Share how you’re connecting older people in your community

team-spirit-2447163_1920Dudley CVS is involved in a small piece of work with Age UK Dudley to help older people make connections in their communities that can combat loneliness, boost health and help people to be more resilient.

We’d like to shout about the great work that is already happening at a small scale, local level in community groups across Dudley borough, celebrate what they’re doing and learn about how we can support more of this type of activity.

If your group is helping older people to stay connected, or you’d like to get started, tell us:

  • What types of activities you do together, if you’re already doing things as a group
  • What more you would like to do – and what’s making it difficult to do more of what you’d like to do
  • What would help you to do continue or extend your activities

For inspiration, you might like to read about what Netherton Regeneration Group is doing to build kindness and social connectedness in their community.

If you get in touch, Helena and I will pay you a visit to help you to shout about the great things you’re up to and to offer you further support. So please, feel free to contact us using the comments section below, emailing smallgroups@dudleycvs.org.uk or calling Becky on 01384 573381.

 

A volunteer is for life … not just Volunteers Week!

The importance of saying thank you to your volunteers

What better way to introduce an article about celebrating and recognising volunteers than to talk about our fabulous main award and highly commended awardees from #dva17? These wonderful volunteers were nominated and recognised for their outstanding commitment, and desire to make a real difference in local communities.  We recently had two wonderful celebrations when the Mayor and Mayoress, Cllr Dave Tyler and Barbara, welcomed these exceptional volunteers to the Mayor’s Parlour and Council Chamber.  These lucky guests enjoyed a special behind the scenes tour, where they learnt lots of fascinating facts and enjoyed tea with the Mayor and Mayoress.

Volunteers Week a national celebration of all things volunteering

1st to 7th June is an annual celebration of volunteers and volunteering. It’s a great opportunity to do something special for your volunteers to say thank you and take the opportunity to maybe recruit some new volunteers too! So let’s get you thinking about how you will say thanks, celebrating and recognising your volunteers’ contributions.

I think this quote from NCVO’s Quick Guide to Thanking Volunteers will hopefully get you thinking … Saying thank you isn’t just for Volunteers Week, it should be an integral part of your volunteer programme…

 “On the surface, saying thanks is easy – we all do it every day without thought, but saying thanks in an organisational context can be a very different prospect. Firstly, it can be easy just to forget if, like many charities, your trustees and leadership team have an ambitious vision, then the pressure is on to always look forward, at the expense of reflection.

Or your charity may be characterised by a rigid hierarchy that doesn’t always encourage positive feedback to be filtered down. Because volunteers don’t get paid, you might think that we should naturally be more inclined to thank them, but it might be just as easy to take their generosity for granted, especially if they have been with you for some time. Perhaps worst of all, though, is the ill-judged thank you – too fleeting, insincere, or undeserved. At best it may fall flat; at worst it can anger and linger. So how, how often, and to whom you demonstrate gratitude should be as integral to your volunteer management strategy as their recruitment, training and retention.”

Why not get thinking about how YOU are going to celebrate your Volunteers

Why say thank you?

There are lots of tools you can use to retain your volunteers once you’ve found them and one of the best is simply saying thank you. These are probably the most important two words in any volunteer manager’s vocabulary! You should be saying thank you regularly, rather than once a year during Volunteers Week, so why not start thinking now about how you could do this more often?

Say thank you to your volunteers as they leave at the end of the session they are helping with and encourage staff who work with volunteers in your organisation to do the same. After all a thank you doesn’t cost anything and will help the volunteer feel appreciated, and know you value the time they give to help.  Some volunteers don’t like a lot of fuss and would be embarrassed, whereas others like to be the centre of attention. You know your volunteers best but if you don’t, ask the person who looks after them when they are there and see what they think. A little research really helps to make the thank you more personal and genuine.

When you read surveys of why volunteers leave, one popular reason is not feeling valued or appreciated. You can easily rectify this with two little words, so get planning and say thank you more often!

Who should say thank you?

We’ve talked about the value of showing appreciation and saying thank you to volunteers, and I think another important thing to consider is who should be saying it!  This probably seems an odd thing to say but it’s something you need to think about isn’t it?

  • The person who supervises the volunteer on their regular volunteering slots could be saying thank you at the end of the session. If you train other people in how to support and manage volunteers, it would be a good idea to include a short section on how to recognise volunteers’ contributions and the importance of those two little words!
  • You as the Volunteer Co-ordinator could be holding an event to recognise the contribution of a group of volunteers.
  • For a more formal event what about the Chair or Chief Executive saying thank you? This would add a certain formality to a gathering, but would also hopefully make the volunteer feel important.
  • If you are holding a formal event, you could have a V.I.P. taking on the role – maybe a local MP, the Mayor or some local dignitary who supports your project. In Dudley borough, the Mayor takes on the Volunteering Champion role each year as part of their duties and is usually delighted to support and events involving volunteers.
  • If the person speaking at an event isn’t you or the person who supervises the volunteers, make sure you give them some background information about what the volunteers do, not just a list of names. This will help to make the whole thing more personal.

Just remember!

Try to tailor the way you say thank you to the volunteer[s]. If they don’t like a fuss, don’t arrange a formal red carpet event or they may well not turn up! You may have to downscale it to coffee and cake to make them feel more comfortable!

How to value volunteers

When you are planning how to recognise and celebrate your volunteers you may have a number of things to consider:

  • How many volunteers you have
  • When you need to hold the event to ensure as many as possible can attend – there’s no point choosing a Wednesday evening if half the volunteers are at their Zumba class! Checking availability is a sensible step.
  • Is it an informal gathering or a more formal occasion?
  • Where you will be holding it? Don’t just think about the geographical location, but also about things like parking, access for those who may be less mobile and how big a venue you need.
  • Who to invite – if you need someone key to attend such as your Chair, Chief Exec, the Mayor or a local MP, you may need to work the event around their availability.
  • Plan a programme for the event – a rough plan of who’s doing what and when is always reassuring and if it’s a more formal event, you may wish to have a printed programme for guests.
  • Budget – this is probably the most important thing to consider! If you are a small organisation and don’t have a budget for volunteer recognition and celebration, this may restrict your plans a little. You can do a great event on a shoestring, if you can find a free venue, free certificates from your local Volunteer Centre [we produce them every year for our local groups], get people to bring a contribution towards refreshments/buffet etc.

Just remember!

It’s quality that’s important and a genuine wish to make volunteers feel valued.

How to tell the world [well at least the local area how much you value your volunteers?]

 There are lots of ways you can do this and most of them are free!

  • Newsletters – have you got an organisational newsletter? This is a great place to tell other staff, volunteers and clients, just how wonderful your volunteers are. Add a photo and you are onto a winner!
  • Website/Blog/Twitter/Facebook/other social media – a popular way to share what you think of your volunteers with the world [literally via the World Wide Web] is via your website or social media streams. A winsome photo is a sure fire way to get your good news shared. When I published the photos from Dudley Volunteer Awards in October 2017, I had over 6000 views of the photos in 48 hours on the dva17.wordpress.com blog! If you aren’t au-fait with social media, why not attend a free local ‘Write here, write now’ session run by friendly staff from Dudley CVS, who will be able to support you to tell your story and get to grips with a variety of media platforms.
  • Local media – newspapers, radio and TV – are a great way to show your pride in your volunteer[s]. Don’t forget to tell them why your volunteer[s] deserve recognition and hopefully this will also help raise the profile of your project or organisation. Black Country Radio is a local community radio station and always looking for guests for their shows, so why not get in touch?
  • Awards – Dudley Volunteer Awards are an annual event held alongside Dudley CVS’s Annual General Meeting. Local volunteers [both individuals and groups] can be nominated and recognised at this high profile celebration. The winners are chosen by a panel made up of the Mayor, local decision makers, voluntary sector reps and our Chairman. Nominations for Dudley Volunteer Awards open in June each year and everyone nominated for the awards is invited along to the Dudley Volunteer Awards celebration in October. You can nominate now by visiting this year’s Awards blog https://dva2018.wordpress.com/ and clicking on the Nominate There are also the Mayor’s Civic Awards, which are another annual award scheme.
  • Queens Award – if you want to nominate a group of volunteers, why not consider this award? It’s a prestigious award and equivalent to an MBE for voluntary groups and charities. You can find out more by visiting the Queens Award website or by contacting Eileen at Dudley CVS Volunteer Centre on eileen@dudleycvs.org.uk

Having a Blast! Making an Impact!

As the Children, Young People and Families in Communities team enters its sixth month together we are taking the time to celebrate the progress we have made during this time. It’s been a blast and we are loving every minute, we wanted to share some of our highlights and achievements with you!

What an honour!
The team attended Dudley’s Centre for Professional Practice’s staff recognition awards at Himley Hall. It was a wonderful event which celebrated the achievements of staff and recognised those that go the extra mile. CYIC award
What was really special and humbling was that the Centre for Professional Practice gave an award to recognise people who work with children and young people in the community and…WE WON!!!!! It was really an honour to be recognised by partners and the award takes pride of place on the fireplace in our office at Dudley CVS. Read more about the award on our blog: https://dudleycypfnetwork.net/2018/02/05/what-an-honour/

Spill your beans over coffee and cake

Smile change
Dudley Parent Carer Forum has been getting out and about in a bid to meet new parent carers and share the great work they have been involved in. The Forum is an independent organisation that is facilitated and supported by the team at Dudley CVS.

Members work together to ensure that the voices of parent carers are heard.
We now have termly carer’s coffee morning slots run by parent carers which we support at Penn’s Meadow & Old Park Special School and we are delighted to be invited to join The Sutton Schools parent’s forum. We hope to ensure that everyone in Dudley borough knows about the forum and all parent carers know that information, support and an opportunity to have their say is available.

We are also working hard to ensure that professionals know that we are here and we now have a professional e-bulletin distribution list that sends information to over 103 professionals including those within Dudley CCG, Local Authority, Schools, Colleges and Voluntary Sector organisations, which has been really well received.

“What a fabulous, uplifting email! Thanks so much for passing this on, it really shows how well things are working and I really value the hard work that people are putting in, to help and support others.” Councillor Anne Millward – Lead Cabinet Member for Children’s Services

For more information about the Dudley Parent Carer Forum or to get in touch visit https://dudleyparentcarerforum.com/

Young people take up the challenge!Morgan take over

The Takeover Challenge puts children and young people into decision-making positions and encourages organisations to hear their views. In Dudley borough we are committed to building an infrastructure for all young people to have opportunities to participate, share their views and influence decisions that affect their lives regardless of their backgrounds, experiences or abilities.

During November and December 2017 the number of organisations involved and the number of opportunities offered increased by 400%, thanks to the 36 professionals who agreed to be taken over! A variety of CVS staff got involved including the Chief Officer Andy Gray who supported Molly to take over the Children’s Alliance Board meeting.

Partners from Dudley MBC, Dudley CCG, West Midlands Police, West Midlands Fire Service, political figures, Members of Parliament, schools, colleges and Lunch on the Run all provided a variety of opportunities for young people to get involved and takeover.

Over 5lunch on the run takeover0 young people between the age of 13-19 from a third of secondary schools across the borough, three colleges and a university student participated. Young people with different backgrounds and abilities took part, including young people involved in Dudley Care Council, Dudley Youth Council, Care Leavers Forum, Young Health Champions and Police Week Students. Children looked after, young people with disabilities and additional needs and mental health illnesses participated fully.

pc paul takeoverIt was incredible to see the young people in our borough being given the opportunity to shine, even though a few did say that they were exhausted by the world of work and left with a headache at the end of the day! We asked people what they enjoyed most about the Takeover Challenge. Professionals enjoyed being able to offer opportunities for young people, hearing about the excellent things young people are involved in and the difference they are making, giving young people a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity such as being Mayor for a day, and learning directly from young people. Young people enjoyed learning about different roles, meeting different people and how welcoming the professionals were.

A massive thanks to all those professionals and young people that made it happen. We can’t wait to do it all again bigger and better in November 2018!

We are sure you will agree that we have been keeping busy, staying out of trouble, getting involved in lots of exciting projects and working with some incredible people. We are so proud of the work we do and that it plays a part in improving the lives of the children, young people and their families.

Restoration of Riverside House: Engaging people in practical activities

Last December, we visited Lloyd Stacey, founder and director of Riverside House, at the beautiful historic site and former early 19th Century ironworks, to meet some of the wonderful people who are transforming the derelict site for the benefit of the community.

As we made our way through the wilderness of woodland located between the Stourbridge canal and the River Stour, we found the team busily clearing rubbish, cutting back the overgrown brash, chopping wood and burning the dead wood over a crackling campfire.

Riverside House has fascinating heritage, history, geology and wildlife. The space includes woodland, a grade II listed house and workshops, a walled garden, a dry dock and narrow boat basin. Lloyd and his team are working to expose the heritage features through clearing the overgrowth, cleaning graffiti and restoring brickwork.

Over the next few years, Riverside House will be renovated and transformed into a heritage centre with gardens, restaurant, crafts shop, woodland and workshops. The idea is to create a place where people can learn and develop skills by transforming the site, in a social environment.

The project aims to help young unemployed adults and young people to participate in practical activities and learn traditional crafts, gardening and hospitality through their involvement of the conservation, preservation and restoration of Riverside House. The joy of learning practical skills have proven to provide outcomes such as improvements in well-being, confidence, self-esteem, social inclusivity, relationship building and physical health. As the project develops there will be more and more opportunities, the idea is to get the whole community using this space, take part in creative art projects and bring back traditional skills such as blacksmithing.

After a quick tour of the site, it was time for tea and biscuits around the campfire, a welcome reward for the team after a couple of hours of hard work! Sitting on handmade benches made from tree stumps, having a chat and a chuckle around the fire with a warm cuppa in hand… it was easy to see why people felt so happy and comfortable here.

We were introduced to Helen Garbett of Artworks for Change, an artist, who has been involved in Riverside House through social art projects, exploring place, natural and cultural landscape, heritage and social change through contemporary art. Helen runs participatory workshops and projects for individuals, organisations and communities that wish to engage in exploratory, creative activities, focusing particularly on those with a disability, caring responsibilities or health conditions.

Helen introduced us to her son Callum, an enthusiastic volunteer at Riverside House who was one of the first to join Lloyd at the beginning of the project, she said,

“When Callum left college, we were looking for things he was interested in doing. One thing that seemed to emerge over time is Callum’s interest in local history and horticulture, so when I got to hear about Lloyd and what he was doing down at Riverside House it just seemed ideal. He now goes 3 days a week and he absolutely loves it, he is so enthusiastic and never misses a day. They have a really tight group.

With autism, social interaction has always been difficult for Callum. Now, he’s having good conversations and feels relaxed with everyone, all of these social things I wasn’t expecting to come out of it has really benefited him. He now feels like he is part of a little community. He has taken ownership, Riverside House to him… well, he feels part of it, and it isn’t just a place that he goes to, he feels like it’s ‘his’ place.”

People from all walks of life have been attracted to the historical site, including historians and archaeologists, volunteers, including a retired builder, a former teacher and many young people with enthusiasm for horticulture, metalwork and woodwork. All sharing their expertise and knowledge.

John, a retired teacher from Stourbridge College, has lived in the area most of his life, walked past the site quite often and didn’t even know it existed until he was alerted to the Riverside project by a friend. He now volunteers 3 days a week and is interested to learn more about the historical importance of the site from the Dudley archives, and share his findings with others.

The former ironworks once consisted of forges, fineries, rolling-mills and foundries which transformed pig iron into casted and wrought iron products. Wrought iron was, at that time, the most widely used form of iron product.

Metal enthusiast, Tom, wearing a safety helmet (one of many from his collection!) has collected all kind of old metals from the site, which we hear he proudly displays in his bedroom!

Whilst we were keeping warm around the campfire, a small piece of scrap metal was found in the overgrowth, one volunteer heated it up, hammered it,  formed it into a small loop and cooled it down in a little pile of snow. You could already see the interest and enthusiasm for blacksmithing!

Riverside House has also adopted the towpath from Canal & River Trust and will be renovating this historically significant section of the canal which includes the entrances to the dry dock, canal basins and crane base.

Riverside has now become a CIC, achieved successful fundraising and has been networking and making connections which have resulted in referrals to other professionals. Dudley CVS supported Riverside House on formation of CIC and charity, writing charitable objectives, business planning advice, fundraising, general advice on recruitment, trustee appointments and volunteer work.

It will be fantastic to see the former ironworks site turn in to a waterside community attraction with café and shop selling local crafts and produce. The journey and all the things that will be learnt along the way will prove the most exciting part!

Read more about Riverside House at www.riverside-house.org.uk

If you would like more information or support for your group please contact Becky Pickin at smallgroups@dudleycvs.org.uk

The story of one Young Health Champion.

The Dudley Young Health Champions Project went live in September 2016. The project is funded by Dudley CCG and Dudley Office for Public Health, based within Healthwatch Dudley and hosted by Dudley CVS. The project aims to provide youth-led and creative opportunities for young people aged 11-25 to become Young Health Champions and get involved in a variety of health based projects and activities. The aim is to increase young people’s resilience and give greater access to accurate and young person focused information on health related matters. To date the project has a network of over 85 Young Health Champions who are involved in a variety of schools, colleges and voluntary sector services.  Projects range from group activities to one off campaigns, fundraising and awareness raising. The project provides a bridge between young people and decision makers so that young people have the opportunity to have their voices heard and influence future services. A large part of the project focuses around the increasing challenges to mental health that young people experience. The project has a regular volunteer Becky who whilst developing her own projects manages the DYHC blog and Twitter page -Faye Hall (Dudley Young Health Champion’s Project Coordinator.)

I’m Becky, I’m a 19 year old girl and before volunteering with DYHC, I had completed a 3 month course with The Princes Trust and was then referred to the project through Just Straight Talk to help build and develop my confidence after struggling with severe mental health difficulties for 7/8 years of my life which affected aspects of my life including my education. Due to facing constant battles in my day to day life I find communicating with other people and having the confidence to do ‘simple’ things incredibly difficult. I have been involved with Dudley Young Health Champions since May/June 2017 and volunteer 2-3 days per week. As Faye said above, I administrate the project blog and twitter page and help lead and plan youth led projects. In November/ December I organised a Christmas collection for the homeless to support Vi Wood from Leslie’s Care Packages and we had an amazing outcome and are now collecting baby essentials for mums and mums to be as part of Vi’s next project. I have held 2 bake sales in order to raise money for YoungMinds Charity and have also helped run Get Cooking sessions over the summer of 2017. I have attended various high level meetings with professionals including the Children’s Safeguarding board as well as completing many different training sessions such as Thrive and ASIST (led by Papyrus). I have been part of the Children’s Alliance Strategy and the Suicide Prevention Strategy. Myself and Faye were invited to the ITV Studios in London with the Fixers organisation to join a campaign on ‘Fixing My Anxiety’ and took part in the Neon Run for Mary Stevens Hospice along with HealthWatch staff.

I have been working on an arts- based project with Faye where I have created 11 paintings that each portray different emotions and feelings a person with a mental illness may experience and that I have experienced myself throughout my battle. Feelings such as anxiety, depression, isolation and shame, each paining is being turned into a post card and have a descriptive narrative on the reverse as well as ways to manage and a positive affirmation. Once I had completed the paintings, myself and Faye started to work with the Fixers organisation who are helping me create a 2-3 minute video where my artwork will be displayed on a backdrop, an actress will be acting out different movements and a dialogue will be played. Once the pack is all put together, we will be holding a launch in March time and the pack will be distributed amongst services such as CAMHS, GP surgeries, schools and youth based organisations.

Along with another Young Health Champion, I was awarded with the Ray McGuirk Young Volunteer of the Year at the DVA’s 2017. I have been given so many opportunities since being a part of the project and there are a lot more ahead of me!

 

IMG_20171207_115850kategreenphotog-kgp_6672img_20171215_150115.jpg20171206_104659.jpg20171220_18020120171025_114756

 

How many expectations? or 7 years of Social Media Surgeries in Dudley Borough (part one)

There have been social media surgeries in Dudley for more than 7 years.

Since Melissa Guest organised the first on Dec 8th 2010 a varied group of volunteers have run 65 different events in Dudley, Halesowen, Stourbridge and Brierley Hill.  We really didn’t expect this, in fact we expected pretty much nil, nada.

327 of you have signed up for some sort of help,  and we’ve recorded 45 website and social media sites we’ve helped you set up and run. (although we reckon it’s much more than that).A network of committed people have run social media surgeries in Dudley, Stourbridge, Halesowen and Brierley Hill. We even made the news.

Life is likea cup of tea. (2)

These posts are a chance to look at three things…

  1. What is a surgery and how does it fit in with other support for community groups in Dudley and..
  2. What you make of the format – the way of working
  3. What some of you have gone on to do, resting on the skills and confidence you’ve picked up through the surgeries

So lets start with the first…..

Alison Mel and Becky at a social media surgery in Dudley

Alison Mel and Becky at a social media surgery in Dudley

What are they?

A social media surgery is deliberately informal.

  • It’s a place and a time where people with some experience of using social media can sit alongside local community groups, volunteers and charities and help them make better use of the web.  These places are deliberately relaxed, typically a cafe, where you can talk and think and explore and learn together, and say thank you by buying the person who helped you a quick cuppa.
  • It’s the opposite of training.  You don’t get lectured at. Instead someone will ask you what you are trying to achieve, listen to how you already use the internet and offer suggestions.  If something appeals to you you can dig deeper, together. And it is practical. People will help you set things up, there and then, wwhether on facebook, twitter, a new website.
  • A social media surgery is a loop of generosity.  The surgeries are much more than an expert volunteer surgeon supporting a local community group. They  recognise that helping each other can be far more rewarding than passively receiving help. Whether you think you’ve come to learn or to teach everyone tends to end up sharing what they know with each other.   This is a intentioanl, it’s the loop of generosity.
  • They shrug off key performance indicators and unrealistic aspirations.  Surgeries are run with zero expectations.  They are built on a principle that expectations often lead to disappointment.  If you think 20 people ought to come, but ‘only’ 10 do then you end up demoralised. You may even give up.  Zero expectations means that even if one person is helped that’s a win, 10 turning up is a spirit-lifting-humdinger-of-a-fantastic-thing.  By taking this approach they are more fun to do, so more likely to be there, so better able to help.
  • A social media surgery is a platform.  By providing a space for people to share skills the surgeries underpin so much other work. They help boost the flow of civic information within a neighbourhood and across the internet.  This can be about local services, activities, events, campaigns. It can be information from the third sector or the public sector. It can also be the possibilities tied up in relationships people nurture through being able to share and support each other online.  It can also be the unexpected happenings that spring up because people get to be in the same space and learn together.    All this nurtures connections and grows the civic conversation online.  Upon those connections and those conversations can rest a more vibrant, richer place to live.

The surgeries are run by a group of committed people, some may happen to work for the CVS, but the surgeries sit in a wider movement of people who simply want to share digital skills, for free, with local active citizens.

For your next social media surgery please look at www.socialmediasurgery.com. 

 

 

Building kinder communities in Netherton

I’m really pleased that one of the small charities that Dudley CVS has supported has been awarded funding from one of Dudley Council’s Community Forums (Netherton, Woodside and St. Andrews and Quarry Bank and Dudley Wood Community Forum) to set up a pilot project to help people build important social connections where they live.

Members of Netherton Regeneration Group, which we supported to gain charity status, had this to say about their plans:

Netherton Regeneration Group is setting up a pilot in the Darby End area to train volunteers to help lonely people to get out and about. We are setting up a network of street champions and lots of interesting and healthy activities open to all comers. We want to help people who are not able to get out easily, have lost touch with friends, need something to get them moving, get help with health problems, find out about healthy foods and exercise, but mainly to have some fun!

We have been awarded £2,300 from the Community Forum and hope to win some more funds through DMBC’s Innovation Fund for the Voluntary Sector.

Our idea is simple!

We will create a regular support group, to help people become more active and less isolated. People will be offered lots of fun activities including:

  • cooking food together
  • having a cup of tea and a chat
  • making new friends
  • learning to grow plants and vegetables
  • cooking easy, healthy meals and sharing them
  • taking part in healthy walks
  • arts and crafts activities
  • playing games and having a good time!
  • practical community work to make Netherton a better place to live and work
  • setting up a patients’ garden in the Health Centre courtyard over the next year! Instead of looking at weeds, we will be able to see fresh flowers and herbs that we have grown!! Funds are being provided from the Health Centre’s Patient Participation Group Purse to set up the garden.

Volunteers are needed now!

We will be training ten volunteers to help us run the programme and they will get free First Aid and Food Hygiene courses provided.

If you’re interested in helping to make any of this happen, please contact us using our Facebook page and letting us know what kinds of things you’d like to help with.

NRG

A couple of local volunteers working with our Trustee, Chris, to tidy up Joe Darby’s statue in Netherton Centre last summer.

There’s been a marked increase recently in conversations around social connectedness and how that builds individual and communal resilience, combating loneliness and isolation. At national level the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness and its #Happytochat campaign, research done by Carnegie Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on the place of kindness in communities and yesterday’s creation of a ministerial post on loneliness all point to a rising understanding that belonging and social connectedness are crucial for health, wellbeing and prosperity. The Chief Executive of NCVO (National Council of Voluntary Organisations), Sir Stuart Ethertington has also made a strong statement of our sector’s central role in building a sense of belonging and connectedness.

More locally, these messages have been repeated:

I’m really pleased that Netherton Regeneration Group is thinking about how its members can help people to get involved with building kinder communities and I like that there are lots of different opportunities to participate.

I’m sure there are lots of other ways people are building links with each other across Dudley borough, whether that’s on an individual level or through a group or charity. If you’re inspired to get involved, get in touch with Netherton Regeneration Group through its Facebook page or get in touch with us if you want to be linked to people doing good things somewhere else in Dudley borough.

Miracles do happen

What an incredible Operation Santa we had in 2017 as it was none stop from the moment we opened up our grotto until Christmas Eve!  Piles of lovely gifts have poured through the door and this year we have reached more children, young people and families than ever; including children with additional needs, young homeless and even victims of crime. Our donations have come from kind-hearted individuals, partners and local businesses.

It’s certainly been a rollercoaster of emotions, from tears to hysterical laugher and everything in between. There have been highs as we’ve experienced people’s sheer goodwill and generosity, when ‘miracles’ have happened and lows as we’ve learnt the individual stories of those who have needed support this year.  People collecting the gifts to pass on to children, young people and their families have become emotional that through the kindness of our donors, they can spread a little festive spirit and lots of hope that people do really care when recipients feel there is nothing to look forward to.

We’ve had a couple of firsts again this year and a number of miracles, which I will thoroughly enjoy telling you all about!

Brilliant Businesses

Where would Operation Santa be without the community spirit, munificence and commitment of local businesses?

There’s Blaze Hair of course, who’ve campaigned for us every year for the past 7 year and have as always, gone the extra mile.

One new business contact was Lee Southerton from Volks Magic. Sarah Steventon from Dudley MBC FAST Team introduced him to Operation Santa and he jumped straight into supporting us, leaving a dazed and teary Eileen with £1000 in cash when they first met!  He has followed this by regular cash donations and huge drops (accompanied by Billy the Elf) of toys and gifts from his generous supporters, who have given to Lee’s Christmas campaign ‘Santa’s a Gangsta’ for 5 years.

Gary Barfoot from the Little Plumbing Company in Netherton is one of our newer supporters and this year was on a mission.  Through his business contacts and with support from his lovely wife Jane, who works at Netherbrook Primary School, he raised an incredible £850 in donations.

Nicklin are one of our longest serving business supporters, having been an integral part of the Hope Charity who used to finance Operation Santa, before it ceased in 2009.  As always they dropped off a great selection of toys to support the appeal. Here’s their comment on this year’s appeal.

“Thanking The Nicklin Team and Clients for their fantastic donations once again this year. Nicklins have been part of Operation Santa which is supported by Dudley CVS Volunteer Centre for several years and are always amazed at the wonderful response. Hopefully we will have helped put a smile on a few more faces again this year. The donations we have will be delivered by Clarks Archive Storage (who do this voluntary for us every year) to the Dudley CVS Volunteer Centre tomorrow. They will then be distributed to local families.”

 

Our Business Ambassador

Fresh from receiving their ‘Business Supporting the Community Award’ at Dudley Volunteer Awards 2017, Operation Santa’s newly appointed Business Ambassador was on a mission.  This year Brett and the Angels have generated an awe inspiring 12887 donations and pulled off several ‘miracles’:

  • Through a contact at his gym, he has organised food weekly food deliveries to the Hope Centre in Halesowen, so they can give people attending their Sunday lunches a lovely meal. The first week it was a well-known brand of ice cream amongst other things. Yum yum
  • He generated and organised a jaw-dropping 8000+ secret Santa donation of brand new clothes and toys from a business who wants to stay under the radar.

He’s also raised over £2700 through his fundraising efforts and organising the Jingle Bell Jog, when he and his angels, friends, family and Operation Santa ‘Boss’ did an eight mile walk from the salon to Caunsall in early December. walk [PIC MONTAGE]

Brett’s contacts boosted the appeal financially too, with sizeable donations from Paul Billingsley and Dean Banner.

Never one to rest on his laurels, he’s also partnered up with a domestic abuse charity going forward, with one of his stylists offering makeovers to people fleeing domestic abuse. Brett most certainly has a heart of gold.

 

Christmas Parties

This year we had our first ever sit down Christmas meal and family part, thanks to the fabulous Simon Leigh, Mike Knott and Carl Ackerman and their fundraising efforts.  They came long to DY1 Venue on 16th December with their lovely families to help us put on a very special party for families who would have little to look forward to at Christmas.  They paid for the food, a children’s entertainer and even goody bags or everyone to take away.

Donna, Dawn and Kayleigh from Lunch on the Run, a social enterprise who are based at DY1 Venue and run the café there, volunteered to give up their Saturday and slave over a hot stove, producing a delicious hot Christmas lunch.  Lots of the children and quite a few of the adults had seconds, with Donna’s buttery mashed potato being a firm favourite.

Our very own Santa PC Paul Davies also gave up his Saturday and brought along three young people to act as elves in the grotto, helping with welcome drinks, waiting on tables etc.  They were a great help.

Dudley Youth Health Champions made us Reindeer Food bags and special hot chocolate pouches to go in the goody bags.

The feedback from the children and their families was very positive, so although it was a wonderful if tiring afternoon we had so much fun that we are doing it again in 2018!

 

Our amazing supporters

We had over 100 supporters this year and there’s a list on the blog page, but there are some very special people who deserve a round of applause and to whom I would like to say a heartfelt thank you.

Louis Ackerman was this year’s Captain of Hagley Golf Club and after a pitch from his son Carl Ackerman, decided to make Operation Santa his charity of the year. We have never been anyone’s charity of the year before so this was a great honour and momentous way to start Operation Santa 2017 in the late summer.  His fundraising efforts have secured us a large donation, which will certainly boost the funds for this year’s appeal.

Simon Leigh, Carl Ackerman and Mike Knott are a group of friends from Kingswinford Charity Football Club, who have been supporting us for a couple of years now and this year did the biggest toy drop in Operation Santa history, spending an incredible £2500 at Smyths Toys. They also came up with the idea of putting on our first ever Christmas lunch and party, which all came together in less than a month, thanks to they and their families’ unstinting hard work and generosity.

Airtime are a social group for people with COPD, which is organised by the Integrated Plus Project and meet at DY1 Venue once a week.  They very kindly offered to make cards, gift tags and decorations for this year’s appeal, and are already planning what they will make this year too!

Then we have our faithful ‘regulars’ – Glynne School Club, Ice Blue and Tim & Tina Pace, who come back every year laden with gifts and boundless goodwill.

We also had our youngest ever supporter Jack, who came in with his mum and donated a brand new puzzle and a little note, bless him J

 

Strike a pose!

Every picture tells a story and we have some great ones from this year’s Operation Santa, so why not have a browse?

How did we do?

Why we do it

We’ve had some lovely feedback from some of our recipients and I have also shared some sad tales this year too, including an arson attack, a burglary and children being taken into care at Christmas. Thanks to the generosity of lovely local people, businesses and statutory partners, we have helped to add a little Christmas cheer.

May I have a round of applause please?

I would like to pass on sincere thanks to all the lovely people who have supported us, but also some very special people who have helped make Operation Santa a reality and have really gone the extra mile.

Brett Harris  for his passion, commitment and unfailing support

Rose Cook Monk for her help with elf duties and her lovely husband Andy for being our volunteer sleigh driver, whizzing around the borough collecting donations.

The lovely team from Brierley Hill Civic Hall, who have kept us plied with coffee and cake, moved boxes and found random items as we have needed them. We have been a real disruption at times, but they have put up with us and our incessant stream of visitors.

Did we have a panto? Oh yes we did!

Huge thanks to the fabulous Brierley Hill Musical Theatre Company, who have done us an amazing price on their tickets, meaning that 180 tickets for their pantomime ‘Mother Goose’ could be purchased. This is always a fab experience for the children who attend and is often their first experience of going to the theatre.  Oh yes it is!

 

Thanks to BHMTC for doing very special prices on the tickets. 170 at panto performance.

Share our journey and join Operation Santa

If you would like to help next year or want to see what we are up to, why not join in the fun and share our stories as they happen.

BLOG:   www.operationsanta.wordpress.com  simply visit the blog and sign up to follow us, then you will get an email each time I post a story.  You can also download our wishlists for gifts and essentials, and see who’s been supporting us so far.

FACEBOOK:  join us at for the latest news and stories https://www.facebook.com/Operationsanta.Dudleyborough/

 

 

 

Voluntary Sector Multi-Speciality Community Provider (MCP) engagement session

On 7th November 2017, Dudley CVS hosted with Dudley CCG a session with voluntary organisations and community groups across Dudley borough on Dudley’s new MCP.

Purpose of session

Following the launch of the procurement process for Dudley’s Multispecialty Community Provider (MCP) in June, Dudley CCG recently announced the bidder that has made it through to the next stage of the procurement process.

Since September 2017, Dudley CCG has been going through a dialogue process with a consortium involving four local NHS Trusts and local GPs. The four trusts are – Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust and Black Country Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

The new Multispecialty Community Provider (MCP) will bring together services in an integrated manner and will:

  • hold a contract of up to 15 years’ duration;
  • manage a single, whole-population budget;
  • transform the access to and delivery of community health and care services with Primary Care at the centre, and meet a defined set of outcome and performance measures.

As part of the dialogue phase, Dudley CVS hosted in partnership with Dudley CCG this engagement event for the voluntary sector with the potential consortia. This event enabled the voluntary sector to learn about proposed plans for the MCP and an opportunity to observe and engage in discussions on pre-set questions about how the potential bidder intends to engage with the sector over 10 – 15 years to meet the outcomes of the MCP.

For detailed notes from the meeting view the document below:

Let’s talk about trustees, board diversity and succession planning

During Trustees’ Week two years ago, I shared some data and thoughts about the diversity of trustee boards. Back then, the picture revealed that trustee boards didn’t reflect society in all of its diversity; just 0.5% of trustees were aged between 18 and 24 and two-thirds were over 50.

My feelings then were that charities could do more to make trusteeship appealing and accessible, by thinking about the barriers to becoming trustees and actively trying to reduce them, by being clear on what the role involved and what the charity is all about, by considering what gaps are on the board of trustees, by offering training, induction and mentoring.

And now? Having spent two more years supporting charities, my feelings are much the same, something which may be borne out by updated research findings released yesterday. The research commissioned by the Office for Civil Society and the Charity Commission makes these key findings:

  • Men outnumber women trustees on boards by two to one
  • The vast majority (92%) of trustees are white, older and above average income and education
  • 71% of charity chairs are men and 68% of charity treasurers are men
  • The average age of trustees is 55-64 years; over half (51%) are retired
  • 75% of trustees have household incomes above the national median
  • 60% of trustees have a professional qualification; 30% have post-graduate qualifications
  • 71% of trustees are recruited through an informal process
  • In 80% of charities trustees play both a governance role and an executive role – they have no staff or volunteers from whom they can seek support
  • 70% of trustees are involved in charities with an income of less than £100k a year
  • Trustees report lacking relevant legal, digital, fundraising, marketing and campaigning skills at board level
  • Trustees are concerned about their skills in dealing with fraud and external cyber-attack
  • Trustees seek support and advice from one another – 80% of all respondents regard this as their most important internal source of advice and support, with only 6% seeking guidance or training from an external provider
  • On average, trustees donate almost 5 hours a week to their trustee roles

It should be said that according to the Charity Commission, “researchers surveyed a sample of 19,064 trustees, via a national survey in January 2017. Around 3,500 trustees responded to the survey.”

I’d like to know more about what the research findings mean by ‘an informal process’ that accounts for 71% of trustees recruited. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making a process more informal to reduce barriers (as long as constitutional requirements are followed), but if by ‘an informal process’ the research means ‘word of mouth’ or ‘asking around networks’ then that might account for a lack of diversity on trustee boards. In my experience (and in the experience of others), the majority of trustee recruitment is done by asking people personally. It’s understandable; trustees get a sense of someone’s skills and quickly see how they could add great value to their board. But this can have its drawbacks and make boards less diverse than they can be. Charities risk casting their net too narrowly, in a pool in which people are already in demand or already giving time to other charities; trustees may only ask people like them to become trustees. The risk here is that no-one asks the obvious questions, no-one brings different perspectives, no-one asks more difficult questions. Diverse boards make the best decisions.

Diverse boards make the best decisions and it isn’t surprising that the updated Code of Governance makes diversity a principal in its own right. On top of that, board composition, recruitment and skills are integral to principal 5 of the Code of Governance, ‘Board effectiveness‘. I’ve worked with many charities on trustee recruitment and the most successful ones are those that recruit through a planned process. Many have approached us desperate for trustees because a current trustee (or, more often than not, a whole group of trustees) will retire. Sometimes, it feels that the need to recruit trustees has been identified too late (and that’s when a planned process goes out of the window and people ask anyone who might be willing out of sheer desperation). Think about how unappealing it would be to be asked to become a trustee because the current trustees want to resign! This doesn’t give time to help new trustees to understand their roles and settle in and it could be very destabilising.

What I’m talking about is succession planning, an important though sometimes overlooked task of a board. It’s about striking a balance between continuity and fresh ideas and perspectives, . Here are some steps I’m currently taking some charities through:

1. Consider what barriers there are to people becoming trustees 

Knowing the barriers mean you can then work to reduce them!

 

2.  Follow your governing document and the law

Who is eligible to be a trustee? What is the minimum and maximum number of trustees you should have? How are trustees appointed?

 

3. Make sure your trustees are ready for new trustees

Understand what skills you currently have and think about what skills you need. Think about how you will welcome, train and induct a new trustee. Make sure current trustees are open to new ideas and input (the charity doesn’t belong to any one person)

 

4. Draw up role descriptions and person specifications

You should have a clear picture of what you want from a trustee and people should know what’s expected of them

 

5. Develop a way people can apply to become a trustee

What information should they receive? What processes will you use? Application? Interview? Invitation to a meeting? Who should they contact? How will they be welcomed? How will you train them? How will they be appointed?

 

6.  Target people and promote your vacancy 

If you’re looking for people with specific skills, think about: Where they might work;  What publications / websites they might read; How you will target them. Promote your vacancy as widely as possible, not just in your own networks.

 

7. Consider how you will welcome and induct new trustees 

Think about how to make any new trustees feel welcome. For instance, introduce them to trustees and staff, consider buddying, provide documents, plans and ongoing training and support.

And for Trustees’ Week, I wanted to share some useful resources and stories that others have shared which might be helpful for you:

Finally, I’m happy to support any Dudley borough charity that wants to think about succession planning, board diversity and recruitment and to work with trustees to improve their skills. Equally, if anyone is interested in becoming a trustee, I’d love to have a chat and link you up with charities that do wonderful work. As well as running regular drop ins with Eileen on the first Wednesday of each month, I’d like to know from you whether there is any appetite for specific events and activities around aspects of trusteeship. This might be a regular network of trustees, training and other support I might not have thought of! Feel free to let me know what might work for you and your trustees.