In February I met Clare Evans from Riverside House to discuss a funding application to the Severn Trent Water Community Fund. Following our meeting, Clare completed the application and sent it to me for review prior to submission.
By way of background, Riverside House is a grade 2 listed building situated on four acres of land between the River Stour and the Stourbridge Canal and is a former Iron Masters estate that had fallen into dereliction. The aim is to develop a place that inspires wellbeing and improves biodiversity by transforming the estate into a haven for people to explore the natural environment and engage with wildlife and ecology. They want to open the land up to the community so that people can share time and experiences together enjoying nature in surroundings that are unique with safe access (using accessible paths and fencing) to view the River Stour and the beauty of the Riverside House site for all members of the community. The wellbeing activities are delivered through the arts, traditional craft, ecology, heritage, food & nutrition and land-based work.
Riverside Stourbridge CIC was awarded £51,934 from the Community Fund in April towards the ongoing development of the project creating a unique wetland ecosystem treatment area to purify greywater improving biodiversity on the site. The greywater purification system will absorb and convert plant nutrients contained in wastewater from their off-grid container café into a biodiverse wetland ecosystem so that rainwater will create a varied biomass yield and wildlife habitat.
Initially they are focusing on supporting people with learning disabilities and autism, mental health issues and those looking for volunteering opportunities so that they can learn and develop practical skills. However, the goal over the next few years is to turn the site into a heritage centre with gardens, restaurant, craft shop, woodland and workshops making it a place where people feel included and bespoke opportunities are provided.
The Severn Trent Community Fund is a £10M fund made available over a five year period (from 2020) to support new local projects, charities and community groups in the Severn Trent region helping to make a real and tangible difference with three levels of funding £2,000-£10,000, £10,001-£75,000 and £75,001-£200,000. Applications are invited from registered charities that work to improve community wellbeing for:
people providing them with activities so they lead a healthier lifestyle and gain new skills;
places by creating better places to live;
the environment giving people greater access to the environment or help look after water.
Moms Mindful Hub is a small, volunteer-led group that’s there for moms, their mental health and wellbeing. The group is brought together by Leonie McDonald, who has been an absolute pleasure to work with over the last ten years or so. Although the group has stayed small in size, like many other community groups, they don’t let that get in the way of getting stuck in to make a great impact to the lives of moms.
A mom herself to three lovely children, Leonie takes her own experiences and uses them to build a supportive network of moms who care for one another without judgement. I started working with Leonie when Moms Mindful Hub was just an idea and, instead of pushing her straight into becoming a voluntary group with its added bureaucracy, I encouraged Leonie to reach out to others who might be able to help lead the group, share the vision and the burden. Amazingly, Leonie spent the next five or so years engaging moms from all walks of life, welcoming them in, supporting them (and being supported by them herself) and offering them a space where they could talk openly about the highs and lows of motherhood and take part in joint activities that would improve their health and wellbeing.
This all led eventually to Leonie identifying some moms who could help her to formalise Moms Mindful Hub into a constituted voluntary group and a couple of years ago it got its very own committee and constitution, which would help it to develop its activities and apply for funding if that was necessary.
Moms Mindful Hub has done loads on a shoe-string with only a few grants here and there. Leonie is a Queen of linking with others and working together in a way that means Moms Mindful Hub can work from multiple venues, such as Jasmine Road Community Gardens, Huntingtree Park Hub and, more recently, Age Concern in Stourbridge. Not having grants can give a group a lot of freedom to do what its community want it to do without having to jump through lots of bureaucratic hoops, and the group has received some lovely press for the variety of work it’s doing. Just take a look at this Express and Star piece about Moms Mindful hub’s work at Age Concern Stourbridge.
Moms Mindful Hub didn’t let the pandemic stop its work, either. Although lockdown felt like a step backwards from all the progress the group had made, the group focused on staying positive and helping moms to stay positive by moving their activities online. They offered coffee mornings on Zoom as a way to help people stay connected, and they successfully applied to the NSUN (National Survivor User Network) Covid-19 Fund, which allowed the group to put together wellbeing care packages with leaflets, tips for recognising low mood, online resources for activities that could be done at home. They collaborated with the NHS to offer care packages to new and young moms.
As restrictions began to ease, Leonie and the group tentatively moved to outdoor activities, meeting for socially distanced walks three times a week and getting children and moms involved in nature play and education at Jasmine Road Community Gardens. Most recently, Moms Mindful Hub has linked with Age Concern Stourbridge, where they can offer indoor and outdoor stay and play activities. In future, the group is looking at outdoor, nature-based activities, developing its work with Rethink and is always on the lookout for organisations to work with to make this kind of stuff happen.
I’m constantly bowled over by Leonie’s energy and drive to work with other organisations in order to improve the health and wellbeing of the moms in the network. I probably shouldn’t be surprised by this now! It’s a testament to Leonie’s resilience, generosity and thoughtfulness that Moms Mindful Hub has been able to develop and flourish during such a challenging year, and long may it continue!
Moms Mindful Hub is very active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Why not join them if you’d like to learn more or get some friendly support? I know you’ll be really welcome.
In March 2020, life as we knew it changed dramatically. As news of Covid-19 became increasingly concerning, Dudley CVS made the decision to suspend face-to-face meetings and we were faced with the task of pivoting to working remotely and holding virtual meetings, on top of adapting our work to support the community response to the pandemic.
I love my job. Every week is different. But a massive chunk of my time, perhaps 40%-50% of it, is spent in some form of face-to-face meeting. Whether it’s meeting groups and supporting them with setting up, planning, funding bids and the like, giving training, holding drop in sessions in cafes around the borough with Eileen, meeting with colleagues to cook up new ways to support the sector and at conferences.
In March 2020 all of that changed. How would we continue to support groups and help with the huge-scale efforts to keep those shielding or isolating connected?
Looking back into the whirlwind of that time from a much calmer vantage point, we moved to online support very quickly. We supported groups by email, phone and video meeting (first with Skype and then with Zoom and Teams!), learning as we went and supporting colleagues as well as groups with using online platforms. We offered drop ins, training events, networking meetings, one-to-one support and so many people and groups connected with us, many with a renewed eagerness to work together.
I’m amazed to learn that I supported 90 groups last year, giving support and guidance on the usual things like setting up, planning, community asset transfer and fundraising, and on new things like thinking through Covid-19 procedures and holding virtual AGMs, even helping to run a few! And I’ve helped people to set up not-for-profits without ever meeting them face-to-face. Sprit of Djembe and Partners With Industry are two very different not-for-profits that formalised during the year.
Spirit of Djembe
Spirit of Djembe is an African drumming group based in Stourbridge. Their founder, Faith, got in touch with me to talk about formalising as a small not-for-profit with a constitution, something that they could work on while they were unable to get together for rehearsals and drumming sessions. Over a couple of months, I talked Faith through the process, introduced her to a simple constitution that would allow the group to open a bank account and fundraise in its own name, and supported Faith to engage with members in a way that involved them in the process and spread the leadership.
This work culminated in a Zoom meeting where I met some of the members of Spirit of Djembe, one of the loveliest meetings I’ve been involved in over the course of the pandemic. What struck me most about this welcoming group, was how members were so supportive of one another. Although clearly missing coming together face-to-face, they’d made an effort to come together socially on Zoom, and even worked out a way to rehearse their drumming online. Everyone made me feel so welcome. I know constitutions don’t get many people excited and engaged, but as I talked them through their draft, answered questions and made changes they wanted for their group, I felt that everyone was participating. At the meeting, I also helped them appoint their first committee and talked to the members about the roles and responsibilities of the committee. I left the meeting feeling that the group was really well organised and I hoped they would be able to get together to do what they love soon.
Fast forward a few months later and I’ve given the group some guidance around data protection principles and some pointers on insurance as Faith told me they have their first booking since the first lockdown began!
And if you’re looking for something new to do as restrictions ease, if you’d like to meet a welcoming and supportive group of people and learn something new, then now might be a good time to join Spirit of Djembe. If you’re interested in joining, you can call Faith on 07526 261250.
I do hope that as restrictions ease, Spirit of Djembe goes from strength to strength!
Partners With Industry CIC
Back in October, Partners With Industry CIC existed only as an idea of its founder Richard. Richard’s background was in automation and robotics and he wanted to set up an organisation that focused on equipping people who were unemployed or wanted to retrain with the skills required for jobs in the modern automated working environment of the future. Richard also wanted this work to benefit people with learning disabilities and the training would go from reskilling complete beginners to learn new skills to advanced skills to help existing engineers get back into the workplace.
I offered Richard a virtual meeting to have an initial chat about the possible routes available in our sector and the types of rules and regulations a not-for-profit would be subject to, and to learn more about Richard’s vision. At our meeting, I was really pleased to learn that Richard had started planning and had made links with Dudley College, West Midlands Combined Authority and Dudley Business First. Richard also told me that he was particularly interested in helping people living with dyslexia and autism to train and to have better opportunities to get into the industry. This seemed quite compatible with being a social enterprise, which is a business set up for social purposes.
I talked Richard through a resource which shows the similarities and differences between a charity, a social enterprise and a profit-making business/sole trader and the extra rules and expectations associated with being a not-for-profit. Richard was interested in learning more about social enterprise models; it felt like the CIC might be a good fit for the new organisation, which would allow it to pursue social aims for the benefit of the community and raise income in a range of ways, such as trading.
I gave Richard some guidance about CICs and directed him to some great resources provided by the CIC Regulator and encouraged him to look at examples of social enterprises provided by organisations like Social Enterprise UK and was on hand to talk through ideas that Richard was testing. I was really impressed with Richard’s ideas for operating as a business in order to benefit communities and the links he’d begun to make with potential partner organisations.
Richard brought a colleague on board and they decided to pursue the CIC route. Because both were new to CICs, I offered training on governance for CICs and supported them to get the company set up, giving step by step guidance, helping with the social purpose and explaining the memorandum and articles.
Then in January, I was pleased to learn Partners With Industry had officially become a community interest company. Richard got in touch to tell me the good news and told me
Since then, Partners With Industry has set up its website, expanded its business to offer paid services to businesses and made partnerships across the country. I’ve also connected Richard with Eileen from our Volunteer Centre so that Partners With Industry can offer a great volunteering experience too. Richard also hopes to be a Voice of Innovation for the West Midlands Innovation Alliance, which promotes innovation in science and technology.
It’s been great supporting these and many other organisations during a challenging year, and I’m looking forward to working with more as we emerge from the pandemic.
In fact, Dudley CVS is collaborating with consultant David Waterfall to bring an exciting new opportunity to support the sector in Dudley borough to reset and rebuild following the pandemic.
Reset, Rebuild & Reimagine will provide the opportunity, with guided expert external facilitation, for the sector to take stock, refocus and reimagine where next in terms of rebuild and recovery. More specifically Reset, Rebuild & Reimagine will offer:
Opportunities to explore and share together what impact the pandemic has had on your organisation
The opportunity to help co-design future Reset, Rebuild and Reimagine sessions
Opportunities to develop and learn new skills and insights from a range of external professionals. Topics may include: improving resilience, employment law in relation to Covid-19, help with technology adoption, market development, engaging clients in new ways, business modelling, impact evaluations, financial sustainability, forward strategy etc
Dedicated time and space for peer support and action learning
A platform for embarking on a journey of exploration, skills development and shared learning together for resetting, rebuilding and reimagining the future of the VCFS across Dudley Borough, and
A platform to share amazing stories about how you have adapted your organisation to meet the needs of Dudley residents.
Reset, Rebuild & Reimagine will kick start with two sessions on 28 June to co-design with you the shape and content of this exciting and innovative programme, with two places per organisation available. For more information and to book, please visit our story on Reset, Rebuild & Reimagine.
Small Charity Week runs from 14-19 June and is a national campaign to raise the profile of small charities and the big impact they have in our communities. To mark the week, we’ve teamed up with our friends SCVO to bring you some activities and sessions to help you learn, connect and celebrate.
Each day of Small Charity Week has a particular theme:
Monday: I Love Small Charities Day
Tuesday: Big Advice Day
Wednesday: Policy Day
Thursday: Fundraising Day
Friday: Small Charity Big Impact Day
Saturday: Appreciation Day
Here’s what we have on offer during Small Charity Week:
Tuesday 15 June – SCVO will host as Higgs and Sons join us to talk Volunteers and the Law. Book here.
Thursday 17 June – Dudley Brew, the network for the not-for-profit sector in Dudley borough. Book here.
We’re also cooking up a social media Q&A event for Friday 18 June. Keep an eye on our Twitter, Facebook or news page for details!
This year, the national partners behind Small Charity Week have teamed up with others for the Month of Community. Month of Community is about creating a focal point in the year to bring people together to reconnect, celebrate what’s local and help bolster the recovery effort with something that touches everyone. It’s an opportunity to bring our neighbourhoods closer and shine a light on the amazing communities we live in and to give community spirit a boost as we head into summer.
Despite the difficult times for every one of us during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people feel that there have been some positive things to come out of this time. Spending more time at home and being more present in our communities has brought with it a heartening wave of community action, seeing neighbours talking and supporting one another far more than ever before.
Good causes across the UK have teamed up to celebrate summer 2021 with a #MonthOfCommunity. Join in when it works for you and your community, whether that’s to say cheers to volunteers, connect with your neighbours, support a cause you care about or simply to say thank you.
Last week we held a third ‘Meet the Funder’ event for not-for-profit organisations across Dudley borough. This time we welcomed Ruth Burgess, Grant Manager at Black Country ESF Community Grants. We were also joined by not-for-profits from across the Black Country who heard more about the programmes criteria and priorities.
The session was recorded and is now available as a video and audio podcast.
Ruth has also shared a lovely case study about a Dudley-based organisation that successfully applied to Black Country ESF Community Grants. Scroll down to read more about this and to get more inspiration from a real-life example.
Here’s the video, complete with slides.
And here’s the audio only version:
Example of a fantastic Dudley based project: Magic Touch Network was funded by ESF Community Grants in the summer 2020 to run the “Progression Project”. The project worked with women in Dudley running courses focused on health and beauty as well as additional support with English speaking, reading and writing. The project was designed to help the participants move closer to the job market and equip them with the social and interpersonal skills needed to improve self-confidence.
Ruth from ESF Black Country Community Grants spoke with Sumaira and Maz from the Magic Touch project to find out more about their project
You were funded during a pandemic, what was the biggest challenge of running a project in 2020? Magic Touch: The biggest challenge was the delays and complications caused by Covid 19. Local people still needed a lot of support but it was hard to balance this with the pandemic restrictions. There were delays in starting the project and a lot more paperwork to do. We had to plan our activities in more detail and be very careful in the way we ran the project in order to keep everyone supported yet safe.
The project managed to get 8 people into work which is an amazing achievement. How did you manage this and what kind of work did participants go into? Magic Touch: Our success was due to working with the ladies on a detailed one to one basis. We had taken on learners genuinely interested in finding employment and worked with them in each session to apply for jobs that they were suited to. Care work was the area that women were mostly interested in and we worked really hard to create connections with care agencies and employers. We supported our learners in making connections with the agencies, this really helped as the informal connections led to interviews and job appointments for learners.
What difference do you think your project made to the people who took part? Our learners gained confidence, moving into jobs has made them feel more positive about their future. The project was a positive and productive experience, it bought them hope and positivity in the dark times of Covid19.
ESF Community Grants New Rounds:
ESF Community Grants awards funding of up to £20,000 to organisations who can run projects that support people unemployed (for 6 months minimum) back into work/ training.
The dates for the next 3 rounds are:
7th June 2021
29th July 2021
9th September 2021
Projects need to demonstrate how they can move participants closer to the job market and particularly how they get the long term unemployed ready for work. We aim to fund projects despite the current restrictions and applicants will need to demonstrate how they can adjust their project if needed, for example using remote delivery.
The guidelines, application and hourly rate calculator are available on request by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or can be downloaded from BCTA Website Please make sure you use the latest application, old formats will not be accepted.
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Following our first online ‘Meet the Funder’ event with Lloyds Bank Foundation, we held another focusing on three funders a few days later. This time, the ‘Meet the Funder’ event welcomed and heard from Angela Haymonds from Enovert Community Trust, John Goodman from The National Lottery Community Fund and Jade Gough from Severn Trent Community Fund.
The session was recorded and is now available as an audio podcast or a video of highlights.
The full session complete with Q&A is available to listen to below:
Find specific presentations at the following times:
Enovert Community Trust: 33 seconds in
The National Lottery Community Fund: 35 minutes
Severn Trent Community Fund: 49 minutes
The shorter version, complete with presentation slides is available as a video here:
Our next virtual ‘Meet the Funder’ event on May 10th will welcome Ruth Burgess, who’ll be talking to us about ESF Black Country Community Grants. To attend, book your place here.
Last week, we held a ‘Meet the Funder’ session for charities working in Dudley borough to learn from and connect with the Lloyds Bank Foundation. Peter Cunnison, Grants Manager for the Lloyds Bank Foundation, joined us and other participants to tell us more about the aims and priorities of the Foundation, which opened to applications earlier this month.
The session was recorded and you can now listen to or watch it here:
Are you interested in becoming a charity trustee? Do you have the skills to make a big impact to a small charity? Do you want to help lead campaigns that raise awareness for people and families affected by industrial cancers and diseases?
This might be the opportunity for you.
ARC-AID (which stands for Asbestos Related Conditions – Allied Industrial Diseases) is a small charity based in Dudley and it is seeking new trustees to help it maximise its work in raising awareness of industrial cancers and diseases, typically caused by exposure to asbestos . The charity raises awareness and campaigns for people and families affected by Mesothelioma and other industrial diseases. The principle ways ARC-AID does this are through awareness raising events and by providing grants and donations to charities that support people affected by Mesothelioma and cancers caused by exposure to asbestos, such as Mesothelioma UK.
The bulk of ARC-AID’s work is raising a platform of awareness through its shop and through talks. The charity runs a little charity shop in Dudley town centre and host a variety of fundraising events throughout the year. They would love to get more people involved, both at trustee and volunteer levels in order to maximise the support the charity can offer, improve its networks and amplify its messages so that more people and families can be helped.
In particular, ARC-AID is looking for a chair, secretary and people with skills in areas such as
volunteer recruitment and support
Trustees are the people in charge of a charity, which means they do have legal responsibilities. They often give their time in the background, making sure their charity operates properly, safeguarding its staff/volunteers and the people it supports and making sure the charity fulfils its purposes. I’m currently offering support to the charity and can give in-depth training and support (through online video meeting) to anyone interested in this role. You won’t be left alone and I’ll support you every step of the way.
So, if you’re interested in becoming a trustee, or you’d like to find out more, download ARC-AID’s trustee recruitment pack and feel free to contact me at email@example.com. Alternatively, call Dudley CVS on 01384 573381 and request a call back from me so that we can have an informal chat.
If you’d like to find out more about being a charity trustee, meet other trustees and get further support, why not join us at our next virtual Trustee Chat on Tuesday 23 February at 10am, which we’re running with our friends SCVO? Book your place here.
Riverside House is a beautiful and ecologically diverse site in Stourbridge which runs alongside Stourbridge canal. Riverside House is in the process of transforming the 19th century ironworks area into a heritage centre with gardens, a restaurant, crafts shop, woodland and workshops but also a place where people feel included and bespoke opportunities are provided.
Much of this work is now well underway. Our capacity building team at Dudley CVS initially helped Riverside Stourbridge to get set up as a CIC, supported them with planning, building their vision and securing funding and it is fantastic to see the progress being made. The project works with a wide range of individuals from diverse backgrounds and supports them to learn new practical skills through the conservation and preservation of the estate.
In the winter of 2020, Clare and Lloyd at Riverside Stourbridge CIC applied for funding from our voluntary sector social prescribing fund. The fund makes it possible for new activities and services to be set up and delivered to meet the needs of our Integrated Plus High Intensity User social prescribing clients, who frequently attend A&E or call 999. Their application was successful and they’re now delivering three different workshops including copper & willow weaving, blacksmithing and green woodwork.
Ami is a client accessing the High Intensity User social prescribing service, after hearing about the workshops she was keen to try blacksmithing as she enjoys being outdoors and learning new skills. Ami attended the six week course and thoroughly enjoyed every session, she showed her Link Worker how she had made a plaque for her home to hang her keys on and how she has personalised it. Ami was able to recognise within herself how the workshop had built her confidence and helped her overcome her fear of new places.
“I attended the Blacksmithing course at the Riverside House Project and I loved it! Not only did I get expert and friendly tuition in a totally new skill I had never tried before, but the guys shared their vision and dreams for the Riverside House site during the sessions and got me excited for the future of the project. All the volunteers and leaders were friendly and welcoming, always encouraging and helped me feel confident in something I had never done before! Looking forward to joining with more projects and seeing the way the RHP develops and expands in the coming years.” Ami
To find out more about the other fantastic work that Riverside Stourbridge CIC deliver, click here.