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Listening to Community Organisations

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.


Our notes from the meeting are captured on the graphics below – click them to view full-screen.

The New Integrated Care System

On the morning of the 21st April, Mike More the Independent Chair of the STP and Interim Chair of the Integrated Care System (ICS) shadow board came and spoke to a group of CEO’s and top-line management professionals about the new health care system which will replace the CCG.

Mike took the group through where the idea of the ICS came from, and how it will work and this was then followed by questions from the group. The slides can be found HERE

 

The CEO Network is a network of voluntary and community leaders across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, it is a close group however anyone can join. If you wish to be part of the CEO network then please contact Julie Farrow 0n 01480 420601 or at julie@huntsforum.org.uk.

Support Fenland: Capturing the Views of Council Officers

By Ben Pitt

The Support Fenland project starts in earnest with a round-table discussion with council officers about what the voluntary and community sector needs to help it flourish.

Many people see “the council” as a single organisation that does things like parks and bins, but the reality is that Cambridgeshire has four tiers of local government – parish and town councils, district councils, the county council and the combined authority. Each has its own areas of responsibility but they all take an interest in keeping residents healthy and happy. Building strong communities is a vital part of that.

While the elected councillors or Mayor might be the most visible side of local councils, the bulk of work is carried out by council staff. They include dedicated teams at Fenland District Council and Cambridgeshire County Council to support communities. Meanwhile, parish and town councils often have the closest links with the people in their town or village, and much of the work of the parish or town clerk is to respond to the specific needs of their residents. This often goes hand in hand with the activities of local community and voluntary groups.

At Hunts Forum and CCVS we want to ensure that our work in Fenland responds directly to the specific needs of the district. That’s why we started by talking to the council officers who work with residents on a daily basis. We were delighted to be joined by the community development teams from Cambridgeshire County Council and Fenland District Council, the clerks from Wisbech, Chatteris and Christchurch plus our friends at Living Sport and Cambridgeshire ACRE.

We started by asking what the communities of Fenland need from infrastructure organisations, and what the barriers were to accessing that support. Lots of answers came back. Some were practical, such as support with business planning and funding applications for new projects, a volunteer database and peer networking opportunities. Others were more strategic, such as umbrella organisations with the governance in place to hold funds, thereby allowing volunteers with a good idea to focus on delivering it.

Some points were more philosophical. How can we make volunteering a more ‘normal’ thing to do? How do we empower residents to feel that it’s their right to shape their community, rather than their burden? How do we give communities the confidence to seize opportunities?

Finally, we reflected on what infrastructure organisations and councils need to do to ensure that the voices of our communities are heard. The simple answer was to ask them, but there was also a recognition that communities need a reason to want to have that conversation.

We need to ensure that the various people whose job it is to support communities work together effectively, and that the Support Fenland project has a legacy. Too often, people and solutions are parachuted in and make a few ripples, but afterwards things fall back to the way they were before. Our challenge is to change the culture of volunteering and community action in Fenland for the better.

We’re looking forward to talking to the community activists to find out what their perspective is.


The graphics below capture the views expressed during the discussion. Click them to view full screen.

 

 

 

Starting Conversations

By Kathryn Shepherdson

The Support Fenland project has started with a series of conversations about what the communities in Fenland need to help them flourish.

Support Fenland has started, and we are very excited to get going and learn a little more about what the district needs.

As highlighted in a previous blog, the first job will investigate what makes Fenland, Fenland. The quirks, issues, barriers and areas we need to celebrate and nurture to be stronger.

This will be done through four events, each talking to different groups and individuals who work and volunteer in and around the district.

14th April – We are talking to the officers who work in several communities across the district – including our own teams at CCVS and Hunts Forum, other infrastructure organisations such as Living Sport and Cambridgeshire ACRE plus staff at Fenland District Council, Cambridgeshire County Council and Town and Parish Clerks – to find out what they think the communities need.

28th April – We will approach community leaders, volunteers, and groups we know do so much in the community already and talk about the issues there currently and make sure their voice is heard and respond to their needs moving forward.

5th May – Here, we will be running an open forum, where we encourage the public along with those who volunteer or work in the community to come forward to talk about what things the local community and volunteering groups need. If you’re interested in attending, you can sign up here.

Finally, later in May, we will be running a Councillor event to hear their views and thoughts about the communities they service and what they feel they need.

Following these events, we will pull together our findings, which will be reported here, and devise a plan of action to support those voluntary and community groups to become stronger and more resilient in the coming months.

Commissioning Forum

The next Support Cambridgeshire Commissioning Forum takes place on the 30th October 2019 at Bar Hill Village Hall 

Commissioning Forums give VCSE sector representatives the opportunity to ask Commissioners about best practice, the current landscape in commissioning through Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and what the future might look like.

3 Commissioners will be in attendance on the day.

The Agenda is as follows:

Welcome and introductions.

Summary of previous meetings.

Challenges & Opportunities.

Bridging the Gap.

Moving Forward.

The session will be facilitated by Julie Farrow, lead CEO of Support Cambridgeshire and Fiona Adler from the Commissioning Unit.

The event will begin promptly at 9AM and will finish at 12.30PM.

To book your space contact jackie@huntsforum.org.uk

 

 

Cambridgeshire Local Councils Peer Learning Event

On 3 July, the annual Rural Affordable Mythbuster Tour took place and 19 local council representatives joined Cambridgeshire ACRE staff, District and County Council officers and representatives from several Housing Associations to learn more about the provision of affordable homes for local people on rural exception sites. The tour started and concluded at Bluntisham Village Hall and took in sites at Colne, Earith, Willingham and Swavesey. The tour allowed local councillors to see for themselves how small housing developments that provide vital housing for local people in perpetuity (i.e. they cannot be sold off for private housing) can be incorporated into a rural village without affecting its character and allowed them to share experiences regarding provision of housing in their parishes with each other. Feedback from the tour was excellent with people calling it ‘enlightening’ and ‘inspiring’ and noting their pleasant surprise at the high quality of the homes built.

For anyone unable to attend the tour, please click here for a copy of the tour programme that supplies interesting information on each site. If any local council would like to learn more or be interested in talking to Cambridgeshire ACRE regarding rural affordable housing, please contact our Housing, Planning and Economic Development Officer Mark Deas, on 01353 865035.

Further peer learning events are planned for the Autumn. Please look out for details on the Support Cambridgeshire website.

More than a Giving Machine

For longer than the term Corporate Social Responsibility (or CSR) has been coined, charities have reached out to businesses for support. But charities can find CSR difficult to access, often being uncertain who in an organisation to contact, knowing if a business is receptive to being approached and the best way to do so, thinking that a business is only interested in publicity for its donation. Businesses too can find it difficult knowing how to deal with so many approaches made to them, not understanding the language that charities use and the hurdles and uncertainties they can go through.  However, when it works, it works well and makes a great difference to both sides and especially to the people the charities are working with.

Coming from a desire to see this work better, have greater intention and impact, and create greater benefit for our communities, Rachel Briant (the Founder of Get Synergised) and Keith Johnson from Hunts Forum (on behalf of Support Cambridgeshire) organised a workshop: Corporate Social Responsibility: More than a Giving Machine.

The title was deliberately chosen to emphasise that often the relationship can be about more than money and can include skills exchange, learning, mutual understanding and respect. The event took place in the boardroom of Barons Cambridge BMW in Cambourne, hosted by Kevin Appleton, their Head of Business.

Sixteen Charitable Organisations and social enterprises from across Cambridgeshire joined three businesses at Barons Cambridge BMW to explore how businesses and charities can engage better together to  impact communities. Sharon Livermore from Kameo Recruitment and Sue Rowley from PwC Cambridge joined Kevin Appleton to facilitate discussion groups exploring key themes. Interest from the charitable sector far exceeded the number of places available.

The workshop aimed to bridge the divide of language and ways of working between business and the charitable sector, helping charities to move beyond the idea of approaching businesses for funds and to explore and enter into dialogue with receptive businesses to develop stronger, meaningful and more sustainable partnerships.

The day saw both sides eager to develop better and stronger relationships whilst learning from each other about the issues each faced. By understanding each other’s positions, needs and intentions better, the workshop was able to break down many of the barriers for both and boost the confidence of charities to approach businesses and for businesses to have greater understanding around the challenges and needs of charitable organisations.

Charities and businesses ended the event wanting to see more opportunities for dialogue and engagement between each other, something that the organisers intend to follow through. Ideas that came from the workshop day include a space for Dragons’ Den style pitching to businesses by charities, informal network gatherings, more dialogue sessions to help each side continue to understand the languages used, the pressures each side is under and the mutual benefits.

Any businesses or charitable organisations interested in taking part in future events should contact either Rachel at Get Synergised, rachel@getsynergised.com or Keith at Hunts Forum, keith@huntsforum.org.uk .

 

 

14 attend the Funding Masterclass

Support Cambridgeshire is committed to running a number of small network sessions which focus on themes of importance to community based groups.

The latest took place in Over on the 27th February 2019 on the subject of Funding.

We all know that finding funding is consistently a challenge for community organisations within the voluntary sector, and this event looked at the challenge in making applications and the tools and resources which might help.

First up was Alan Turner, the Development worker for Cambridge CVS who spoke about Funding applications, what research is required, how best to present your facts and how to avoid making common mistakes which can lead to an application being rejected.

It’s a sad fact of life that 71% of applications submitted are rejected, so any competitive advantage an organisation can gain is important.

Alan’s presentation can be found here.

Equally important are the tools and resources which help organisations gain intelligent data to support their applications. All Funders bar none love evidence, and Jack Ossel from Cambridgeshire County Council gave a live demonstration of Cambridgeshire Insights, a platform which provides a huge range of vital information on health, housing and deprivation at Ward level and below.

Jack’s presentation can be found here:

Russell Rolph gave a short demonstration of SC4C – the self funding portal which organisations can register and use for free. Packed with over 2,400 potential funds, its a must for any organisation looking to deliver activities or projects. The portal has already delivered 57,000 in funding over the past 12 months. To visit the portal click here:

Last up was Keith Johnson, the Development Worker at Hunts Forum. Keith spoke about the importance of 1-1 Development sessions with Development Workers, not just for funding but for any issues surrounding Governance, Training, Advice or Support.

Keith’s presentation notes can be viewed here:

Contact info@supportcambridgeshire.org.uk or russell@huntsforum.org.uk if you wish to book a 1-1 Development session.

Photo caption: Alan in full swing at the Funding Masterclass.