Two sisters take on The Big Smoke

Mel and Melissa masterclass audience

11 February 2019.

The two Mels – not to be confused with classic comedy duo The Two Ronnies – are today giving a masterclass on movement building at the Social Media Exchange event in north London.

Mel and Melissa Feb 2019
Mel and Melissa at #SMEX19

Otherwise known as #SMEX19, the day-long training day is about the power of storytelling to help those in the charity sector harness the impact of stories to raise awareness of their cause, spark action and bring more people (and funds) into their world.

It is presented by social enterprise Sound Delivery.

Grapevine Deputy CEO Mel Smith and her sister, community organiser Melissa Smith, are hosting an interactive session called ‘Building a movement on a shoestring’ which they hope will inspire members of their audience to nurture their own communities, bringing out people’s “hidden gifts” and enjoying some “golden moments”.

The two sisters are combining their learning from building a number of movements over the years including Good2Go, Swim and Tonic, Feel Good Community and more recently, Connecting for Good and Self Care Social.

The latter two movements share a common thread in trying to tackle the widespread social issue of isolation. While Connecting for Good cuts across loneliness in all people and communities, Self Care Social’s community is dedicated to those with long term health conditions and chronic illnesses. Both movements are Coventry-based and by Grapevine, with funding from the National Lottery Community Fund and Better Health, Better Care, Better Value programme respectively.

As with any honest imparting of knowledge, Mel and Melissa will also share some of the mistakes they’ve made along the way and the lessons they learned from them.

To mark the event, Mel recorded a short vlog and has also written an interesting blog about the emergence of a new movement called Swimmers Social which is tapping into the collective power of a group of – you guessed it – social swimmers. We are hosting her blog on our Connecting for Good site here.

£97k coming to Coventry to boost emerging culture of self care

7 January 2019.

Grapevine is leading the charge against loneliness for local people with long term health conditions, thanks to £97,261 in new government funding.

The sizeable slice of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) £11.5m pie is one of only two grants in the Warwickshire area (the other being the People’s Pantry in Nuneaton and Bedworth), with several more awarded across the West Midlands.

99,000 people in Coventry have a long term health condition
Artwork by @FeelGoodMel

The Building Connections Fund provides a cash injection for 126 much-needed organisations and projects throughout England that are finding innovative ways to tackle the ongoing social issue of loneliness.

The fund was created in 2018 in partnership between the government, Big Lottery Fund* and the Co-op Foundation.

Minister for Loneliness, Mims Davies, said: “There is no one cause of loneliness and therefore no one solution. That is why we are working alongside a broad range of businesses, voluntary organisations and local councils to ensure that those who feel alone are best supported.”

Happiness Walk
A Self Care Social ‘Happiness Walk’

The announcement about Grapevine’s successful bid came just before Christmas and will help bolster growing Coventry-based initiative Self Care Social.

The first Self Care Social event took place in July 2018 at Coventry University’s Social Enterprise Hub and has been gathering momentum ever since.

The movement’s vision is of a connected culture of self care for the estimated 99,000 – or approximately one in three – residents in Coventry who have a long term health condition.

The vision itself was co-created by some of the people it is aimed at – including former teacher Melissa Smith, who was forced to find an alternative career after being diagnosed with the rare spinal condition Symptomatic Tarlov Cyst Disease in 2014.

Common shared issues
Members of the movement have shared the common issues they face daily

Melissa went on to secure a role as a community organiser for Grapevine through the Better Health, Better Care, Better Value programme and build her own social enterprise Feel Good Community.

She and the Self Care ‘socialites’ hope to gather more people in from the fringes to support one another’s ideas, build collective action for positive change and most important of all, make the journey together. The Building Connections funding will help them do that.

If you or someone you know would like to get involved in Self Care Social – sharing self care tips, making friends, telling your story to inspire others, organising social events… making cake – visit Self Care Social on Facebook or drop us a line here and we’ll pass your details on. There are free events coming up in January and February.

Read more about how Self Care Social got started on the Feel Good Com website here.

*The Big Lottery Fund becomes the National Lottery Community Fund from 30 January.

Farewell 2018! You’ve been great…

Farewell 2018!

19 December 2018.

Our final post of 2018. And what a year it has been.

We’ve sparked new movements of people who care about an issue – Connecting for Good (isolation) and Self Care Social (long term health conditions/self care) – and grown existing ones with Feel Good Community.

Longer term projects such as Help and Connect and Better Lives have gone from strength to strength, building the capacity of individuals and families to lead the lives they want and deserve.

Accelerate continues to help people with a learning disability or autism find secure, paid work.

System change in Willenhall through the Ignite partnership with Central England Law Centre has made tangible in-roads into nurturing strong communities who get early and effective help when they need it.

And the young people involved in Teenvine Plus and Coventry Youth Activists have progressed in leaps and bounds throughout the year with – amongst other things – appearances on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire radio, a performance at the Godiva Festival and a weekend away to see a gig in Brighton! Phenomenal.

The Big Plan is helping young people, alongside their families and friends, to think creatively about and plan for the life that they want after school.

Plus our involvement in Warwickshire is expanding from Warwickshire Empowerment Service with the new Community Powered Advocacy service, aimed at people with a ‘vulnerability’ not receiving services from social care.

Not to mention our CEO Clare Wightman travelling the length and breadth of the country making sure we’re at all the right tables for change.

There is also some exciting news coming in January on two more new projects. Fingers crossed it is all we hope for.

Wishing you a Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year from everyone at Grapevine.

A week in the life of Grapevine

a week in the life of

27 November 2018.

Dear Diary, it’s been a busy week!

So to catch you up here’s a quick round up of the different things happening at Grapevine in the last seven days! Just the tip of the iceberg really…

Monday 19 November

Teenvine Plus Manager Chloe travelled to London with the Coventry Youth Partnership to attend the UK Youth Awards.

Alongside other local organisations including Positive Youth Foundation (PYF), Coventry Girls and Boys Club and C O Visions, Chloe met Princess Anne.

Chloe and Princess Anne
Chloe is second from left, next to Rashid Bayat from PYF

Tuesday 20 November

Kyla from the Better Lives project joined Coventry City Council engagement staff for a training day on ‘Co-Production in Public Engagement and Consultation Principles and Practices.’

Grapevine was offered a place on the course as one of the council’s community partners and Kyla can now share what she learned with the rest of the team.

Kyla training course


Wednesday 21 November

Project worker Molly from Teenvine Plus and Warwickshire Empowerment Service has started collecting Christmas shoe boxes to donate to Coventry Open Christmas – a project that provides shelter and food each year to the homeless and lonely over the festive period.

Each shoebox (or alternative small cardboard box) can contain items such as toiletries, sweets, hats and gloves – basically anything that might help someone feel a little brighter on Christmas morning. Click the link above if you’re interested in joining in.


Thursday 22 November

Help and Connect’s Michelle finished making her first knitted blanket for premature babies born at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire.

The weekly handicraft group at Bell Green Library taught her how – next on the list are tiny cardigans! Join in each Thursday from 10am – 12 noon (50p for tea/coffee). Michelle attends so she can make connections for people with a learning disability in Coventry who don’t use formal services.

Michelle baby blanket


Local photographer and friend of Grapevine Alan Van Wijgerden released another of his 50 one-minute films of Coventry people talking about what they’re up to – this time featuring Grapevine’s Melissa!

See what she has to say about how her health problems set her on a path to combining creativity and bringing people together in the shape of Feel Good Community.


Friday 23 November

Teenvine Plus and Coventry Youth Activists posted pics of their evening out on Thursday to Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market – looks like they had a ‘fantastisch’ time!

Aged 13 to 18 and passionate about fighting for disabled people’s right to a good life? Contact the team at admin@grapevinecovandwarks.org

Read what Stay Up Late had to say about CYA’s recent stay to Brighton here.

Teenvine at German Market


Monday 26 November

Act Build Change founder Steph Leonard (and regular Grapevine trainer) is visiting to shadow and advise on our work on anti-isolation movement Connecting for Good – look out for a new video coming out very soon featuring one of the people we’ve met.

It is also the first day of a full team (Ben, Alex and Helena) working on the new Community Powered Advocacy service in Warwickshire.

This fresh and innovative service is aimed at helping people with a ‘vulnerability’ overcome their immediate problems, build their capacity to speak up for themselves and connect them to other people in their community. Watch this space as the team start connecting with other services and the people they are there to help.

Looking forward to seeing what the rest of this week might bring.

GV x

The Story of Our Future – two-year inquiry unveils findings

20 November 2018.

This week sees the findings of a two-year independent inquiry into the future of civil society in England revealed for the first time.

The report is the culmination of discoveries made through the course hundreds of workshops, meetings and events and the thoughts, hopes and academic research gleaned from over 3,000 people.

“A stronger civil society is essential for our shared futures.” (Julia Unwin)

Why produce the report?

The need for a ‘big conversation’ was recognised to try to address the many divisions we are now seeing in our society – politically, socially, geographically and between different generations.

It was time to “re-energise and renew” the social fabric in a way that reconnected people in spite of these divides by talking to organisations, groups, movements and networks across the country.

Here is Julia Unwin, Chair of Civil Society Futures to explain in more detail.

What were the key findings?

Read the report foreword by Julia Unwin here.

The final reports can be downloaded here.

What next?

It is hoped the inquiry will enable civil society to effectively support the next decade of a changing society. That although our expectations of organisations and institutions are changing and our demands on their practices and accountability are increasing, the energy all that creates can be used to bring about positive change.

Civil society involves everyone and its future depends on us.

To learn more about how Grapevine is working in this shifting landscape across Coventry and Warwickshire, choose a link below:

It’s not a movement if it doesn’t move without you…

14 September 2018.

It's not a movement if it doesn't move without you

At Grapevine, we don’t think of ourselves as providers of ‘social care’ or that we are a social care organisation.

If we aren’t these things, then what are we?

Grapevine CEO Clare Wightman explains: “We aid people and communities to find a voice, organise, advocate for shared interests, and bring about change.”

To read on, please click this link to her latest post on the Social Care Future blog – an informal, volunteer-run platform for people wishing to bring about major positive change in ‘social care’.

Social Power: Playing big to create change

27 June 2018.

Grapevine’s local work in Coventry and Warwickshire is on a national stage again this week at the launch of a major new report into social power and change.

Social Change Project

@FeelGoodMel’s artwork

Our CEO Clare Wightman will sit on a panel of sector experts today (27 June) at St Bride’s Church in London to speak about the ‘Social Change Project’ report which is being unveiled at the event.

The project is run by the Sheila McKechnie Foundation – the UK’s leading provider of training and support to those seeking to bring about positive social change.

The Foundation’s ethos is that “people should be able to shape their world” and it exists to help them do just that by building their capacity to effect social change.

Click here to read the report and a quick summary of its key findings.

The report starts from a point of stark contrast between North America’s extensive industry of activating communities to drive societal change (both for-profit and not-for-profit) compared to the UK’s less developed operation.

It aims to learn from what is happening on both sides of the Atlantic so we can work towards a fairer, kinder society where people are not marginalised or excluded because of their differences.

Grapevine is one of three case studies of different types of significant social change (the Living Wage and #MeToo Movement being the other two) and is summarised in the report as follows:

“This local charity helps people experiencing isolation, poverty and disadvantage to build better lives. By bringing what they describe as a ‘social movement approach’, they hope to be not a provider but an enabler, centred on really listening to those who need support.

“As Grapevine Coventry and Warwickshire looks outward into the community to see what is already there that could help, they crowdsource ideas and offers and find creative ways to provide the support that is needed.

“Such an innovative and high impact approach starts to capture national attention. Featuring in the Good and Bad Help report sparks new relationships with national funders, allowing them to work with more people and continue to forge new ways of approaching everything from relationships with commissioners to their own monitoring, evaluation and learning.” (from the report ‘Social Power: How civil society can ‘Play Big’ and truly create change’).

The report concludes that these three examples – and many others shared during a series of ‘Community of Practice’ workshops, events and away days – demonstrate civil society’s huge potential to effect change. It calls this ‘Social Power’.

It is hoped that by highlighting the scope and possibilities of social power, the report will help to evolve the relationship between civil society and the state and initiate new opportunities and investment in its growth.

Our very own resident artist and community organiser @FeelGoodMel was also commissioned to illustrate the report.

For those who don’t know her story, she uses ‘doodling’ to take her mind off the pain caused by a rare spinal condition. With Grapevine’s help, she set up her own social movement ‘Feel Good Community’ based around the idea that creativity can be used as a tool for health and wellbeing for people with long-term conditions. A perfect choice for a report on social change.

50 feel good ideas emerge from Factory meet up!

24 April 2018.

Last week’s Ideas Factory Cov was a great success!

Over 50 ideas were generated

30 people from our Feel Good Community came along to Fargo Village in Coventry last Tuesday evening (17 April) to help generate new ideas and projects to keep the group busy, creative and positive.

And from a total of 50 creative concepts put forward at the event hosted inside local bakery and café bar Backhaus & Co, three main ideas emerged as the most popular and doable. They were:

  • Themed monthly meet ups
  • Another Feel Good Festival / Createathon
  • A new campaign to get Feel Good voices heard more widely

There were also several kind offers of possible venues for the events.

The next step is to develop these ideas over the coming weeks. Look out for updates on our website and on Facebook @FeelGoodCommunity.

NEW WEBSITE!

The Feel Good Community promotes health and wellbeing through creativity and social action. Anyone can join in but particularly those with a long-term health condition who want to be part of a like-minded community and to feel good.

Visit their new website at feelgoodcom.org

Join the #FeelGoodAmbassadors Facebook group here.