A place to connect and make lasting friendships: Lye Men’s Group

The idea for The Men’s Group began in 2015 when my colleague Nick Tromans, the Integrated Plus Locality Link Officer for Stourbridge, Wollescote and Lye, had a high number of referrals for men with similar mental health needs and social isolation.  This led Nick to Reverend Simon Falshaw the Vicar from Christ Church in Lye and they discussed the need to offer a place for men to come and connect with each other.  The church was interested in supporting the idea and offered the church hall as a place to host the group.  A successful funding bid to the Near Neighbours Fund was approved and this helped start the group and pay for room hire.

The main factor for the success of the group is the volunteers who help run the group, they set up the room, serve refreshments and ensure a warm and friendly welcome to everybody who attends.  They can empathise with the group because they have had similar experiences and are well placed to offer peer to peer support.  Andrew was the first volunteer and he fostered an atmosphere of calm, respect and empathy.  Unfortunately, Andrew died suddenly in 2017 but his ethos remains within the group. Nick and I are involved in some aspects of the running of the group but the volunteers are the mainstay of the group and are vital and committed to its ongoing success.

The group has blossomed and three years on it is still going strong.  We have men aged from 19 to 90 in the group.  Over 130 men have attended the group in total and there are around 20-25 men from a pool of about 40 who attend every week.  Over the past few years we have had lots of activities at the group including, Get Cooking courses, glass engraving, bread making and well-being sessions.  The group also have regular cooked breakfasts, pool and darts tournaments and celebrations for Eid and Christmas.  There is no pressure for anybody to be involved in the activities and they are welcome to come and have a cup of tea and do their own thing.

Peer support reduces loneliness and isolation and improves self-esteem and confidence, this is certainly evident in the group.  Many positive and enduring friendships have been made by those attending the group.  People attend together and those in the group with limited mobility and difficulty attending have lifts arranged with friends they have met in the group.  If somebody has not attended in a while people rally round and see if they can help.  Friends meet outside of the group and do social activities together and meet at each other’s homes independent of the group, some have even gone on holiday together.  Another major reason for the success of the group is the non-judgemental attitude of all who attend and volunteer, it is inspiring and makes for a smoothly run and supportive group.

Barry began attending the group supported by his wife and Nick and has now become a regular attendee.  He has made new friends who he looks forward to spending time with in the group.  His friendships have developed further and he now meets up with his new friends outside of the group at home and in social situations.  Barry said he was not aware of any groups or activities like this in his local area and he said the group and the friendships he has made have ‘lifted me off the floor and given me something to look forward to.’

Those men who attend who can afford to make a donation can contribute to the running of the session.  Using an asset-based approach and working in partnerships with the local council and other organisations has enabled the group to run for little cost and has further helped the success of the group.

If you would like more information about the Men’s Group contact gary@dudleycvs.org.uk

Find out more about how Integrated Plus are supporting people to become more involved, connected and active in their communities at https://integratedplusblog.com/about/

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. 

 

 

My week working at Dudley CVS

At Dudley CVS we’re passionate about nurturing young people to develop their skills and experience a possible future career path. Last week we had the pleasure of meeting Evie Colesby, a work experience student, who spent a week working with our teams at Dudley CVS. It was great to have such an enthusiastic self-starter on board and an extra pair of hands in the lead up to our AGM and Volunteer Awards! Here’s what Evie thought about her time at Dudley CVS…

“Early last year I was told by my school that I had to try and find work experience for a week in October. Typically, most of my class left it to their parents or our teacher to organise. However, I sat down with my parents and we spoke about what I was potentially interested in doing with my life. It’s such an overwhelming prospect, a 14 year old trying to decipher what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives! After mulling over several ideas I decided, because I’m very creative, fields that seemed very interesting to me were media, marketing and comms. Granted, I may have let my mom take the lead, however, I am so glad I did! She knew Eileen, volunteer manager at Dudley CVS, through work they had done together with volunteers before, and Eileen so very kindly offered to have me. At Dudley CVS they have made me feel so very welcome, even at a time of stress (the week before the awards!), they have never failed to include me and help me get stuck into tasks I can do to help.

Dudley CVS is an infrastructure charity supporting voluntary, community and faith sectors in Dudley borough, they also support social enterprises. I have learnt, in a nutshell, that the Dudley CVS team work incredibly hard to support, to advise, and to train local people to benefit their organisations.

Throughout the week commencing 9th October, I spent my time moving from Albion Street to DY1 Venue. In this time I met some of the nicest people, everyone is so caring and giving. I was shocked at the amount of work they were all so willing and happy to put in to help others.

MONDAY 9th OCTOBER: On Monday I had a little induction with Eileen and met the team at Albion Street, who were all very lovely. Seeing as everyone was preparing for the awards on Wednesday 18th I became an extra pair of hands to help with this. Meaning I was doing all sorts like putting certificates in frames for the main award winners and organising which certificates went onto which tables. I also met Dale and Steph, the admin staff (who were lovely!) and they asked me to make phone calls regarding the awards and proxy votes etc.

TUESDAY 10th OCTOBER: The morning of Tuesday consisted of finishing off the phone calls made on Monday. And then at midday Eileen and I went to a volunteer celebrations at Live at Home (http://www.mha.org.uk/community-support/live-home/), which was so interesting! I met the mayor and had some great conversations with the volunteers, who received their certificates from the Volunteer Awards. I also learnt about volunteering as a community and the help received for this to happen.

WEDNESDAY 11th OCTOBER: Wednesday was one of my favourite days, I went to the DY1 Venue and met Mel, Faye and Becky from Healthwatch (http://healthwatchdudley.co.uk/). I started the morning by talking to Mel about how varied a comms role can be and how I might like to be involved with comms. We also proofread the annual report and I helped her make some adjustments so that it could be sent off to print. She then told me about a new project they are working on based around neglect in communities, and what it means to thrive (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/thrive-in-dudley-learn-it-try-it-celebrate-tickets-38433770442), we spoke about how we could present this campaign to young people and how it could be promoted in schools. This was all before lunch!

After lunch, I met Faye and Becky (a young health champion) and we went to “Gather” (https://en-gb.facebook.com/gatherdudleycic/), a café with lovely food and a great atmosphere, where they invite anyone in the community to come along to events held there or just to go for a sandwich and a drink.

“So many people have so much to give and we want to bring them all together to help make Dudley the place where things happen.”

I spoke to Faye and Becky about the young health champions and what they do for Dudley, and that Becky had raised lots of money for mental health charities. We then went back to DY1 Venue and we spoke about how to construct a press release and how a USP makes a more creative and improved marketing campaign.

THURSDAY 12th OCTOBER: In the morning I went to an event at DY1 Venue called “Navigating Difficult Times”, this was basically a chance to have a coffee and connect whilst doing so. I met the staff involved with organising this, obviously I already knew Eileen and I had met Martin on Monday too. But I was introduced to John, Helena and Andy. Who each spoke to everyone there, I learnt about what funders are looking for from Martin, how to effectively network, sell yourself and your company from Andy, and Helena spoke about how Dudley CVS support groups with their communications, The Echo, (their newsletter) and annual report for 2016/17.

Navigating difficult times and getting the support you need event

Navigating Difficult Times event

FRIDAY 13th OCTOBER: On my last day I went to Holly Hall Secondary with Nicki and Donna to promote and launch a programme called izone (http://izone.org.uk/). The programme is basically a way of allowing young people in the community to have a platform where they can fall back to if they’re struggling with things such as mental wellbeing, relationships, finance and lots more. The website and app also offer a link to “giving back” this allows young people to get involved with the community and help or support others. I also went to a few of the other talks given by other corporations such as St John’s Ambulance and the Fire Service. I then came back to Albion Street where Eileen and I completed my assessment and reports of the week, I was glad to know it was all positive feedback!

My week at Dudley CVS has been very interesting and my experience has been so welcoming and inclusive. I’d like to also use this as an opportunity to thank everyone I have been working with this week, I appreciated that they all treated me like an adult and involved me in everything, especially seeing as I was there on the busiest week of the year! I hope I was helpful as an extra pair of hands and didn’t get in the way or further stress anyone out. The lessons I have learnt this week I will definitely take forward with me, to consider my future career. It has been such a valuable and important experience that I have also thoroughly enjoyed, so thank you!

On Wednesday 18th October I have been invited to the awards (https://dva2017.wordpress.com/) to take informal photographs and to see the amazing commitment and hard work endured within volunteering. I am really looking forward to the night as I have been told by everyone how fabulous it is when it has all come together! This is also something Eileen asked me to do because I had participated (a very small role) in making the awards happen, which I think is a real privilege and compliment from them, as the event is so important.”

A thank you to Evie, our volunteer photographer and work experience student with the Mayor of Dudley and Mike Abrahams, Dudley CVS Chairman

We wish Evie all the best in her future and thank her for joining us last week. Don’t forget to keep your eyes out for Evie’s volunteer awards photos at www.dva2017.wordpress.com

 

Nurturing caring, vibrant and caring communities – A snapshot of our story over the last year

We are really pleased to share the work that our Dudley CVS team have been doing over the past year in our most recent annual review. The 2016-17 review is a snapshot of the work we’ve done between April 2016 and March 2017 to support individuals, communities and organisations across Dudley borough.

Take a look at our annual review website and read about how we’ve been connecting and inspiring people and organisations to achieve positive change and championing their work.

Visit www.dudleycvsreview.org

Or, if you would like to read a short snapshot of our story, you can download our pdf version by clicking on the image below:

I hope you enjoy learning about the work we’ve been doing over the past year. If you’ve any feedback please feel free to leave a comment!

Be part of our collective story and share how you’ve been involved in our work or how you would like to get more involved! #dcvstory

Being part of our story and sharing the love

Crowdsource image

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

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

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

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

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The people who responded were:

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

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

My first weeks at Dudley CVS

It’s been an action packed start!

I’ve hugely enjoyed my first few weeks as Communication Officer at Dudley CVS, there are so many exciting and innovative projects happening in the Dudley borough.

To introduce myself, my name is Helena and I thought with this first blog it might be interesting to pull out some particularly exciting moments from my first few weeks..

Connections

In my first week I was invited to ‘Mass Connect’ an event organised by Andy Mullaney, Dudley’s first Business Connector. The concept was created to encourage connections and collaboration between the Public, Private and Third sectors.

Andy used an effective method to connect people at the event by introducing each person with a short summary of their company, enterprise, charity or group, providing an opportunity for people to note down key connections for collaboration.

This was followed by a productive networking session, a great opportunity to mingle and find new people to connect with. The room was buzzing with exciting conversations.

The event really opened my eyes to the importance of partnerships and connections.

Volunteers

On my second week I visited Age UK Daybreak Centre where I met long serving volunteer Judy, and youngest, Bailey, a Doberman puppy, both nominated for a volunteer award.

It was great to meet someone who had devoted so many years to volunteer to help other people, and also, as a mad animal lover, it was very nice to meet Bailey.. who interestingly seemed to take a particular shine to me… until he smelt lunch.

Visiting the centre reminded me of the importance of volunteers and providing safe social spaces in order to tackle the health and wellbeing issues older people face. It was also interesting to learn more about the therapeutic influence of animals.

This led me on quite nicely to the Dudley CVS Volunteer Awards, which was a very special evening.

Red carpet, gold statues, decorated tables… I thought I had accidentally walked into the Oscars! The effort that went in to the make the evening special was very evident.

There are some truly inspirational and generous people who devote their time to volunteer in the Dudley borough and I’m pleased that I started just in time to see them all collect their awards.

Communities

Another great brainstorming event I recently attended was the East Coseley Big Local Forum. The ideas were flowing and there was a real sense of community spirit and passion to make a positive difference to the Coseley area.

Inspirational special guests were invited to give talks about their current projects in the area identifying possible collaborations in the room. Similar to ‘Mass Connect’, the main message that seemed to crop up was the importance of working in partnership and that anything can happen if we all work together.

Innovation and communications

The most important thing that I have learnt over my first weeks at Dudley CVS is that if you have a good idea, a space and the right connections, anything is possible.

I’m looking forward to supporting these great ideas and stories in my communications role and working with colleagues to make the best use of design and technology.

And remember you can always contact me at comms@dudleycvs.org.uk

 

 

 

A snapshot of our work supporting people, communities and organisations over the last year

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I’m really pleased to share the work that my colleagues and I have been doing over the past year in a our most recent annual report. So new, it’s not yet hot off the press, the 2015-16 annual report is a snapshot of the work we’ve done between April 2015 and March 2016 to support individuals, communities and organisations across Dudley borough.

Continue reading

TechSoup 2016 Digital Storytelling Challenge

We know that many groups and organisations we support are eager to learn more about ways to share their stories and the great work they do.  I’ve just come across the TechSoup 2016 Digital Storytelling Challenge so I thought I’d share the link, as there are some useful looking resources. One is a Short Course in Digital Storytelling, which includes links to some lovely tips such as How to Wow in 4 Easy Steps.

While we’re on the topic, one of the best places to see great storytelling is TED.com, and one of my favourite TED talks about storytelling is this one by Simon Sinek.

Andrew Mullaney – a great connector

Photo and twitter bio for Andrew MullaneyBright and early on a Tuesday morning at the end of last month, Eileen and I met for coffee with Andrew Mullaney, who is Dudley’s first ever Business Connector, seconded from Lloyds Bank to Business in the Community’s Business Connectors programme.

The Business in the Community website says: “Business Connectors are talented individuals seconded from business, trained by Business in the Community and placed in communities of greatest need to build partnerships that tackle local issues.” 

I think we’ve struck gold here in Dudley because Andrew is not only talented, and experienced in business, but also hugely passionate about Dudley and driven by a mission to make a sustainable, lasting difference in the work that he does.

In his first five weeks in his new role Andrew had already made an astonishing number of connections and was working incredibly energetically as a network weaver (see video below), actively creating connections between people and organisations who hadn’t previously known about each other, or worked together.

In the weeks since we met him, Andrew has been just brilliant at connecting us with helpful people and organisations, and has very kindly been promoting Dudley Volunteer Centre and Dudley CVS in all sorts of things he’s been involved in. If you want to use and grow your networks to make positive change in Dudley I’d recommend arranging to meet Andrew for a coffee. Some great connections are guaranteed!

You can connect with Andrew on twitter @dudleyconnector, by email andrew.mullaney@bitcconnect.org or give him a call on 07834945827.

For more on network weaving, check out June Holley’s work, and the video below.