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

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.

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Supporting innovation in our sector

Innovation T&F group questionBack in September we invited people to help us design a programme of support for our sector who are keen to lead innovation and transformation in their teams, organisations or communities.  This was part of work that Dudley CVS staff and trustees have been undertaking around five priorities we set ourselves this year, which I blogged about in August.

The group of us working on the priority around innovation, transformation and sustainability have recently fed back to Dudley CVS board, below are the highlights. These are from in depth conversations with leaders of eight different organisations in Dudley borough.

What do innovation, transformation and sustainability mean for people in different contexts?

Innovation

“Seeing things that work in other contexts and bringing them to your own work and applying them in different ways, to different things.”

“The ethos and core of who we are stays the same, but the way we meet that has to be continually up for discussion.”

Transformation

“Culture change.” “It needs strong vision and leadership.”

“It is ongoing on constant.”

“It is about change, responding to change, adapting to change, including being responsive to digital technologies.”

Sustainability

“Survival – diversifying income streams, looking at a variety of funding models.”

“I used to think it was  about staying where you are. Now I think it’s about pushing forward.”

“It’s not about the organisation, it’s about the customer. If the way to preserve services is that our organisation isn’t here, that’s fine. We have to help people to help themselves.”

Innovation, transformation etc definitions

Emerging themes

The people we have spoke to frequently touched on ways in which the sector is becoming more like social enterprise, using tactics previously thought of as belonging to business. Publications such as the Compendium for the Civic Economy and The Convergence Continuum: towards a 4th sector in global development? highlight ways in which the boundaries between the private, public, and non-profit sectors have been blurring. Pioneering organisations have emerged with new models for addressing societal challenges that blend attributes and strategies from all sectors. They are creating hybrid organisations that transcend the usual sectoral boundaries.

The key question we explored with people we have spoken to was: how might we support voluntary organisations in Dudley borough to innovate, transform and become more sustainable? We were explicit that ‘we’ didn’t mean specifically Dudley CVS, it could mean anyone who wanted to be involved, including people supporting each other.

Five headline themes are emerging around:

  • Collaboration and less competition. Collaboration has been mentioned more frequently than anything else.
  • Seeing or knowing about other things from elsewhere / other contexts to bring and innovate with. This has come up a number of times.
  • Creativity – trying things out, making mistakes. This has also been mentioned a lot, sometimes in relation to a perception that the sector underestimates it’s knowledge and skills, it’s ability to be nimble and creative. People we spoke to wanted the sector to be more confident.
  • Commissioners understanding the impact and value of the sector. (Influencing commissioners was also a major discussion point in the Task & Finish group which met to discuss supporting collaboration in the borough.)
  • Vision and leadership.

Other points which stand out from the conversations include how we respond to and use digital technology to help innovation etc. Also suggestions about using assets (buildings, equipment, skills etc.) differently, and sharing assets with each other. One conversation delved into alternative forms of finance, such as social investment bonds. Another explored the importance of language and framing – the need to help overcome fear, resistance and closing in with an optimism around opportunities and a focus on what we do have (rather than what is being taken away).

Our next step is to start evolving our some of our support to respond to what we’ve found, and the ideas we heard during these conversations. We’d love to hear from you about:

  • Your thoughts on the emerging themes
  • Ideas do you have around support you would like
  • Examples you’ve seen or read about of innovation being encouraged and nurtured

Celebrating our work with people, communities and organisations

Dudley CVS Annual Report, 2014-15

I’m really pleased to share the work I and my wonderful colleagues have done to support individuals, communities and organisations last year. The Dudley CVS Annual Report outlines how we’ve been connecting and inspiring people and organisations to achieve positive change and championing their work. It covers the year April 2014-March 2015.

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The New Reality – guidance for digital transformation in our sector

the-new-reality-highlights-from-the-study-3-1024

“The digital revolution has already happened, and we are living in the aftermath”

A really practical report and wonderful set of resources was published by Julie Dodd (@JulieDodd) a few months ago which I would highly recommend having a look at if you work or volunteer in our sector. It is all about how we can make our way along the journey to using digital technology to achieve the outcomes, impact and change which our organisations exist for. The resources have been created and drawn together following interviews with 50 senior leaders and digital experts from both inside and outside the non-profit sector. The New Reality site is a helpfully curated online resource comprising:

  • An overview and links to content about each of the 6 key themes:
    • leadership
    • culture
    • infrastructure
    • innovation
    • funding
    • service delivery
  • Some really lovely and useful resources, called take aways, which include the poster below, snappy slide sets and a video
  • The full report and an executive summary

The following are a few of the insights from the Executive Summary which really resonate with me:

  • Digital services will deliver greater value than anyone can imagine (but first we need to address the culture and infrastructure issues that are standing in the way)
  • Until sector leadership stops delegating responsibility for digital we’re not going to get very far
  • You don’t need a digital strategy. “Having a digital strategy will soon seem as ridiculous as having an electricity strategy”
  • A tried and tested process for delivering transformation already exists – it’s just not being used
  • The next stage of digital for non-profits is not fundraising and marketing
  • We need to think beyond web to a broad range of digital technologies to achieve maximum impact

I’ve been meaning to write here about The New Reality resources for some time (thank you to Paul Webster for bringing this to our attention), and I started working on this post while at Local Gov Camp in Leeds. Local Gov Camp is an unconference bringing together people who care about public services, which has a strong focus on digital / tech. I was fascinated to discover that people who work in local government seem to have many of the same concerns and challenges as people in organisations in our sector, though our starting positions are different. Perhaps there is potential for developing some solutions together.

Below is one of the take aways from The New Reality: 20 ways to achieve digital transformation in our sector (also available in pdf). I’d love to hear what you think about The New Reality research, the resources and what support you would like from Dudley CVS in relation to digital transformation. Leave a comment here or get in touch with us on twitter (@dudleycvs) or Facebook.

poster from The New Reality

Be the hedgehog!

photo of a hedgehog on grassWhat have hedgehogs got to do with radical innovation?

Well, as suggested in a Disrupt & Innovate blog post“hedgehogs symbolise radical innovation because as curling up into a ball – their very successful defence strategy for millions of years – became ineffective when the car was invented, hedgehogs changed their strategy and learned how to run.”

The Disrupt & Innovate project ran a campaign this summer to find civil society hedgehogs. Using a twitter hashtag #BeTheHedgehog, they sought examples of “people, teams or whole organisations that are courageously innovative reacting to changes in the world by changing themselves and the way they pursue their mission…  so that all of us can learn from them and from each other and get better at what we do.”

We are now looking for hedgehogs in Dudley borough, to help us design a programme of support for people in our sector who are keen to lead innovation and transformation* in their teams, organisations or communities. If you are a hedgehog, or know one, please leave a comment below or get in touch with me (lorna@dudleycvs.org.uk / 07501 722255 / twitter @dosticen) so that we can involve you in a conversation later this month.

* What do we mean by innovation and transformation? – you may well ask, as these are buzzwords which have lost their impact through over-use.

Innovation

Innovation can be defined as the act or process of introducing new ideas, methods or devices. In our sector we tend to focus on what is often called social innovation. This is about finding novel solutions to social problems that are more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just, than present solutions. Social innovations create value primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals.

Social innovations can be described as new strategies, concepts, ideas and organisations that meet social needs – they extend and strengthen civil society. Social innovation includes the social processes of innovation, such as open source methods and techniques and also the innovations which have a social purpose.  (From wikipedia)

Transformation

This could mean changes in how an organisation is structured, how it operates, and/or how it is financed – often in response to changes in the context in which it is working. Examples of transformation we could develop knowledge around and try out include:

Obviously we don’t want organisations to innovate and transform for the sake of it. We are here to connect and inspire people and organisations to achieve positive change so that we have caring, vibrant and strong communities across the borough. So part of our focus is on supporting organisations to be resilient and sustainable. As well as financial sustainability, we are keen to support organisations to be adaptable and develop their leadership and strategic muscles. 

If you’d like to help us design ways that we can provide support around all of these sorts of things please get in touch. We’ll be thinking and talking about ideas this month and getting ready to start doing things next month.


Image credit: Soerfm, shared through wikimedia commons using a creative commons licence

A fireside chat and five priorities

Photo of Joel Gascoigne and Nick Holzherr in front of screen with glowing fireplace

Photo from the fireside chat shared by Laura Creaven on twitter

On Tuesday I went along to a Fireside Chat* with Joel Gascoigne, co-founder and CEO at Buffer. Buffer is a really handy software application which you can use for free to schedule posts to social media accounts in Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more.  Joel studied in the West Midlands at the University of Warwick, and Buffer was developed and launched in 2010 while he lived in Digbeth, Birmingham. The co-founders moved to Silicon Valley in 2011 and have always been the subject of much interest and attention because of their radically open and transparent business practices.

Buffer made the salary calculations and salaries of each team member public and openly publish revenues from their paid for products. They are fully transparent with email (all team members can see all emails) and they have introduced transparent pricing so you see where every penny (or cent) goes if you subscribe to a paid plan. In Buffer one of their values is default to transparency.

I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Joel share his story and respond to questions which were submitted through twitter. And it got me thinking about what we’re sharing about Dudley CVS. Then I realised we haven’t really talked much about some priorities we’ve developed this year, and now is a great time to share them here because we have just started getting together as staff and board members to take each of them forward.

Our priorities have been shaped in response to what we heard from our sector in a survey we carried out late last year (Kate shared the findings in this post) and also give focus to key areas of activity we have been developing. Here is a run down of our 5 priorities.

Championing Dudley CVS and the sector 

Our survey told us that the top request in relation to support we should offer over the next year was raising the profile of the voluntary and community sector. A group of Dudley CVS staff and trustees met last week to begin collective work around this priority, so you’ll soon be seeing a growing offer to groups and organisations around this. Do get in touch with Becky (smallgroups@dudleycvs.org.uk) if you have skills or ideas to contribute to our work around this.

Enabling and promoting innovation, transformation and sustainability

Our survey also highlighted that people want support in relation to:

  • identifying gaps in local provision, working with new and existing groups to address unmet needs in communities
  • developing groups and organisations
  • ways to diversity income streams
  • innovation and transformation
  • advocacy and leadership of the voluntary and community sector

While we offer support around these areas already, we think there will be some value in us offering a programme of support which people can access in different ways. A group of Dudley CVS staff and trustees met last week and discussed some initial ideas, the next step is to involve people from local groups and organisations in shaping the programme. If you’d like to make suggestions please add a comment to this post, if would like to join an informal ideas session in September please let me know (lorna@dudleycvs.org.uk).

Supporting and enabling collaboration in Dudley borough

Ranked fourth in the list of support people want us to offer is supporting and enabling networking and collaboration. And ranked third is creating the conditions for our sector to influence. A group of our staff and trustees will be reviewing pervious and current work around this and shaping what we can do in the next 12 months. I have already been sharing some examples of activity over the last few years and thinking on collaborative practices on the CoLab Dudley blog. We’ll keep you updated on the work of the group looking at this priority, our first meeting will be next month.

Collaborating and demonstrating impact (using PSIAMS)

Dudley CVS and a number of voluntary organisations in the borough are changing their approach to working with people, and using a tool called PSIAMS to help them manage relationships, communicate and collaborate within and across teams, and to measure the impact and value of their work. We already have a great team supporting the use of the approach and software (Mark Ellerby from Cloudberry, plus Dudley CVS officers James Baggot and Adam Deyes). There will also be a trustee and staff group working on ways that our sector can collaborate and demonstrate impact.

Ensuring use of our venues benefits local communities 

Over the last few years Dudley Council has been working with Dudley CVS to explore ways to make the most of the council’s underused buildings and land in a challenging climate and safeguard them (or even unlock them) for community use. Asset transfer was a option for one building we looked at, a management move was an option in another. The council is continuing to develop and test new processes which involve community-based organisations taking on facilities. The initial steps with us should help to set the tone and ease this transition for other facilities and organisations.

Dudley CVS are now managing Brierley Hill Civic, and we have staff and a Lunch on the Run cafe moving in to a building on Stafford Street in Dudley Town Centre (the name of the building will be revealed shortly). It is really important to us that we both show that we can make a financial success of such ventures, and that we can do that in ways which support, connect and benefit local communities, groups, clubs and societies, as well as our sector more widely. We have a group of trustees and staff with a diversity of skills and connections who will give time to making ensuring we achieve this.

Do leave a comment or get in touch if you have any thoughts on any of our priorities, and please do share links to information about what your group or organisation is currently focusing on. We’d love to hear about it!


For anyone interested in the Buffer event, I’ve archived some useful links, tweets and pictures from the Fireside Chat here.

*Fireside Chats were a series of radio addresses given by President Franklin Roosevelt and the contemporary spin on this at the event I went to was a backdrop of a 3 hour You Tube fireplace video screened for the entire duration of the talk. It was nearly as mesmerising as a real fire!