why she is the perfect person to represent Dudley CVS and local people as an appointed Governor with the Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

If you would like more information on how to get in touch with Mary about general health trends that are affecting your community, contact Dudley CVS admin@dudleycvs.org.uk

Feelgood Choir has plenty to sing about: Grant funding success!

The Feelgood Choir really does have something to sing about, after being awarded a grant from Awards for All!

I’m really pleased to have been able to help the Feelgood Choir to get established and to access some funding to give it a great kick start!

The Feelgood Choir originally started as Dudley Mind Feelgood Choir, with the idea that group singing could be a wonderful aid to mental health. The choir regularly sang at shows and events, including at two Dudley Volunteer Awards where they really revved up our attendees.

Late last year, two choir members contacted me to explore the idea of setting the choir up as an independent group that might be able to manage itself and make it more sustainable. Due to cuts to the voluntary sector, Dudley Mind could offer the choir limited support and a free venue for rehearsals, but could no longer cover all the costs involved with running the choir.

I got together with Jan and Val and talked them through setting up as a voluntary group. I helped the group get set up on a firm footing by explaining the role of the committee and helping to develop the constitution.

The next step was to think about planning the group’s work so that we could identify what difference the group wanted to make to people’s lives and how it would do that. This also involved thinking about what costs were involved so that any funding application we worked on would be as detailed and specific as possible. We came out with a simple plan and I recommended Awards for All as an appropriate funder to approach.

Jan worked incredibly hard on the funding application, putting in research, stories from members and learning from running the choir with help from Dudley Mind. I was on hand to review the application and make some suggestions for improving it so that it was completely clear. It was a great application; you can always spot a good application but these days the competition is so tough that there’s never any guarantee.

feelgoodAfter a few months of waiting and nailbiting, we finally heard the great news! Jan popped into our July DY1 drop in, with a beautiful orchid and a beaming smile to say thank you for the support. It really was a pleasure to help them and Jan should get great credit for all of the commitment she’s put into making it happen.

While working on the bid, Dudley Mind had to close Dove House where the Feelgood Choir rehearse because of further cuts to its funding. Thankfully, the Feelgood Choir was able to secure another venue – DY1 itself! – to continue rehearsing and now it has room for many more members. So if you’d like to join a fun, welcoming group, you can go along at 6.15pm on Wednesday evenings (except in August). It’s £4 per week and no experience is necessary. They don’t do auditions either; everyone is welcome.

The Feelgood Choir is also holding a summer fundraiser on Friday 21 July, 6.30-9pm at the Carlisle Centre in Stourbridge. Admission is £5 and you’ll enjoy homemade cakes, a quiz and of course performances from the choir itself. For more information on this event and to learn more about the Feelgood Choir, visit its lovely website: feelgoodchoir.co.uk

How communities can breathe life into their green spaces: Friends of Huntingtree Park

I’m really pleased that one of the first groups I worked with since joining Dudley CVS, has now become a charity and it was lovely to pay them a visit earlier this week to see how they were getting on.

Friends of Huntingtree Park started in 2006 to address issues of antisocial behaviour in and around the park, which was causing the park to be underused and therefore unloved. Supported initially by my Dudley CVS colleague Kate, the Friends set up a simple constitution to formalise themselves as a voluntary group. They were also supported by a network of ‘Friends of…’ groups across Dudley borough and the local authority’s Parks Development team.

Friends groups are all sorts of shapes and types of not-for-profit organisation. Some are simple voluntary groups that don’t have much paperwork (in fact, many start this way), such as Friends of Grange Park, which I’ve helped to get set up in the last few months; others are registered charities and incorporated in some way because they have taken on more responsibilities. Some Friends of Parks groups work alongside the local authority to help keep their park looking attractive; some manage buildings on the park; others put on all sorts of events; some try to raise funds to improve facilities on the park; others do a combination of all of these things! Some groups focus on things like nature and biodiversity; others focus on health and social activities. It really depends on what kind of park and facilities are there and of course, on the kinds of things local people want to do on that particular park. I’ve met people from lots of different Friends groups and it’s clear that they have something in common. They all love their local green spaces and understand how important it is to protect them!

When I started working with Friends of Huntingtree Park in 2008, they were a simple voluntary group with a constitution and a determination to make their park an attractive environment that everyone could enjoy. Group members were passionate about involving children in the park, believing that if children had a sense of ownership in the park, the park would be loved for years to come.

FOHP Mosaic

Friends of Huntingtree Park planned a lovely project with Huntingtree and Lutley primary schools; bringing in borough artist, Steve Field, to design and make two mosaics which would be installed at the park’s entrances. I helped the group to access £10,000 in grant-funding from Awards for All and the now-defunct Grassroots Grants programme. The mosaics were installed and they still look beautiful!

Nowadays Friends of Huntingtree Park continue their association with the local schools and regularly plant flowers and trees with their pupils. On top of that, the group has good links with Halas Homes, whose community also gets involved in projects on the park.

Huntingtree Park was chosen as one of the five ‘Healthy hubs’ in Dudley borough’s Healthy Towns initiative; the Friends think that having a really active Friends group was crucial to Huntingtree Park being chosen. Being a ‘Healthy hub’ meant that the park benefited investment of staff and money that allowed the MUGA (multi-use games area), outdoor gym and other facilities to be developed and many healthy activities to run in and from the park’s activity centre.

The park also has a bowling green where people of different ages and abilities get together for a game. The green was previously managed and maintained by Dudley Council, with bowlers paying the Council for access. The Friends of Huntingtree Park has built relationships with the bowlers over the years, helping to purchase equipment and promoting the sport as something anyone can get involved in.

Late last year, the bowling green at Huntingtree Park came under threat due to public sector budget constraints. The Friends group entered into discussions with the local authority and the bowlers to explore how the green could be saved and maintained in the future. Everyone agreed that the Friends of Huntingtree Park could manage the green on lease from the local authority. At this point, the Friends recognised that it might be the right time to alter how the group was set up to get them on the right footing for taking on this extra responsibility. That’s when the group asked me for some support to think about how they could develop.

I met Alan, Lynda and Jane from the group and we talked about how it might work, what could go wrong and how the group could reduce that risk. We looked at budgets and the pros and cons of charity registration. We also discussed appropriate legal structures that might offer group members more protection when their liabilities increased. With some consideration, group members decided to set Friends of Huntingtree Park up as a CIO (charitable incorporated organisation), which would give them the benefits of charitable status and a corporate structure that would give them some protection.

The process involved developing a new constitution for the group; we did a fair amount of working getting the group’s charitable purposes (its reasons for existing) just right so that the Charity Commission would accept them. Once the constitution was ready, it was time to work on the application. I worked with Alan and Lynda on this and the application was submitted after a couple of meetings. We were really pleased when the Charity Commission confirmed a few weeks later that Friends of Huntingtree Park was now a CIO!

In the meantime, the Friends group and the bowlers were working together and with the Council to help a smooth transition. When the heads of terms for the lease came from the Council, the group was able to plan with real figures and it looked very positive! The group was able to pay a modest sum per year for the lease, engage a groundskeeper who would do routine maintenance. The bowlers agreed to transfer their subs from the Council to the Friends group to ensure that the green can be used for years to come.

FOHPAnd as Lynda walked us around the park earlier this week, it seems clear why this is working beautifully; it’s the relationships that the members of the Friends group have built with bowlers, residents, schools, park rangers, people from other groups. Everyone seemed to know each other and to have time for each other! It was lovely to meet Colin, a bowler who simply started teaching others to bowl a few years ago and hasn’t stopped since, building a social group that gets together for a game. I met Stuart, the Physical Activity Activator, who told us about his involvement in ShareFest! It was equally a treat to meet members of the social group who meet each Tuesday afternoon for an amble around the park, knitting (the results of which often go to babies born prematurely), coffee, cake and a chat. I was so happy to see the networks and friendships that had developed between everyone and this is something that only needs a few ingredients: open, caring people who want to share their skills and a place where they can do it!

 

A Fantastic Family Fun Day for all! @DudleyMBC @DudleyMayor @2ndcityradio @PCPaul999 @DY1venue

Volunteering Counts in Dudley borough

A fun day for all the family was held on Saturday to celebrate Volunteers and Carers Week, and the launch of the Dudley Volunteer Awards 2017.

The Family Fun Day, organised by Dudley CVS, welcomed a steady stream of people throughout the day, taking part in activities including arts, crafts and sports. We’ve put together a gallery of fab photos from the day, so please click here to visit the gallery.

Families arrived in the glorious warm weather to enjoy a fun filled day at the DY1 venue in Dudley, with music from Second City Radio, refreshments, a bouncy castle, a marketplace of local groups and emergency response services, and a visit from the new Mayor of Dudley.

Eileen Fielding, the organiser, said: “It was great to see so many local families enjoying activities and meeting groups and emergency services who give their time to support local communities. Groups were…

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Reflections from DoFest Dudley

DoFestLast Monday-Wednesday I took part in DoFest Dudley, an inspiring festival of doing and creating.

The festival was packed with activities to get people thinking about the skills, resources and passions that they can share to bring vibrancy and real wealth to their communities; from learning labs, lightning talks, bartering skills and knowledge to making things together. It was infectious! In fact, I’d only booked for Monday’s activities and ended up joining in for parts of Tuesday and Wednesday, such was the contagion!

I saw lots of smiling and sharing, people supporting each other and having a go. A bunch of us put together a wiki wendy house, a fun, exhilarating (and noisy!) activity that demonstrated how open source design can help provide solutions to housing (visit DemoDev for more). We quickly organised ourselves and shared hammering duties to create a cosy little space in Gather Dudley.

It was lovely to join the Coseley Crafternoon session, where we made cards. I’ve never been particularly crafty, so it was good to be gently helped with ideas and suggestions from someone who’s an expert. In fact, I found that dynamic to be analogous across the whole three days – one moment someone was learning a skill, the next, they were sharing it with others.

For me, all of this culminated in Pam Warhurst’s wonderful and provoking talk at the DoFest Dudley Summit about the power of small actions, of getting on and doing things without waiting for money, without complaining about the status quo or waiting for someone else to do something (incredibleediblenetwork.org.uk). This was really powerful stuff, demonstrating a clear link between growing free food for all and resilient communities and wider system change; and I’m sure many of us in the room were inspired to do more in our neighbourhoods. Thanks to Anneka Deva and Andrew Lightheart for getting me along to this!

Since DoFest (and at times during it), I’ve been thinking increasingly about how I can relate this to my work supporting groups, and I’d love to have more conversations about how we can encourage and nurture this kind of activity. In some ways, perhaps I have already started: I often say to groups ‘Let’s imagine there is no funding’ because traditional funding can encourage deficit thinking (needs, gaps, insufficiency of something), competition. Funding can create dependency in some cases, and what happens when the grant comes to an end? It also creates bureaucracies and red tape that could be avoided when all sorts of people come together to make something happen – whether it’s someone with a bit of space going spare, skills, knowledge or equipment. The Incredible Edible movement didn’t begin with a need for funding. Instead it began with people and their willingness.

Of course, some things do need to be paid for. But through starting something lean that’s free to do, making the most of what’s already there, perhaps you could start to make a demonstrable difference and create an impact that will resonate with people, maybe even people with money!

DoFest Dudley has certainly given me lots to think about! Please feel free to share your thoughts with me too.

A year of DY1-stop shop!

It’s been a year since Eileen and I launched ‘DY1-stop shop‘, our monthly drop-in for anyone with questions about community groups, charities, social enterprises, getting involved in community activities or volunteering.

Here’s a little infographic that gives you a little bit more detail about the kinds of conversations we’ve been having over the first year!

DY1-stop shop

I’ve really enjoyed working in this way. It’s a non-threatening way for people to make their first contact with us and it’s quite fun not knowing what to expect from one month to the next! I think Eileen and I have both benefited from each other’s differing knowledge and skills, on top of those of our colleagues we’ve been able to call on by virtue of simply being in the same place – thanks to Donna, Nicki, and Melissa from Healthwatch Dudley for being there for us! It’s meant that people have left us buzzing with new ideas, contacts and lines of inquiry.

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Most recently, Eileen and I met Cllr Steve Waltho and his wife, Jayne, who are part of a new group being set up to keep alive the legacy of Dudley mountain climber and peace campaigner Bert Bissell. I gave Steve some help with a constitution to help formalise the Bert Bissell Memorial Society and Eileen had lots of ideas for connections the new group could make.

At April’s DY1-stop shop we’ll be joined by our Funding Officer, Martin and Inderjit Nijjer who’s the External Funding and Community Grants Manager on the ESF Programme at Walsall Council. Inderjit will be available to answer any questions you may have about the ESF grants programme.

DY1-stop shop is open on the first Wednesday of every month, 10am-1pm in the coffee shop of DY1, Stafford Street, Dudley. Maybe I’ll see you there soon!

A new chapter…

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My first couple of weeks at Dudley CVS were both very scary and exciting at the same time. Coming from an organisation where I understood every aspect of the service inside out with the confidence to tell people about the services we delivered, then come to my new place of work and feel fearful about simple tasks like picking up the phone in case I got the information wrong, was all a bit daunting, but at the same time very exciting to be at a new chapter in my working life. I enjoy working with PSIAMS, the lads in the office are great and fun to be around.

 

So a good few weeks in and already I feel I have learned so much, getting a deeper understanding of Dudley CVS, PSIAMS and all other partners we work with. I am also learning a great deal about how the voluntary sector in works in Dudley and appreciating that it is a community that works well supporting each other to deliver awesome services, like the CYP projects I’m working on at the moment with Donna Roberts and Nicky Burrows.

 

We are in the process of developing the ‘I-Zone’ and ‘Care and Share’ websites for children and young people and children with specialist educational needs. I am very excited about these two projects, especially the ‘Care and Share’ project as it is designed to give SEN Children a platform to voice and champion their own stories, milestones, achievements, needs and much more. I have a 5-year-old son with specialist education needs along with a list of medical needs. This project will enable us to pin all his care needs in one place, invite professionals to input and monitor his progress and tell his story using video and audio tools to those who need to know about him!

 

The projects are coming along great, I love working alongside Donna and Nicky, they are fun to work with and love to get things done! I really do look forward to continuing working with them in the future and the rest of the CVS team.

Hints and tips on creating a charity

You might have seen that at the tail end of last year, I shared some lovely news about three organisations I’ve been supporting that successfully became registered charities. I thought it might be good to give some insight into the processes these organisations went through and share some hints and tips for making a successful application. Continue reading