By Victoria Hopkins
The Support Fenland project continues at pace this week as we met with members of a wide range of community organisations across the district. A key part of our project is to understand the specific needs of Fenland, so we wanted to talk directly to the groups who are already active in the community.
There are a huge number and wide variety of groups supporting Fenland communities, ranging from large organisations supporting the whole county and beyond, to small voluntary based organisations supporting a very specific area within a town or village. Often these groups have been set up in response to a need that is emerging in the community, and so these groups are vital for support organisations such as CCVS and Hunts Form to listen to when we’re planning how we can better support their work.
At this week’s session we had 19 representatives from 17 different organisations of different sizes, and over a fast paced one hour Zoom call we learnt an awful lot!
When asked about the challenges that their groups are facing, there were some common themes emerging. The ability of each group to reach and communicate with their communities has become limited, either due to social distancing or a reduction in funding. Digital services offered within Fenland do not have a high take-up rate. Volunteers have a lack of confidence; whether that is dealing with new Covid measures or just coming back to volunteering after a significant break, the groups are finding that those volunteers need an increased level of support. Finally, there is a lack of awareness of the variety and scale of the issues within Fenland outside of the district.
We then talked about the opportunities that were coming in the future. There was a lot to celebrate and look forward to, and the focus was on ensuring that all of the positive ways of working that have come out of the emergency Covid response, such as new partnerships, closer relationships and new services, continue.
Finally, the conversation turned to how the groups wanted to raise their collective voice. It was acknowledged that networking and bringing people together will be key, and that there will be many benefits of this; knowing which groups are already delivering services to residents and being able to point people in the right direction, enabling increased partnership working on common issues, giving communities a place to celebrate all that is happening and acting as an advocate for all that is great about living in Fenland.
A huge thanks to everyone who joined us for such an open, honest and lively meeting. We’re looking forward to continuing the conversation with even more members of the community at next week’s open event.