Turning community spirit into community power
In July 2020 we called Coventry people together to reflect on the pandemic so far and talk about what they wanted to happen next. Things felt strange but hopeful.
155 people showed up online. People worried that the strong sense of community spirit was wavering. They considered three things:
- Poverty and inequality
- Neighbourliness and connections
- Our power to change.
We captured their spirit and examples of action to help make our place more resilient for the future and the challenges ahead. Download the first summit report here.
We did it again with almost 100 people in November during lockdown #2. We were all tired then but recognised that hope and optimism needed a strategic push. We wanted to find the love and we did – our willingness to act to keep people together, no matter what.
Un-lock down – public sector and community
In November 2020, we asked the public sector in Coventry and Warwickshire to lay down the lanyard, sign out of Teams and join us for an open discussion, a dose of optimism and a commitment to action.
It took just 12 weeks of the first 2020 lockdown for power and leadership to be shared with those most able and willing to adopt it at the time. We mustn’t lose that momentum.
“Grapevine have this engine for creating conditions that enable people to take control of their lives. A think and do tank that’s able to transform services and lives wherever they are.”
Rich Wilson, Co-founder of the Good Help Movement (with Nesta)
We reconvened a core group of those professionals a month later to talk action on cementing the new ways of working accelerated by the pandemic into everyday practice. We’re galvanising those public sector changemakers before usual service resumes.
Click the image below (or here to view the document on your PC) to read our public sector #ConnectingforGoodCov report. Please watch this space for more news.
We’ve never needed our communities as much as we do now
Although we’re based in Coventry and Warwickshire we’re not only interested in helping people create change in this area. We want to help every area of the UK answer the question “How do people thrive in these times?”
That means working with funders who are interested in our work, what we might learn together and how it might help them answer the same question. Since 2016 we’ve been doing this by sparking social movements in communities, and via Ignite, a five year national learning project supported by Comic Relief, The National Lottery Community Fund, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and The Barrow Cadbury Trust.
“Grapevine operate in a different paradigm, a future paradigm. They speak truth to power and create relationships for change inside systems. I love the Walk and Talks and Collaboration Stations.”
Jess Cordingly, Head of Innovation, Lankelly Chase Foundation
Curiosity and experimentation
Our approach has become a nationally acclaimed example of deep social change. Of how people and communities can meet each other’s needs, claim power and take action on what matters to them, and transform services and systems along the way. It does this by blending community organising techniques and learning from social movements with our community building and person centred planning heritage. It’s based on years of experimentation and observing emerging practices across the world (including Savannah, South Africa and Uttar Pradesh). We believe it’s the future of services and civil society.
Because of our work Coventry City Council, Nesta, Sheila McKechnie Foundation, and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have all sought our input into how to deliver social change better and fund more impactfully. In 2019 we won the Small Charities Big Impact Award and Midlands Service Excellence Awards. In 2018 Nesta’s Good Help movement asked us to present at and judge their Good Help Awards.
Shifting power and improving systems
While Grapevine is all about the power of community it would be unwise to undermine the value of public services and systems. We want them to be as effective as possible. And they are just as full of untapped potential as people and communities.
Just as it can in communities the right kinds of relationships can unleash services and systems’ potential. Walks and Talks, Ideas Factories, Collaboration Stations and, above all Ignite, our partnership with Central England Law Centre have been at the centre of shared efforts to find new and better ways of getting the right help to people at the right time. These;
- Change how we have conversations with communities
- Create better ways of finding and supporting community leaders
- Create more equal and ‘human’ spaces where problems can be solved together
- Involve working with partners and stakeholders and understanding how they are changing
- Shift the relationships between statutory and third sector organisations to one of co-production of common outcomes (rather than transactional relationships).
Optimising public services through place-based partnerships
As the door to shifting power opens, new types of partnership become possible. Partnerships that rip up the rule book on traditional partnerships and bring public services and communities closer together. Partnerships that maximise the resources available in a community (without extra investment). Partnerships that go beyond solving problems and tap into a place’s ambition to be a great place to live. We’re doing this with the local authority and local people in Stoke Aldermoor, Coventry. And we’re doing the same in Atherstone and Mancetter in North Warwickshire.