Deafscope: Breaking down barriers for the Deaf community

A couple of days ago, Deb, Helena and I met with the lovely people behind Deafscope, a brand new online Deaf community directory.

Set up by Ishtiaq and Kerry, BSL communicators with first-hand experiences of the barriers faced by the Deaf community, Deafscope aims to connect the community, break down barriers and highlight the amazing Deaf-friendly and Deaf-owned businesses around the West Midlands, the UK and eventually around the world.

Bringing together Deaf-friendly and Deaf-owned businesses, services and events in one place means people will be able to see how that business or service can communicate with them along with all the other features they need to see, their location, special offers, contact details and more.Businesses can add listings to the directory to feature products, services, images, social media and website links, special offers, an introduction to their brand and more. The reviews function is designed to build a trusted source of information about accessible businesses and services.

Here’s a great example of how the Deafscope website works:

It’s not only businesses that can feature their services on Deafscope. Deaf-owned or Deaf-friendly charities, voluntary groups, nonprofits and public services such as healthcare services, can register their services, events and activities free of charge. Ishtiaq and Kerry are really keen to get networked so that the website features a whole range of services that reduce the barriers that the Deaf community can face.

And it’s not only a website that lists services, but it can give people ideas. Deaf-owned and Deaf-friendly business can inspire others to set up similar things in their own areas; did you know there’s a Deaf Gym in Bradford? There are also plans for an app and to offer practical support to the Deaf community such as helping people find jobs, training people, nurturing Deaf-owned enterprise. On top of that, being based in Lye means they can offer space, training facilities and events locally!

We’ve helped them to start networking locally and they’ll be linking with the Dudley Deaf Focus Group which is supported by Healthwatch Dudley. Deafscope is also planning a Deaf Community Day for next month. To keep informed about Deafscope, follow on social media:

Facebook: Deafscope
Twitter: @deafscope
Website: deafscope.co.uk

Is your community thinking of taking on land or a building? Here’s what to think about and some resources to help

If you’re thinking of taking on a community building or facility, check out this excellent short webinar from Good Finance. It’s called ‘How to build a cocktail of funding for your community group’, but it covers so much more than that, as we all know that funding is about much more than asking funders, donors or supporters for money!

Photo by Mike Erskine on Unsplash

This webinar covers the things you’ll need to think about before you start and has a useful overview of fundraising options from Locality, as well as an introduction to social investment from Good Finance. It also contains an excellent case study from Stretford Public Hall, whose members brought its community together to bring a disused public building back to life, and ran a successful community share offer to raise the finance needed. Take a look at the webinar below.

Here are the main things that I would take away from the webinar:

  1. Funding options (led by Debbie Lamb, from Locality)
  • Business planning is incredibly important. You’ll have to be clear about what the running costs will be and what will generate income, as well as having a good sense of the advantages and risks of running a community building.
  • Be dispassionate. Try to be realistic about how viable this is and don’t let your emotions lead you to take on something that has very slim chance of success.
  • Think about your organisational structure and the people you have. Does your structure help you to manage risk and liabilities? Does it allow you to borrow (if you plan to borrow)? Does it allow you to raise money through a community share offer (if you plan to do this)? Do you have the right amount of people with the necessary skills and expertise to work as a team?
  • You’re more likely to be raising money through a ‘patchwork’. It’s very unlikely that you will have just one source of income.

This all chimes with my experience of supporting nonprofits with community asset transfer and funding. The strength of the team and its planning is really crucial to success.

The one thing I’d add here is that evidence of community involvement and buy in is equally important. It’s one of the key things Dudley Council will take into account when making decisions on bids for community asset transfer and funders like the National Lottery Community Fund make community involvement a key criterion of all its programmes. You’ll need to be able to demonstrate that the community has been involved in the development of your plans and that the community wants your project to happen!

In terms of community asset transfer in Dudley borough, Dudley Council has made a ‘How to’ guide which tells you what they look for in a robust business case and I’ve made a template business plan which is based on this. What the local authority will look for can be boiled down into a few things:

  • Realistic costings, projections and sources of income: Do you know what condition the facility is in? Does any money need to be spent to bring the building back into use and if so, where is this money likely to come from? Do you already have some confirmed resources to put into it? What are the likely running costs?
  • Robust income-generation model / evidence of sustainability: What activities will bring in income? How realistic are these? Have you spoken to people who are willing to spend money here? What evidence do you have to show that your income will be able to cover running costs?
  • Benefits for the whole community: How will the community benefit? How will people be able to get involved? What positive difference will this make? How will your activities link to local and national strategies? If your building will be used for just one type of activity, it’s less likely to get support.
  • Evidence of community-involvement in the plan: How have members of the local community been able to have a say on what will happen at your facility? Can they be involved as members or will they be able to have a stake in your project?
Photo by Jens Behrmann on Unsplash

2. Social investment (Kieran Whiteside, Good Finance)

Social investment comes in many forms and, although it’s not particularly new, it’s constantly evolving. Not many of the organisations I’ve worked with have wanted to consider social investment, being put off by its repayable nature. In the current climate, though, I think groups should seriously consider it.

The starting point is to learn about what it is to find out about what type might suit you. And in this webinar, Kieran gives us a brief overview of what social investment is and what tools can help you to get started:

  • Social investment is repayable finance, where the investor looks for a social as well as a financial return on their investment. This means you need to be clear about what you need the money for, whether there’s an income stream that will help you to repay, and what social impact you will create (this is about ‘outcomes’ and I recommend the now archived ‘Getting funding and planning successful projects’ guide from National Lottery Community Fund back when it was known as the Big Lottery Fund).
  • The Good Finance website can help you to understand social investment. It has a diagnostic tool to help you to understand whether social investment is right for you and the type of social investment you should consider.
  • Community shares: This involves raising money from the community by issuing shares in the organisation through a formal community share offer. It’s a great way of demonstrating real community buy-in for a project, but only certain types of organisation can issue shares. The Community Shares Unit is a good source of information.
  • Blended finance: This type of social investment is typically a grant + a loan. It’s more common for investments of £250,000 or less.
  • Secured loans: Like a mortgage against an organisation’s asset. This means that the organisation needs to own a building / asset for use as collateral. Social banks, some high street banks and some specialist funders offer secure loans with typically lower interest rates.
  • Finally, crowdfunded investment: Different from rewards-based crowdfunding (Kickstarter, for instance), but more like peer-to-peer lending. You’ll find more information on Ethex or Community Chest

3. Case study of Stretford Public Hall, which ran a successful community share offer (Simon Borkin, Stretford Public Hall)

I was really inspired by the story Simon told of Stretford Public Hall and the power of a community coming together to make things happen!

Stretford Public Hall is a Grade II listed Victorian building that fell into disuse (for the second time) in 2014. In 2015 the Friends of Stretford Public Hall successfully used the Localism Act to get the building listed as an asset of community value. The group secured the freehold of the hall from Trafford Council which meant they could start refurbishment.

To raise money through a community share offer, the Friends of Stretford Public Hall had to set up as a community benefit society (or Ben Comm) so that the organisation could issue shares. This allowed members to invest in the organisation in return for shares, but the principle of the Ben Comm is that each member gets one vote, no matter how many shares they bought.

To set up a community share offer, the organisation had to draw up a business plan and a formal share offer document. Both of these are available on the Stretford Public Hall website, along with lots of other information about how the organisation is run.

What struck me most about this case study was the importance of engaging with the community and the real openness to involving the community in the organisation’s set up and decision-making. It really shows that the friends of Stretford Public Hall did the legwork to make sure the community was engaged and motivated, resulting in the organisation successfully raising £255,000 over 56 days from 790 people in the community and 7 organisations. It’s that kind of community involvement that decides whether a venture will succeed.

Photo by “My Life Through A Lens” on Unsplash

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

A Tiny Open Online Course for someone like you

seeding-change-from-within-tooc

If you’re reading our blog it’s likely that you are involved in some way in a community group, social enterprise, voluntary organisation, social movement, public sector organisation or funding organisation. In which case this Tiny Open Online Course from Organization Unbound and the Barefoot Guide Connection is designed for you! I think it’s quite different from the support which Dudley CVS offers face to face, which is why it felt worth sharing.

Seeding Change from Within will cover four themes across four weeks in October. Each invites you to explore ways in which your group or organisation’s internal ways of working are (or aren’t) aligned with your social change goals, in a light and enjoyable way.

The course will run through Facebook. If you sign up, each weekday over the four weeks you will receive an email inviting you to engage with the ‘learning nugget’ for that day- in the form of a short reading, exercise, provocative question, video clip, podcast or other materials. You can choose to keep to this daily schedule or dip into the material as it suits your schedule. Read more and sign up on the Organisation Unbound website.

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.

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Dudley groups that got involved in Small Charity Week

Small Charity Week 2016I just wanted to say a big ‘THANK YOU!’ to everyone who got involved in Small Charity Week in Dudley borough and to highlight the organisations that joined in our conversations.

We had quite a few conversations online and some busy activities that I really hope were useful and stimulating for everyone that joined in.

 

 

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Helping the small charities that do awesome work right here in Dudley

This week is Small Charity Week, an annual and national celebration of the great work of charities, voluntary and community groups and social enterprises that have an income of up to £1.5million. Don’t forget to get involved throughout the week – click this link to see how!

I wanted to share my experience of supporting groups across the last year (April 2015-March 2016), what I’ve helped them with, the amazing people I’ve got to know along the way and the wonderful work they do to enrich people’s lives across Dudley borough.

Supporting groups in numbers

Here’s a little infographic I’ve made that should give you more information about the work I’ve been doing to support groups.

Infographic

Many people get in touch with me wanting support with paperwork and registration (whether as a charity, a company limited by guarantee or a CIC). These kinds of things really seem to daunt people, but honestly, they’re the easiest part of getting up and running and in many cases, they shouldn’t be the starting point. What I’m always keen to do is getting out and supporting people, hopefully taking that fear away and taking the time to work with individuals on what they want to achieve, bringing people together and helping them plot and develop into a team. Paperwork and structures alone don’t make a successful group. Conversely, getting the foundations right by supporting people to understand what they want to achieve and why, building a shared vision can tell us what structure and paperwork is best suited and necessary to the group.

A good example is the work Donna and I did to support Friends of Lye and Wollescote Cemetery, a Lye and Wollescotegroup of people that had been volunteering on the site supported by West Midlands Historic Buildings Trust. They wanted to ensure that they still had a way to liaise with the local authority and to continue volunteering onsite once West Midlands Historic Buildings Trust’s funded project had come to an end. We worked with the volunteers using a variation of Team Canvas, to get them thinking as a collective about their vision, the great skills each of them brought to the group, the kinds of activities they would like to do in the short, medium and longer term. We also got the group thinking about specific things that people could do to support the group, from keeping a list of members, to looking after the Facebook group and leading guided walks. Finally, we collectively dDYCeveloped a short constitution to get all of this into writing.

It’s been lovely to take other groups, such as Coseley Working Together, Together We Strive CIC, Dudley Youth Council, Ehsas Carers, Friends of Hay Green Recreation Ground and others, on a similar journey.

Particular highlights have included:bcip

  • Seeing the launch of Black Country Integration Project, which works to challenge prejudice and
    to bring communities together
  • Working with determined volunteers to resurrect Friday Night Lower Gornal Youth Club
  • Meeting members of the Roma Gypsy community and supporting them to set up a group, now called Reaching Out For Change, using Google Translate to get over our language barrier!

Lower Gornal Youth ClubSo that was my year. I’m already enjoying the challenges of this one and I’m looking forward to sharing more about the amazing work that Dudley’s community groups, charities, social enterprises, volunteers and active citizens do every day.

 

Join Dudley borough’s first voluntary and community sector unconference

BSCAMP

It’s great to invite anyone involved in the voluntary and community sector (or anyone that wants to learn more about it) to the brand new Bostin Summer Camp! We’re looking for people with a passion for the voluntary and community sector to join us on the day.

What on earth is Bostin Summer Camp?

Bostin Summer Camp is a new event for people that have an interest in Dudley borough’s voluntary and community sector organisations to connect, listen and learn from each other.

So if you’re from a voluntary and community sector organisation or if you’d like to know more about the changes, challenges and opportunities they are responding to in Dudley borough, then Bostin Summer Camp is for you!

The event will be run as an unconference. This means there won’t be an agenda set before the day so participants get to decide what’s important to talk about on the day. All you need is a desire to learn. Lorna, who’s co-organising Bostin Summer Camp has participated in a few unconferences now and has written about why she loves them! I’ve been involved in one unconference so far (VCSSCamp) and I love how open, unpressured and collaborative they are.

How you can get involved

Come along to Bostin Summer Camp on Thursday 21 July, join in the discussions as you please, make connections and learn. You can book your place here. It’s completely free to attend and you don’t need to be from Dudley borough or the voluntary and community sector.

Be a co-organiser: Don’t worry, we wont ask you to do too much! We already have a date and a venue. It would be awesome if people could join us in promoting the event, sharing on social media, being a friendly face to welcome people on the day, helping to facilitate building the agenda on the day etc. If you’d like to chip in, please do let us know!

Pitch a topic on the day or get discussing possible topics on the Bostin Summer Camp blog or by tweeting with the hashtag #bostinsummercamp. There’s no need to wait until the event to join the conversation!

 

 

Celebrate Small Charity Week with us!

Small Charity Week 2016We’re really pleased to be joining Small Charity Week (13th-18th June) again this year and want to invite Dudley borough’s small charities to help us celebrate and put your organisation and Dudley on the map!

“Small Charity Week celebrates and raises awareness of the essential work of the UK’s small charity sector who make an invaluable contribution to the lives of millions of individuals, communities and causes across the UK and the rest of the world.

Small Charity Week is brought to you by the Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI), who with the support of partner organisations ensure the work of small charities is recognised and celebrated.”

Small Charity Week website

The FSI defines small charities as charities and CICs that have an annual turnover of under £1.5million and we know that that will cover a lot of community organisations in Dudley borough, because the overwhelming majority of charities are small.

Like last year, the week is divided into themed days, and here’s how you can get involved:

  • Monday 13th June – join the #ILoveSmallCharities celebrations on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram by by posting a photo of yourself holding a poster showing why you love your small charity? You could get your members and supporters to join in too! And doing so could win your charity up to £450 in the process. Visit the #ILoveSmallCharities page for more information. I’ll be joining in by posting some stories here about some of the small charities I’ve recently supported.
  • Tuesday 14th June is Big Advice Day – Eileen and I will be on hand at DY1, Dudley for a special, mid-month DY1 stop shop. Pop into DY1 between 10am and 4pm to get guidance on any topic to do with running a voluntary and community organisation. We can cover topics such as:

– setting up
– legal structures and compliance
– policies
– asset transfer and development
– fundraising and finance
– involving and supporting volunteers
– planning
– promotion and marketing

And if you can’t make it, we’ll be monitoring our Twitter, Facebook and this here blog so that you can ask questions virtually.

  • On Policy Day, Wednesday 15th June, our friend and colleague Donna Roberts will be sharing how Working Together for Change, Dudley borough’s parent-carer forum, has successfully worked with and influenced decision-makers in the design and delivery of local services. Look out for her hints and tips on this blog.
  • Thursday 16th June is Fundraising Day – you’re invited to Synergy, the peer support network for Dudley borough’s charities and social enterprises, organised by our friend Andy Mullaney. Martin Jones, our Funding Officer, will be joining the event to share his insight and experiences when it comes to raising money for your cause. The event will be held at DY1, Dudley, 10am-12noon.
  • And finally! Friday 17th June is Volunteering Day – Eileen is planning a networking and support event for local small charities, including social enterprises, who involve volunteers. There’ll be an opportunity to meet new people, build connections and find out who’s out there to support, with hints and tips on the best way to involve volunteers. The event will run from 10am-12 noon. If you’d like to join this event, please book your place on Eventbrite.

We hope you’ll be able to join some of these activities and join us in celebrating the wonderful work our small charities do day in, day out.

 

Effective charity leaders must be relentlessly, ferociously restless for change

a photo of Lorna’s RSA journal and mug of coffee While settling down with a nice cup of fresh coffee this morning I picked up my copy of the latest RSA Journal. The focus of this issue is communities, and asks: how can more communities play a bigger part in making change happen? I quickly got drawn into a great article about charities by the outgoing Chief Executive of Save the Children, Justin Forsyth. You can also read the article here.

The article opens with:

Over my working life I have worked as both a campaigner targeting the government from the outside and inside government, where I have been on the receiving end of campaigns. For the past five years I have been back on the outside as chief executive of Save  the Children. I am often asked what I have learnt as I’ve switched ‘sides’. The answer is simple: there are no sides. Or, more precisely, the two sides are not inside and outside, but people in both camps who are either restless for change or people who find comfort in the status quo. And I am clear – effective charity leaders must be unambiguously, relentlessly, ferociously of the former. Given the scale of our ambitions for social justice, the nature of shifting power dynamics driven by everything from the digital revolution to the rise of the emerging economies, and the degree of scrutiny that all institutions – from banking and politics to the media and charities – now come under, we simply do not have the luxury of standing still.

Justin then goes on to outline five lessons he has learned over the last five years at Save the Children. Here is an overview of them.

The first lesson is that it is more important to build a shared platform than to build one organisation.

The second lesson is that it is more powerful to recruit unexpected allies than to galvanise the usual suspects.

The third lesson is that it is as important to build an exceptional team as an exceptional idea.

The fourth lesson is that mass and mainstream is what gives permission for edgy and sharp. [He gives a great example of this in relation to a campaign to restart refugee search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean.]

The final and, in many ways, the most important lesson is that who you are should determine what you do, not the other way around.

Whether you lead a charity, a community group, a social enterprise, or are simply getting up to something for the good of others, do any of these resonate with you?

I’m really keen for CoLab Dudley to be a shared platform, and hope to have support through Dudley CVS to start some really exciting things with CoLab this year. I’m not sure I have much experience of recruiting unexpected allies, though on reflection I am surprised how much I’ve grown my networks in the last few years beyond the usual suspects in the community development field. As a result I have hugely increased my repertoire of tools and tactics to support change in communities, which in turn impacts on my ability to influence decision makers. I’ll stop there with the sharing of my reflections, as I’d love to hear some of yours.

I’d also love to hear perspectives on where we’re at in Dudley borough. Do you think we have charities which are restless for change, or which find comfort in the status quo? Who should we look to learn from in our sector? And where are the teams restless for change in our local public sector that we can work with on issues of social justice? Maybe we could interview people from some of them for this blog or The Echo.