We’re a resourceful charity working in tough situations.
What we do
Our vision is of people and communities in Coventry and Warwickshire with the energy and confidence to tackle life’s challenges and take up its opportunities.
Who we help
Grapevine helps all kinds of people experiencing isolation, poverty and disadvantage to build better lives.
How we help
We do it by offering practical guidance, advocacy and support centred around the person.
We help them get the hope, insight and supportive relationships they need to take control, turn their lives around and realise their potential.
Using practical tools and training we also help people build their collective power to tackle the problems they’re facing. We help them spark and sustain movements for change.
We don’t stop there. We want to get at the root causes of problems that won’t go away – not just treat the symptoms.
We do that by working with systems and services like the NHS and local authorities to see how together we can understand and tackle the real problem – for good.
Please take a look at ‘Our Activities’ to find out more about our work in action.
We’re brave, creative and passionate about our work because we know that working this way can give new life.
- Connections matter – services can’t always be there, but other people can. Many people facing difficult times don’t have the support of strong networks – Grapevine helps people find and develop networks of positive relationships.
- Everyone has something to offer – Grapevine can help people find others who will welcome their contribution. Often people are stigmatised, labelled and just seen as having needs – that’s wrong.
- A good life is a life that grows and changes – too many people live on the edge of coping and never open up their prospects of a better life. Grapevine can help people realise their potential.
- We all need the chance to learn from our mistakes – we have to stick with people even when that’s hard. We also have to think about how we as staff need to change as well so that we can get it right.
- Too often paid professionals think they know what’s best. But at Grapevine we support work that is led, shaped and shared by the people it is ‘for’.
- We value passion. We believe in what we do and we believe in what other people can do. We bring a dynamic flexibility and a belief in the ability of communities and individuals to thrive.
Clare Wightman is founding CEO and it is she who has put relationships at the heart of Grapevine’s work.
In the last five years she’s led Grapevine through a significant transition in its identity and purpose. It’s gone from being a charity with a single client group to one with a new constitution, a fresh purpose and vision and a new strategic plan.
Grapevine now helps all kinds of people experiencing isolation, poverty and disadvantage to build better lives.
She is a Systems Change coach with Lankelly Chase Foundation. She is also a mentee with the international Social Change Initiative. She advises the Sheila McKechnie Foundation Social Change Programme as part of its national panel.
Clare’s particular interest is working in a way that develops and connects networks of local people for mutual help and support.
Mel Smith is Deputy CEO and like Clare, values the need for relationships to be at the heart of what we do.
For Mel, transformational change is all about the untapped power of people, connections and networks. That was the resounding message she took from her first encounter with Grapevine as a service user alongside her disabled actor son, Rishard.
Since joining Grapevine’s team five years ago she has led on our work to understand how to build movements for change. She is an experienced Community Organiser and an FRSA, recognised for her work around Health as a Social Movement. Mel is particularly interested in how movements meet systems.
Mel loves open water swimming. Swimming the channel recently was much like systems change: navigating the unknown and being taken off track by unexpected currents, but relishing the sometimes calm waters as a time for reflection.
Central England Law Centre and Grapevine have formed ‘Ignite’ with the ambition of nurturing stronger communities in Willenhall who get early and effective help from a smaller public sector. Ignite gives Coventry a chance to learn how to get there.
Our partners, Coventry City Council and WM Housing Group are using Ignite to learn how they can turn lives around and save money in the long run – changing how public services are delivered and needs met.
Ignite demonstrates how the public sector can partner with people and communities in new ways… acting earlier, building strengths and releasing capacity.
Walks and Talks
Walks and Talks are exactly that – a monthly walk with opportunities to pause and listen to speakers on a theme along the route. They are part of our #covmindthegap initiative which brings together people from services, systems and communities who want to make changes.
Ideas Factory and Innovation Factory
Ideas and Innovation Factories are two related activities through which we co-create innovative actions and solutions, building the capacity of ‘leaders’ from all sectors and communities across Coventry.
The two types of factory are different but together they create a catalyst that informs and drives the rest of Grapevine’s activities.
Ideas Factories began in 2015 as informal meeting places for co-creating solutions to shared problems. For example, long waiting lists for therapies might be a challenge felt by our members – so the group would meet at a community venue, tell stories in relation to this shared challenge and then move into action planning using a variety of tools and techniques. These regularly held factories generate innovation and also recruit more people gathered around a shared need.
Innovation Factories offer more formal training to future ‘leaders’ who learn through two workshops how to use storytelling to develop their own social movements and campaigns.
United by their commitment to support transformational change in a Coventry context, we bring out their leadership capacities during the training – even if they are not formal leaders in daily life – and we recruit by word of mouth from across the whole spectrum of our communities.
Individual or family change…
Help and Connect
Help and Connect is for people with a learning disability in Coventry who don’t use formal services.
Its purpose is to help people get ahead of their problems across four strands of activity, acting early and preventatively:
- Staying healthy
- Staying safe
- Getting work
- Building friendships, connections and support networks.
We help with their most pressing needs first then equip them with skills, knowledge, support networks and readiness for self-management and onward opportunity.
A fresh and innovative advocacy service in Warwickshire, where our staff work to tackle people’s immediate problems, build their capacity to speak up for themselves, then connect them to others in their community to look out for them when we’re not there.
It is aimed at people with a ‘vulnerability’ (e.g. mental health, learning disability, autism, or another health need or disability) but not receiving social care services.
By being seen, looked out for and connected to others, members are truly empowered to have a voice in their community. Underlying issues are addressed, untapped community support mobilised and repeat referrals for support can be prevented.
Over two years, we’re helping complex young people make a stable transition to full adult lives in their home town. We’re using a service model co-designed with 20 families to do this.
We’ll assist up to 20 young people aged 17 to 25 who are experiencing multiple challenges – such as being labelled ‘autistic’, ‘learning disabled’ or ‘challenging’ and who are at risk of being sent out of the city to receive specialist residential care, education or treatment. Many will already have been sent away for these purposes.
We want learning disabled youngsters to have the relationships, confidence and skills they need in order to mature into independent young adults able to achieve their ambitions.
We work intensively with around 20 young people a year who each get:
- A plan for the young adult life they want
- A sustainable circle of supporters to help implement it
- A young non-disabled volunteer who will strengthen their voice and help navigate hurdles
- The support of an advocate when dealing with school, college and other care or support services.
Coventry Youth Activists (CYA)
A youth democracy and citizenship group that raises awareness of barriers in society faced by young disabled people – galvanising their response as a campaigns group.
Community capacity and resilience
A preventative ‘proof of concept’ project funded by Coventry City Council to identify people with support needs (e.g. disabled adults and social care users) and;
- Grow capability at individual and community level and reduce their support needs as much as possible.
- Build the network of individual, family and community relationships that people need to be able to take an active role in managing their own health and well-being in the community.
This activity will help prevent these people from entering crisis.
Connecting for Good
We are sparking a movement that tackles isolation in Coventry.
Isolation makes people vulnerable to abuse, cruelty and loneliness. Communities where people are truly connected to each other end isolation. Our approach over three years will put the emphasis on unlocking people’s capabilities to help themselves and those around them.
We aim to reach 3,000 people across the city. People with disabilities, job seekers, recent arrivals, new parents, younger people, older people.
Some, perhaps many, will not be isolated. And through taking part they never will be. Being involved is protective. Everyone benefits. Everyone contributes.
Place-based social action
We are working in the Stoke Aldermoor area of Coventry with local people, groups and the public sector to create a social action plan that will see local people leading change action on issues that matter to them and concern everyone.
Well done if you have read to the bottom of this page! Please contact us if you would like more information or to get involved in any of these activities.
“The movement we’ve seen in Coventry is revolutionising public health. We can’t wait to see what Grapevine do next!”
The Social Change Agency, June 2017
“After attending a fabulous Innovation Factory Training, I felt motivated…I found it very difficult, but I found my story.”
Ju Walton-Evans, Feb 2017
“I would highly rate Grapevine which is why I am currently in my fourth year contracting with them to deliver “Independent Support” on behalf of the Department of Education. They have developed and trailed new ways of working with families and young people where the outcomes have built confidence and resilience. The Grapevine approach has also been showcased by government as exemplary practice.”
Martin Bull, Assistant Director and Independent Support programme manager, National Children’s Bureau June 2017
“Grapevine builds on the strengths, networks and family support people already have, to help them change their own lives.”
Lisa Nandy MP, then Shadow Minister for Civil Society, Guardian Newspaper February 2014
“The kids make friends between themselves, that never happens. Normally they’re only ever brought together when the services want to give them the same treatment, like anger management or something. You don’t make friends like that.”
Parents of special school pupils on ‘Wave Rave’.
“Grapevine is a dynamic and innovative small organisation which works with an obvious passion for its service users and communities. It has shown excellent standards in all areas.”
Kevin Smith, Quality assessor from NCVO 2015
“What is outstanding about Grapevine and the team is that they deliver over and above the contracts expectations and have a really healthy attitude to partnership engagement and working across health and social care and wider community and work at breaking down barriers and promoting integration, which is entirely the approach we endorse at NHS England.”
Ranjit Senghera, Senior Manager Equalities and Health Inequalities and National Lead for Inclusion Health. NHS England, 2014
“The Primary Care Awareness session was a massive success. The evaluations are fantastic. There were so many positive comments about Grapevine. One of the best thing about your support is that so many people who attend have said they are going to change the way they do things back at their GP Practice.”
Health Specialist Nurse, Coventry & Warwickshire Partnership Trust Learning Disability Service 2017
“Since her hate crime assault Sarah said ‘I needed some support to know what to do. I was scared and stopped going places.’ Since attending sessions she feels safe to go out again, meet new people and has the skills to cope. “I’m now confident and understand more about hate crime and what to do if it happened again.”