Reflections on Good Finance Live

A couple of weeks ago, I headed to Birmingham for the Good Finance Live event on social investment to meet experts, social investors, not-for-profits that had accessed social investment and, hopefully, to bring some useful information and ideas back to Dudley borough.

I’ve become increasingly interested in social investment opportunities that may be appropriate for some not-for-profits in Dudley borough, and I think there’s untapped potential there and it seems to be growing, judging by the number of social investors brought together at the event.

I should say that social investment won’t be for every organisation because of its repayable nature. For instance, it wouldn’t suit an organisation that provides free services because that organisation would find it difficult to raise enough money to pay off the investment. But for an organisation that has something to trade, be it facilities for hire, goods, merchandise or services to sell, social investment could be a feasible source of finance to help it develop. As I’m seeing more requests for support around social enterprise development and community asset transfer, repayable finance might be an appropriate option for these types of organisation (a social enterprise is set up to trade to achieve its social or environmental purposes and an organisation with facilities might be able to generate an income from hiring them out).

So what did I get from the day?

Generally speaking, social investment is repayable finance where the investor wants to receive a social return as well as a financial one. But within that, there are many different types of social investment. The conference centre at BVSC was packed with different social investors that support charities and social enterprises. Between them, they provide a whole range of social investment options, such as:

  • secured loans
  • unsecured loans
  • community shares
  • social impact bonds
  • blended finance
  • equity
  • social investment tax relief (SITR)

A mind-boggling array of options that may sound very daunting. You can find out more about them here on the Good Finance website.

On top of that, while some investors offer general support to any type of not-for-profit, there are some that are interested in certain areas of work or themes, like:

As well as meeting social investors, it was incredibly helpful to meet and hear from organisations that had been successful in raising one or more kinds of social investment. Particularly inspiring were contributions from:

  • Wellington Orbit, a cultural hub owned by the community who raised finance through a community share offer and incorporated social investment tax relief SITR into its funding mix in order to open a community cinema and cafe bar
  • Creative Optimistic Visions CIC, run by the passionate Stacey who shared her journey from setting up her CIC from scratch, being supported through UnLtd finance and mentoring to taking on blended finance, allowing the CIC to employ staff and expand its work

These examples really demonstrated that social finance is not only for large organisations and already well-resourced organisations.

If you’re interested in finding out more about social finance, I’d always recommend learning from other organisations that have gone through it. Many will be happy to share their experiences and learning with you. As well as the two listed above, a couple of months ago I posted about Stretford Public Hall, which ran a successful community share offer.

I’d also recommend starting with the Good Finance website, which is packed with tools and resources to help you decide whether social finance is a good option for your organisation and what social finance options might be most appropriate. It’s a great source of information.

Finally, I’m doing some work behind the scenes to increase knowledge and understanding of social finance in the Dudley borough. This might include sharing more information about social finance, increasing our skills and bringing in experts who can give support and encouragement. If you’re interested in learning more, or getting involved in any initiatives around social finance in Dudley, please let us know and we can keep you informed.

 

Over £11million over 11 years! 261 nonprofits, 113 grants programmes, 614 successful applications supported

Did you know that over the last 11 years, Martin and I have supported nonprofits to access more than £11million in grant funding? You probably didn’t because we only recently realised this ourselves!

Given that Martin and I have recently completed our eleventh year at Dudley CVS, and because we’re both utter geeks when it comes to keeping records of the people and groups we’ve worked with over that time, we thought it would be interesting to pull together all of our data about successful funding applications we’ve worked on. We’re both pretty staggered by (and proud of) the results.

Martin and I joined Dudley CVS within a month of each other back in 2008. Over those years we’ve worked together and helped each other to offer the best support possible to all types and sizes of not-for-profit.

My role is about helping people that want to establish or develop their not-for-profit by providing them with information, guidance and support on a range of topics they’re likely to run into, including:

  • What type of not-for-profit? Such as the concept of social enterprise, the definition of charity, appropriate legal structures
  • Planning, including long term vision, mission, purpose-setting, project planning, reviewing the organisation, financial planning
  • Roles and responsibilities of the people that lead not-for-profits, including governance training for directors and trustees
  • Connecting with others, which is becoming increasingly important
  • Governing documents and registration
  • Compliance – including regulatory obligations, insurance, reporting and policies and procedures
  • Profile-raising
  • Asset development and asset transfer
  • Fundraising and income-generation

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When I support groups with funding, it tends to be as part of wider support to help a group become established and ‘funding ready’, such as Dudley Feelgood Choir, Wall Heath Tennis Club and Bayer Street Allotments, though I do also help groups to identify appropriate funders for their work or projects and they do the rest. The idea is to give support in a way that helps groups to become more skilled and confident in putting applications together.

Martin’s role focuses on income-generation and because of this, he primarily supports organisations with larger bids. Martin says,

“Like the support groups give to their beneficiaries to help them to increase their skills, confidence and ability to do things for themselves, the way I work with groups can start quite intensively with a lot of handholding until they are in a position to work on an application themselves with me on hand to review it before it’s submitted. Lots of the people I worked with years ago are now flying with their bidwriting!

I supported Dudley Voices for Choice who received £415,720 at the end of 2018. What stood out for me was how the group involved their beneficiaries throughout the process as well as the enthusiasm of the partners in the project led excellently by Sarah.

Overall 80% of the organisations I have supported during the last 11 years have received funding.

Over the last eleven years, between us, we’ve supported:

261 organisations

With 614 successful applications

To 113 grants programmes

Totalling £11,764,436.65 (65p!)”

Of course, this only covers the work that Martin and I have done to support organisations as that’s the data we have to hand. The real total over that eleven years is likely to be much higher if we could incorporate the support that our previous colleagues gave too. On top of that, for obvious reasons, we can only include the successes that our groups have told us about, which doesn’t always happen. Nonetheless, there’s some interesting things to say about the figures we’ve got.

  • The largest single grant was for £800,000 from the Football Foundation to a local community football club (one of Martin’s)
  • The smallest grants were two £30 grants from TESCO and the Blakemore Foundation to help the Seniors Luncheon Club get started in 2009 (they’re still going now!)

Here’s a breakdown by grant size:

86% of grants were valued at £10,000 or less. The majority of grants (35%) were for under £1,000, while 33% of grants ranged from £1,000-£5,000. This means well over half the grants (68%) were awards of up to £5,000. 18% of grants were between £5,000 and £10,000 in value. I think this suggests that most of these awards are contributions towards project costs, rather than core funding.

Which funding programmes have been the most accessed by the groups we’ve supported over the last decade? This graphic shows us:

67 of the 113 (59%) of funding programmes made one grant only (that we know of), the remaining 41% gave multiple grants amongst the groups we supported. When we support groups, we help them to identify the most appropriate funders for their needs, matching projects to funders’ interests areas and criteria. This is why there is a spread of 113 grants programmes.

Within that, the ten most prolific grants programmes were:

  • Dudley Council’s Community Forums (including previous Area Committee funding)
  • Awards for All (National Lottery Community Fund, formerly Big Lottery Fund)
  • Dudley Borough Small Grants Fund
  • Grassroots Grants
  • Rant About the Grant
  • Improving Physical Activity Fund
  • Reaching Communities (National Lottery Community Fund, formerly Big Lottery Fund)
  • Dudley Council’s Small Grants Fund
  • Ibstock Enovert Environmental Trust (formerly Ibstock Cory Environmental Trust)
  • BeActive Coaching Bursary

What’s staggering in this list is that 6 of the ten programmes no longer operate and have not been in operation for some years now (programmes that have come to an end are: Dudley Borough Small Grants Fund, Grassroots Grants, Rant About the Grant, Improving Physical Activity Fund, Dudley Council’s Small Grants, BeActive Coaching Bursary). This chimes with our knowledge and our increasing encouragement of groups to look to new sources of income as grant funding opportunities continue to reduce, because the four remaining funders may not be able to increase their level of award.

What else can we say about these grants programmes? We can see how much they have granted the Dudley borough groups we’ve supported:

An enormous 55% of funding awarded to the groups we’ve supported has come from Reaching Communities, that’s £6,507,553.00 of the £11,764,436.65 total! This is perhaps due to a combination of the size of grants available through this programme, its popularity as a programme and the relatively high success rate it enjoys. Other popular programmes like Awards for All and the Community Forums give smaller grants (up to £10,000 and £5,000 respectively).

Martin says,

“As regards Reaching Communities I have a success rate of almost 60% in both number of successful applications and grant values. 50% of the groups I’ve supported with Reaching Communities have received repeat funding from that programme. These include Phase Trust (3), Dudley Counselling Centre/Dudley Community Church (3), Beacon Centre for the Blind (2), Age UK (2) and Headway Black Country (2).

As for high-value grants, some of my highlights are:

£538,524 over 3 applications to an organisation that supports older people

£513,525 over 3 applications to a disability charity

£1,238,328 from 10 applications from a faith-based organisation that supports vulnerable and disadvantaged people

£679,411 across 4 applications from an advocacy charity

£646,272 from 4 applications by a health-based charity

7 applications with a family support charity, totaling £289,016

7 applications supported with a young persons charity, totaling £1,019,710

15 applications supported from a charity that empowers disadvantaged people, totaling £566,465

6 successful applications supported from a young persons advocacy charity, totaling £614,592″

The National Lottery Community Fund (formerly known as the Big Lottery Fund) which runs Reaching Communities, features elsewhere in this top ten, with Awards for All, Advice Services Fund and the Youth Investment Fund accounting for around 10% of money awarded. So what does the picture look like if we combine the programmes run by one funder?

Unsurprisingly, the National Lottery Community Fund makes up 65% of the total money awarded to groups we’ve supported over the past eleven years. Other funders have contributed as follows:

  • Football Foundation 6.8%
  • Young People’s Fund 2.62%
  • Dudley Council 2.51%
  • BBC Children in Need 2.42%
  • Lloyds Bank Foundation 2.39%
  • Building Better Opportunities 2.38%
  • Sport England 1.89%
  • Ibstock Cory Environmental Trust 1.6%
  • Grassroots Grants 1.3%
  • Remaining funders combined 11.25

The National Lottery Community Fund is still keen to fund Dudley borough organisations and we have great links with John Goodman, the Funding Officer from The National Lottery Community Fund who covers our patch. John is available at our office on Wednesdays to meet organisations interested in accessing funding from The National Lottery Community Fund. To arrange an appointment, email John at john.goodman@tnlcommunityfund.org.uk.

A new fund for Dudley borough

Finally, Dudley CVS has recently launched a new fund for organisations that can develop and provide creative support for people who frequently use unplanned emergency care services (such as calling 999, attending A&E or Urgent Care Centre).

Grants of up to £5,000 are available to support this work and there are no deadlines. For more information, visit: https://interests.me/org/dudleycvs/story/177364

Healthwatch Dudley welcomes over 100 new Information Champions

During the last five years, hundreds of people from local organisations and community groups, have joined Healthwatch Dudley to network with other people in information giving roles.

Our unique training enables people to learn, share and practice how to help people to get information using trusted online resources.  In the last year alone, over 100 new Information Champions have come on board from a wide range of organisations including…

…Mary Stevens Hospice, Springs Church, Brett Young Dementia Gateway, Dudley borough Assisted Living Centres, Trading Standards, Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust (Occupational Therapy), Barnardos, Home Instead Senior Care, Camphill Village Trust, Dudley Carers Network, YMCA, Age UK Dudey, Abberley Street Day Centre, Stonewater Housing, Solutions 4 Health, Just Straight Talk, Black Country Partnership Foundation Trust, Dudley Council Public Health, Dudley CCG, Chawn Hill Church, Victim Support, Top Church Training and Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, to name but a few!

Coseley Info ChampsOur network now also includes GP practice staff such as receptionists, healthcare assistants and Practice Managers, as a result of NHS England funding allocated through Dudley Clinical Commissioning Group, which has supported practice staff to become care navigators.  The idea is to help people to play a greater role in their own health and care, by being signposted to non-medical services to improve personal health, wellbeing and independence.

We are really proud that our Information Champion Network was recently recognised with a Better Connected ‘Forging a Future for All’ award by a partnership between the Dudley, Stourbridge and Halesowen News, Dudley Council and local partners, at the launch of the new vision for Dudley borough.

Lloyds Bank Access Rep Lorna tells us why she joined the Dudley Community Information Point Network

“Finding out about Healthwatch Dudley has been really interesting, as it will help me to better support my colleagues at Lloyds Bank where I am an Access Network Representative.

Lloyds Banking Group supports employees through a wide range of networks, we have ‘Rainbow’, which helps and connects our LGBTQ colleagues, ‘Breakthrough’ for women in the workplace, ‘Reach’ supporting colleagues from an ethnic minority background, ‘Family Matters’ for parents and carers and ‘Access’ supporting people with disabilities.

Lloyds Bank also has employee assistance programmes to help colleagues who are struggling.  Having a connection with Healthwatch will fit in really well as if people in our network want to share experiences of health and care with an independent body, I can now point them in the right direction.

I have been supporting colleagues as an Access Rep for ten years and finding the right information can sometimes be difficult. Often people who see me have had a recent diagnosis and where I can, I put them in touch with support groups or other people within the organisation who are in a similar situation.

I found out about Information Champion training that Healthwatch Dudley provides to help organisations, charities and groups better connect people with health and wellbeing information.

Joining the Information Champion Network will make such a difference I now have even more up to date and accurate information as well as new contacts.  Some health websites contain obsolete or inaccurate details with broken links, which can be really frustrating.  It’s been great to learn about where to find trusted health and wellbeing information on the net.

I am encouraging all of our other reps to contact their local Healthwatch and make the same links as me so we can provide even better support across the country which will help to make our network even stronger.”

Lorna Wilson, Lloyds Bank Access Network Representative

For more information or to register for free training, visit: http://healthwatchdudley.co.uk/infopoints/ or call 03000 111 001.

Let’s celebrate and recognise amazing local volunteers across Dudley borough.

It’s that time of year again, when volunteer-involving organisations’ thoughts turn to how to celebrate their wonderful volunteers.  However, a volunteer is for life and not just Volunteers Week, so I thought I would share a series of posts around ensuring your volunteers have the best possible experience.

So lots of articles out there around managing volunteers and good practice tend to focus on the volunteer-involving organisation’s view of the volunteering journey and I’ve decided it’s time to see things from the volunteer’s perspective.

Running a volunteer centre means that I am often contacted by volunteers who feel they have not had the best experience, been treated unfairly or are quite simply disillusioned with the whole thing and have decided it’s not worth the effort!  I’m often called on to do mediation or advocacy to try to repair the volunteer/organisation relationship too, so I’m encouraging you lovely volunteer managers out there to walk in your volunteers’ shoes and see the other side of the relationship.

These posts are not a criticism in any way of how you do things, they are just aimed to help you understand a volunteer’s perspective and enhance your volunteer/organisation relationships.   Managing volunteers is challenging as all volunteers are totally unique and often you are constrained by systems and procedures you don’t really have control over: however, you can certainly personalise parts of your volunteer management systems to make them more volunteer-friendly I’m sure.

Hopefully this series of posts will help you see things from the volunteer’s perspective and improve the way you interact with them, after all a happy, valued volunteer is more productive and a great advertisement for your organisation.

There are eight elements to this series and although there may some sections that appear to repeat what is in other posts, I felt it would be easier if I themed each one, so please do bear with them.

  1. Recruitment
  2. Selection and interviews
  3. Induction
  4. Support
  5. Motivation
  6. Development and training
  7. Recognition

“JUST GO FOR IT” funding success Dudley Voices for Choice

Dudley Voices for Choice (DVC) is a user led self-advocacy organisation that supports and empowers people with learning disabilities and autism to speak up for themselves and their peers, actively participating in community meetings and strategic meetings with the council and health services around the borough. Recently the charity celebrated a funding success, having been awarded a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund totalling £415,720 to maintain a regional self-advocacy network.

Martin, Funding Officer at Dudley CVS tells us more about his support, the application stages and the success achieved at the end of a long but rewarding process.

Almost 2 years ago (April 2017) I was approached by Sarah Offley (Project Manager at DVC) enquiring about funding for a regional forum comprising 12 West Midlands Self Advocacy charities previously in receipt of statutory funding. Following cuts by local authorities they were concerned that their essential work may not be able to continue. They wanted to maintain the network and work on a consortium bid to secure funding.

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I met with the network in June and was enthused not just by their passion and desire for the work they were doing but also, and most importantly, by the ongoing involvement of their beneficiaries in the work they were carrying out. The self-advocacy was guided by support workers however the direction and decisions were led by beneficiaries i.e. people with learning disabilities. This influenced me in suggesting they approach the Lottery large grant programme Reaching Communities bearing in mind their stipulation that all funded projects must involve beneficiaries throughout the various elements of the work e.g. planning, delivery and evaluating. I provided them with a contact at the Lottery who they could speak to.

Over the remainder of 2017 and into January 2018 Sarah and her team worked on putting together a stage one application receiving support and encouragement along the way from Dudley CVS and the Lottery grants officer. I explained the time-scales involved over not only two application stages but also the possibility of a telephone interview along the way pointing out the importance of having strong evidence of need to show the Lottery how essential their work was and the need for it to continue.

They took on board the challenge led by Sarah. It was decided to submit the application via DVC rather than as a consortium bid. The emotion and passion provided by Sarah was key in the success of the application. Working closely with Sarah we were able to capture all of this translating it into words that would convey the message to the Lottery whilst at the same time highlighting the massive importance of their plans and what they wanted to achieve.

Having been invited to submit a stage two application they were guided and supported by initially Dudley CVS but, very importantly, all along the journey by the new Lottery grants officer for Dudley John Goodman. Sarah received great support also from Claire who was there to proof read her submissions and give her feedback where appropriate. An excellent team effort all round.

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In early December 2018 Sarah received the news that they had been successful and that the Lottery had agreed to provide them with a 4-year grant totalling £415,720. The good news was embargoed until February 14th when a launch event was held at DY1 where all the charitable organisations involved in the network attended along with many beneficiaries, all celebrating together having achieved a fantastic result.

All of this would never have taken place without the dedication and hard work of everyone involved in the network. Detailed planning and many discussions took place over an 18-month period to rejuvenate the regional forum looking at what they wanted and how they would approach the work/do things differently in the future. Everything centred on the importance of people with learning disabilities having their voices heard and being able to be remunerated/paid for delivering excellent advocacy work to others. This was a key issue throughout as they looked at what was important to people with learning disabilities so they could understand their rights and consider the many opportunities available to them alongside the challenges they may face.

One of the interesting areas of the application, and the ongoing work that will take place over the next 4 years, is the involvement of Regional Champions. They will champion the great work going on throughout the network and feedback key information and case studies so evaluation of this great work can take place throughout the 4 years and beyond. They will have a defined role and purpose continually learning and developing so that they have transferable skills that they can use now and in the future in the work place providing them with good employment prospects and opportunities that they can take to the job market.

All of this will be delivered alongside Local Community workers who will ensure everything runs smoothly and people with learning disabilities are given fantastic support throughout.

To sum up all of this is a short quote from Sarah when she said “we were encouraged to just go for it” which is directed at the process of applying to get the money but can also be used as a mantra for the beneficiaries in all of this as people with learning disabilities are encouraged to “just go for it”.

Discover U – Providing work-related experience to adults with disabilities

Based in Wollaston, Discover U is a vibrant and welcoming space providing work-related experience to adults with disabilities. Discover U is not a daycare centre, it’s a charity working to support people who face barriers when getting into employment. It’s an environment where people can prosper and grow, fulfil their goals and reach their potential, a place to learn social, emotional, functional and employability skills. The people that go there are supported by volunteers to set their own goals and are helped to achieve them.

Discover U has a well-equipped wood workshop, garden area, front tea room and upstairs sewing room, most of which are busy every day. With materials donated by local businesses, they are able to turn unwanted pieces of wood, fabrics and bottles (some of which donated by the Brierley Hill Civic) into beautifully handcrafted and saleable items. They even have donations of fruit from people in the local community which they use to make cakes for the tea room. It’s now a community hub where local people can pop in for a hot drink, a cake, and look at all the wonderful items for sale.

You only have to look around the workshop to see the passion to learn, the creativity, the enjoyment and sense of pride in the products they have made. Everywhere you look there are beautifully made high-quality products, Bee Hotels, bird boxes, bottle lights, knitted tea cosies, cushions, chairs, you name it…they have probably made it! They even made our wooden awards for the Dudley CVS Volunteer Awards last year.

It’s a wonderful hive of activity. Lorna is busy drawing up ideas for her next recycled bottle project; she shows us her sketchbook full of ideas and designs. James has invested his time learning about safeguarding and what you need to do to keep people safe. Thanks to James, Discover U is now recognised as a Safe Place to visit in Dudley. Kieran is busy tidying up the cabin shop showing us the variety of products for sale. Darren tells us how he wants to work as a painter and decorator having learnt painting skills in the workshop.

Discover U members come from a variety of backgrounds, together they are building a vibrant, fun and pleasant working environment.

Everybody plays an important part, whether it’s in the design of a new concept, the manufacturer or the sale of a product at the end. Everybody’s involved in the process right from the very start and they take pride in what they’re doing.

In the workshop, they are supervised and learn how to use power tools. When they have passed their food hygiene course they can then work in the kitchen and serve customers. Operating the till helps them to learn about money management, it also helps them to improve their social skills by interacting with customers.

Steve Smith, one of the founders of Discover U, tells us of how for so long they have been told ‘you can’t do it because…’, at Discover U, volunteers will support people to do tasks on their own, build their confidence and tell them ‘you can do it!’

We hope you enjoy this short film we have made to spotlight this amazing group in Dudley.

If you would like to find out more about Discover U, visit their website www.discoveru2015.org or Facebook page. Or why not pay them a visit? They are open Mon-Thu from 9.30 until 4, they also have a stall at Kingswinford market on most Saturdays during the warmer months.

 

Operation Santa 2018 is go go go! #charitytuesday

Although this year’s appeal will not be launched officially until the end of October, our amazing supporters have already been very busy preparing for what we hope will be another very successful Operation Santa 2018.

Win a car for £5

Yes you did read that correctly!  Last year Lee Southerton from Volks Magic and his lovely team of ‘Santa’s a Gangster’ supporters joined Operation Santa and made a huge impact. After dropping off toys and raising cash donations for last year’s appeal, this year they have taken their support to a whole new level!  Dale Roberts who is Lee’s nephew, has donated a VW Mark 1 Golf Cabriolet and Lee has organised a prize draw, where people can contribute to this year’s appeal by purchasing as many prize draw entries as they wish at just £5 a time. All donations will go to this year’s appeal and the grand draw will take place on 14th December 2018.  Lee and Dale were fundraising on 14th-16th September at V-Dubs in the Valley in Bewdley and raised an incredible £2700 with an auction and prize draw ticket sales. The team also organised a reverse Santa with visitors dropping off toys in the car for this year’s appeal. Wow that’s incredible and will be a huge boost to this year’s appeal!

The link is here for more information: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/santasagangster2018

 

Taking the plunge

Jayne Bond and Matt Cook from Brierley Hill Civic are doing a parachute jump to raise funds for this year’s Operation Santa too. They’ve already raised almost £300 and we will be sharing pictures from the jump when they do it. This is a really lovely gesture and very brave of Jayne and Matt!

Eleven elves a ‘elping

I’m delighted to announce this year we have three new volunteer ‘elves’ joining the existing team, plus a fourth one who is yet to confirm.  Jayne and Sarah are going to be helping with the grotto and events, and Phil is our new volunteer sleigh driver, helping with collecting donations. Welcome to the team J   The lovely Rose and Andy will be helping us once again, alongside Abi, Mike, Stacey, Simon and Carl.

Spreading the word

By popular demand we have got a dedicated Operation Santa poster this year. We are hoping they will help us spread the word about what we do and whether it’s someone who wants to donate, or an organisation who supports children, young people and their families, they will be able to get in touch. If you can help us by putting up a poster or sharing via your social media feed we would be very grateful.  We also have wishlists with suggested items to donate too, so why not see if your family, friends or colleagues could help this year by collecting donations?

Oh no you haven’t!  Boo Hiss

We do love a good panto and this year will be no exception.  Thanks to our lovely friends at Brierley Hill Musical Theatre Company, who do us a special price on tickets, some lucky local children will be enjoying a visit to Brierley Hill Civic Hall to see Rapunzel in January 2019.

Date for your diary – 23rd May 2019

After the runway success [hope you like the pun!] of last year’s fabulous fundraising fashion show in May 2018, I’ve taken the plunge and booked another date in the Civic’s diary for 2019. We raised just short of £1000 in ticket sales, tombola, auction and sales on the night, which is a huge amount of money for the appeal. So far I’ve booked Eloise Amelia and Bradley Stokes to provide some musical entertainment on the evening, and will finalise what sort of event it will be next year. The fashion show was a great success, but it depends if we have any clothes donated for this year’s Operation Santa. So watch this space and I will keep you posted.

Keep yourself updated on what we’re doing this year!

 

 

Great news from the brand new Priory Community Centre!

What a difference a year makes! Priory Community Centre now looks a far cry from the empty, not-quite-finished shell of a building I visited in June 2017. Now it’s vibrant, full of people of all ages doing all sorts of creative things together!

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It’s a journey that started long before I started working with the passionate group of people who make up Priory Community Association, a charity that’s been without a home since the North Priory estate in Dudley was flattened and redeveloped in 2010. Priory Community Association volunteers live and breathe their community; they continued to work in the community at other venues to make sure they stayed connected, they maintained links with other community centres for support while they were without a home and they provided a strong voice for what the new community centre should look and feel like.

Last year, I was asked to support Priory Community Association through the asset-transfer process, work that had been started by my former colleague Caroline, who’d worked closely with Dudley Council staff on its asset-transfer strategy. In basic terms, asset transfer is when building or land moves from statutory control into the control of not-for-profit organisations. In Dudley borough, this has in most cases been a transfer of management (through a lease) rather than transferring ownership from the local authority to another organisation. Asset transfer can be a lengthy process (with more work required the longer the lease is), so it’s good to approach it with realistic expectations. Generally, the process involves completing a short expression of interest and then working on a business plan that will show the community support for the transfer, what kinds of activities will happen there and how they will benefit the community and the financial viability. Understandably, the local authority will want to make sure that the transfer will benefit the community and that it is sustainable.

So this is the process we started with Priory Community Association. We got busy with the business plan and I think together we made a really strong case for the community benefits, linking not only with the Dudley Council plan but showing links to priorities of the Health and Wellbeing Board, West Midlands Police and Dudley Clinical Commissioning Group. We had some help and good feedback from Martin, who’s the principle link with the local authority for groups looking at asset transfer – he does an excellent job!

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What we all found more difficult was the financial figures. We were lucky enough to be able to get some figures from other community centres, but we weren’t sure how realistic they would be, given that Priory’s was a completely new building (and hopefully more energy efficient!). On top of that, while we were working on the plan, the completed building risked standing empty and Priory Community Association couldn’t give any certainty to potential users and hirers of the centre. So I asked Martin whether a temporary lease might be an option; this would allow Priory Community Association to get in the building and start managing it, giving them experience, building interest and providing a more realistic view of what the costs would be thus making their business plan more robust. At the same time, the building wouldn’t have to stand empty for too long and be at risk of deterioration.

Dudley Council was open to this, which was wonderful news! We thought ahead and it seemed that the timings might coincide with the summer holidays, so I suggested that Awards for All might be interested in funding a playscheme with a difference – one that would help to launch the brand new community centre and kickstart other activities that would happen there. Together we worked on the application – it was a good one! – and Priory Community Association landed a grant of around £5,000 from Awards for All. The group also successfully applied to Dudley Council’s Community Forums to help them furnish the kitchen and other areas of the centre, and their good relationships with other community centres in the borough meant they had lots of chairs and tables donated.

I recently went back to the centre on the last day of the playscheme to see how things had gone. I was utterly staggered by what this passionate group of people has achieved! They’ve made connections with children and families who’ve come to the playscheme and joined in the range of the activities on offer, connections that will last many years judging by the ‘Thank you’ cards on display and the wonderful comments Priory Community Centre has received on its Facebook page, which has been joyously charting each day of the playscheme. Honestly, if you want to brighten your day, take a look at the wonderful pictures and comments like the ones below:

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During my visit a group of children and adults descended on trustees and volunteers with flowers and chocolates to say thank you for the two weeks of fun they’d had. Of course, I had to get a snap!

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Leaders, people like Celia, Sally and Rachel, have also instilled the sense that the community centre is for absolutely anyone and everyone. The behaviours the leaders have shown and the language they’ve used have helped people feel a sense of ownership. Children have made posters encouraging everyone to tidy up after themselves and people feel like they can contribute to making activities happen. The fact that they had enough volunteers to cover a day trip of 59 people to Weston and keep activities going at the centre shows that people are willing to help and volunteers are valued there. This is great news for the future of the centre!

The people I spoke to had lovely things to say about the local PCSO’s too. They went to each day of the play scheme, getting involved in the activities, judging competitions, doing the less attractive jobs! It seems like the play scheme has been a great way to connect communities with each other and with the people that serve those communities, like the Police, who want to be visible and engaged there.

The future looks good. Throughout the last few months, Priory Community Association have been engaging with people and organisations that might want to use the centre. There’s an exciting plan in the pipeline with young people’s charity Top Church Training, which might see the Community Centre cafe opening regularly, and there’s been a lot of learning about what works from the play scheme – a regular families session might be on the cards!

Whatever the plans, I wish Priory Community Centre every success. The people involved make my job an utter privilege and we’ll always be happy to support them as they develop.

The Hope Project – Building positive futures for people of all ages

Paul and Joanne Westwood arrived in Coseley three years ago with a vision to improve the lives and welfare of people in the community. They are now turning their ideas into a reality, building positive futures for people of all ages.

The Hope Project, presents three very distinct programmes, designed to positively impact the health and wellbeing of people in the community. Music Moves, a music based course supporting the emotional well-being of 11-17 year olds, Living Life to the Full, designed to support people who struggle with anxiety, low mood and depression, and Beauty for Ashes, designed to support survivors of domestic abuse.

We were invited to the celebration and launch of this new charity at their base, New Hope Baptist Church, a welcoming, vibrant and multi-use space located in the heart of Coseley, the perfect destination for three wonderfully different projects.

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Long before starting the Music Moves programme, Paul and Joanne were working with groups of young people in a youth club setting. They found that the young people came along to the club because they were a little at a loose end or for social reasons, a couple were a little introverted, anxious, and found it difficult to mix and communicate.

When arriving in Coseley 3 years ago, Paul, Pastor of New Hope Baptist Church and musician of 20 years, decided to set up a music club to help young people to socialise, build confidence and play music together. It was at this point he realised how much young people of all backgrounds were communicating whilst playing music together, and the idea behind Music Moves started to grow…

Music Moves has been designed to positively impact the emotional well-being of young vulnerable people. It is a 12-week programme, primarily designed to introduce a new way for 11-17 year olds to cope with anxiety, emotional and physical bullying, and other mental health issues. Using a referral method through schools, health professionals, police and other agencies, the programme will take them on a journey of positive personal growth and development through the medium of music.

Paul said, “The structure of the programme is in three parts. The first 4 sessions we teach the young people to play something within their skill set, the second 4 week period is bringing them together collectively, in a band environment, and in the final 4 weeks we take them into the recording studio to produce a CD or a digital download. This means they will also be introduced to music production.”

Paul has worked with many young people who have experienced bullying in school, cyber bullying and anxiety, he has also worked over many years with young offenders, and understands the challenges faced by young people.

“We hope it will be a preventative model for those who struggle with low self-esteem and other mental health issues, and it will give them something they can do away from their usual environment of school.”

The Hope Project has successfully received £13,000 from East Coseley Big Local to finish equipping a recording studio at the church, and to pay professional musician Dan Healey to run the Music Moves programme. The studio has state of the art equipment that will allow young people to develop their skills in recording and also allow them to learn and master different instruments.

Dan is also a talented musician. During his musical career he has performed with major artists in the music industry and now teaches music at Wolverhampton University. He has a passion to support young people to develop their skills in music, and to help them interact and communicate in new and creative ways.

At the launch we heard a fantastic performance from the Music Moves pilot group, young people that had started out as complete beginners only a few months before, formed a band and had now built the confidence to perform to a live audience.

Living Life to the Full is a life skills 8-week programme, produced by psychologist, Dr Chris Williams, nationally recognised to support people who struggle with anxiety and low mood, and is designed to help people deal with life on a day to day basis.

Joanne was a nurse for 30 years before starting work with the church. “I found that a lot of people found it difficult to say that they were struggling with depression. To say I’m feeling really low or I’m anxious, to come forward and open up was a struggle for some people due to the stigma surrounding it, many had suffered for many years without coming forward. We decided to think about how we could support people with anxiety and low mood and people that suffer from depression.”

“Many people simply try to live with low mood and anxiety.  This can often lead to more severe mental health issues if no interventions are found.”

Joanne and Ruth Carter, also a nurse, working with patients with chronic pain, run the self-referral project together in a group setting, providing useful resources to people that may feel a little low and isolated in the community.

It’s a low intensity and practical programme, that’s not here to replace what the local mental health team does, but to complement it.

Joanne said, “We ran two pilot courses, mindful of those with faith and the struggles that they will encounter, and also those without faith. One of the great things that has come out of this is that one of the ladies wants to set up a peer support group so that there will be continued support for people in the community.”

Beauty for Ashes is a women’s group designed to support survivors of domestic violence who have removed themselves from the relationship. The group gives help, both emotionally and practically, to those who are trying to realise a positive future further on down the line, and in need of that extra bit of support.

Joanne said, “We knew we wanted to work with survivors of domestic violence as we had previously sat on a West Midlands Police steering group and we knew from that group how much of a need there was to do this.”

The aim of the group is to provide an environment of support, concentrating on overcoming personal difficulties that are experienced as a result of abuse and to help women to feel more equipped to lead improved and independent lives, building self-esteem and empowerment. Many of the women who attend will be at various stages in the rebuilding of their lives.

“Even though we are a church some of what we do is non-faith based. We wanted to do both groups. In some faiths there is a distorted belief that the man is the authority in the relationship and it’s difficult for women to come forward and talk about it.”

Joanne has successfully completed Power to Change, a Women’s Aid training course in order to help her to support women to have healthy relationships post domestic abuse. “The name Beauty for Ashes symbolises turning a really difficult and horrible situation into something that is really positive and good.”

Joanne and fellow church member Davinda, will fully launch Beauty for Ashes in the summer of 2019 and will again look at the two groups, those with faith and those without faith.

The Hope Project received support from Dudley CVS around 18 months ago when they first had the idea of setting up the project and the three associated programmes. “We knew what we wanted to do, but we didn’t know how to do it. We were struggling for direction. Becky helped us to identify that a Community Interest Organisation (CIO) was the best route for us, whilst leaving it up to us to decide, she gave us good advice. We had time to question and take it all in, with what we thought was a minefield, she gave us the reassurance and guided us through it at our pace. Lorna, (Dudley CVS) supported us with an application for funding from East Coseley Big Local, she helped us to see our vision more clearly.”

“Dudley CVS gave us knowledge and information but allowed us to find our own direction.”

Paul, Joanne, and the rest of the team radiate enthusiasm and energy, you can see how committed and passionate they are about building positive futures and improving the well-being of local people of all ages.

“Our key ingredients are commitment, a pioneering spirit, compassion and willingness to work hard for no reward. We are non-judgemental and accept people where they are at in their lives.”

For more information on The Hope Project or associated programmes, please contact info@thehopeprojectcoseley.org.uk or visit the website at www.thehopeprojectcoseley.org.uk

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.