Helping people to get ideas off the ground

Imagine you have an idea for an activity in your community, something open to all, that people could take part in every week. There are often lots of things which get in the way of getting such ideas started, even simply to try them out to see if they work. Rooms for community activities cost money to hire (understandably). Funders need groups to have lots of paperwork in place. And they often assume you know everything you need to at the beginning. There isn’t much scope for learning from experience and adapting things as you go. It’s easy to see why lots of great ideas never get off the ground. And why lots of rooms in community venues often sit empty, without these amazing activities taking place in them.

Which is why it is so exciting for Dudley CVS to be working on something which is re-thinking how things usually work. Our starting point is discovering all sorts of amazing things in Wrens Nest which can support projects – rooms and resources in a the community centre, skills and talents people have and want to share, ideas of things people want to do together. Open Hub is the name given to this platform we’re creating to nurture local projects and enterprises.

On the 2nd of February this year two mums from Wrens Nest Estate took part in an Open Hub project co-design session. In just over an hour we shared visions for the community, discovered all sorts of skills and talents we each had, looked at some projects started in other parts of the world, and designed a Stay & Play project. The first session took place 3 days later and has been running weekly since. Promoted through Facebook and word-of-mouth to begin with, 8 families (that’s 13 kids) joined in during in the first 5 weeks.

On 24th of February five local residents took part in a session to co-design a cooking project focused on healthy eating and trying out recipes from Slimmers World. A week later 13 adults and 4 kids got together to cook their first meal and eat together. They have been getting together to cook and eat each week since.

We’re still in the middle of lots of learning and testing of how to create these completely new ways of working, and we will share this in due course. In the meantime we’ll be making all the individual project designs and resources we’ve developed open source, so that anyone can borrow and build on them. To find out more contact me (lorna@dudleycvs.org.uk) or add a comment right here on this blog.

2 thoughts on “Helping people to get ideas off the ground

  1. I think it’s fabulous what you are doing, and it’s great to see that the community are really getting involved. I wonder though, will these hubs ever take off in other areas,? I had a conversation with a fellow Netherton resident who said to me that nobody in the community wants to do anything as it always costs money. I felt saddened by this statement as I do feel that there isn’t a lot of community involvement in my area. I’d love to be involved in something similar to what you are doing, but in my area. I understand that these projects initially cost money, and that will never change, but the Hub at Wrens Nest is alive with activity due to the hard work of yourselves and the residents, I only wish I could create something like this in my area.

    Kind regards and much love

    Susan

  2. Hi Susan

    Thank you for your kind words. With Open Hub Wrens Nest it’s perhaps more helpful to focus on the ‘Open’ bit rather then the ‘Hub’ bit.

    In doing so we could then ask: I wonder whether open projects will take off in other areas? To which I think the answer is a clear YES! The reasons I think this are:
    (1) The work in Wrens Nest is inspired by and learning from open project models developed by people (not organisations) all around the world. Many of these open projects are available to read about on the Community Lover’s Guide website: http://www.communityloversguide.org
    (2) It seems to have felt quite natural to a number of people we’ve met to start and join open projects, which is why we are seeing them now in Wrens Nest.

    When we look at community involvement in a place or neighbourhood I think it’s helpful to distinguish between different sorts of involvement that people like, create, or are invited to. Institutions and organisations traditionally have invited us to get involved in things as representatives, or as volunteers, or as people with experience of or concerns around local services. Some or all of these are interesting and exciting to some people. However for other people it’s not how they want to be involved. By removing barriers to people starting and running and open projects we’re creating and nurturing a new set of possibilities for involvement in Wrens Nest. The same has been done by the council in Lambeth with Civic Systems Lab (who we are working with) through the Open Works (http://www.theopenworks.org). The same is being attempted by a team around a big empty church in Norwich (http://www.thecommonroom.so).

    Interestingly when we ran some workshops in 2012 which were sort of an early pre-cursor to what we’re doing now in Wrens Nest now there was a resident from Netherton who had lots of ideas, energy and enthusiasm and did start to shape a really wonderful project idea. If you had spoken to her instead of the person you mention then you would probably feel quite differently.

    There’s probably very little stopping you from starting an open project. Developing a platform to support lots of projects is more complex and we’re at the very early stages of experimenting and learning about this, drawing on lots of experience and skills which we don’t have in Dudley. But hopefully over time we can help more of this sort of thing to happen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s