Organisations without walls

A Better Way Network logo

4 June 2019.

“And again there was that sense of relationships being able to keep on giving and reconfigure themselves around new problems.”

Our CEO Clare Wightman has written a new blog for an independent network of social change activists known as ‘A Better Way’.

Clare Wightman
Clare

Many of the members, of which she is one, are from the voluntary sector but others are from different sectors. Their common vision is of helping to liberate people’s potential rather than writing them off as problems, difficult to reach localities and hard hit communities.

Clare’s latest blog is about services having their place but also their limits. What people need in life, she says, is other good people around them who can back them up, encourage, problem solve and find opportunities.

The outcome being that these people and networks of help are there when services can’t be.

It doesn’t mean that services can walk away and leave people to it. It means that this is the kind of help that flexes, reciprocates and strengthens in ways services can’t.

“It’s our way of creating ‘organisations without walls’ where people and solutions come first, not organisational identities and self interests.”

To read more, click here.

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.

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.

Social Living Room #2

Social Living Room by Connecting for Good

28 November 2018.

It’s happening again but this time it’s different.

This Friday (30 November) #ConnectingforGood meet for their second Social Living Room at Theatre Absolute in Coventry at 5pm.

But this time the free event starts with an outdoor game around the city centre, designed by Laina and Alice to work up a good appetite ready for soup, homemade bread and thinking up ideas for new adventures in the city and beyond. Plus some light entertainment from Rishard and Paul!

Please come along if you have experienced or are currently experiencing isolation or loneliness. You may simply care about the cause. We need everyone on board so we can make a real difference.

Click here for the event details on Facebook. If you’re not on Facebook, rest assured we’ll be there at 5pm to welcome you. Don’t forget to wrap up warm!

Connecting for Good is sparking a movement against isolation in Coventry and is funded for three years by the Big Lottery Fund.

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:

Remember remember the 8th of November!

Alice and Daniel

Monday 5 November 2018.

When Daniel Met Alice.

In August, Daniel was cycling through Spon End when he stumbled across a table, some coloured chalk and a collection of handwritten placards bearing individual messages of isolation and hope.

Standing at the table was Alice from Grapevine and Daniel felt compelled to stand still and take it all in. This was exactly what the silent megaphone event was designed to do – stop people in their tracks.

Following that first serendipitous chat with Alice, Daniel came to the Connecting for Good Ideas Factory the following month and sat with a group of strangers who were talking about how better communication between agencies, organisations and people could go a long way to helping Coventry people feel less socially isolated.

Since the event, Daniel has taken the ‘People’s Directory’ idea and run with it. He’s been spreading the word on the #connectingforgood movement, drawing both professionals and public in with his boundless enthusiasm for making positive change.

This Thursday (8 November) marks the next milestone for Daniel – who is now leading a community of people who care about better communications – with the first Communications Forum, spawned from those original group discussions at the Ideas Factory.

This is Invitation > Idea > Leadership > Event > Progress in action and it’s exciting to see!

So, would you like to see some sort of directory created that would make finding out what is going in Coventry easier? It could include communities and groups to join, hobbies and activities that are happening, opportunities to take part in positive causes, events to attend (or even help run!), or simply services that offer advice and support.

How could we do this? What would YOU do? If you have ideas, come to the Communications Forum! Everyone is welcome.

Date: Thursday 8 November

Time: 6pm – 7.30pm

Place: Change Grow Live (CGL), 1A Lamb Street, Coventry CV1 4AE

Click here to join the event on Facebook or simply come along.

There will also be free food provided by Arabian Bites – a vegan café specialising in Middle Eastern cuisine, staffed by refugees.

Contact Alice if you would like any further information: agroux@grapevinecovandwarks.org / 07776 509206

Sometimes what we need is right on our doorstep

Woodland Halloween doorstep

24 October 2018.

We’re hosting our first Connecting for Good Social Living Room next week and we want you to be there!

Woodland Halloween doorstep
Not a fan of trick or treaters? Join us! (Photo by Bee Felten on Unsplash)

Connecting for Good is a movement of people in Coventry who care about the issue of loneliness and isolation in our society and want to make it better.

Most people will feel this way at some point in their lives – perhaps when looking for work, whilst grieving the loss of someone close, on becoming a new or single parent, or arriving to live in a city where everyone is a stranger. Or for some other reason. It doesn’t matter because feeling lonely doesn’t always need a reason to appear.

That’s why we’re offering warm drinks, sweet treats and interesting conversations about how we can get people together to keep having adventures in life. Everyone is welcome and we will always want to hear your story if you’re happy to tell it. You can do a lot or a little but we want you to come. This is a free event.

Here are the details:

Date: Wednesday 31 October

Time: 5-7pm

Place: Theatre Absolute, 38 City Arcade, Coventry CV1 3HW

Event on Facebook – click here

If you’d like to find out more first, contact one of the team for a chat:

Jess – jknight@grapevinecovandwarks.org / 07776 509204

Alice – agroux@grapevinecovandwarks.org / 07776 509206

Mel – msmith@grapevinecovandwarks.org / 02476 631040

PM launches first Government strategy on loneliness

Just mates

16 October 2018.

Yesterday (15 October) the Prime Minister Theresa May launched the first cross-Government strategy to tackle the very real problem of loneliness.

This strategy recognises the huge challenge we face with loneliness in our society and its implications on our health.

Lonely man
Loneliness affects people of all ages and backgrounds

From social prescribing to community activities, to teaching children about the importance of relationships in school, to postal workers checking up on lonely people on their patch – there are some big plans here: www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-launches-governments-first-loneliness-strategy

In Coventry we’re already up and running with our own social movement against isolation – Connecting for Good – funded by the Big Lottery.

The next Connecting for Good event is a ‘Social Living Room’ on 31 October where you can come for a cup of something warm, a slice of something sweet and some hearty conversation about how we join together to keep having adventures. The venue, Theatre Absolute, was formerly a fish and chip shop restaurant in the city centre and is now an award-winning theatre company.

It could be a good way to spend Halloween, especially if you’re not keen on trick or treaters!

Could you go a week without seeing or talking to anyone? Watch this film by the Campaign to End Loneliness to get a sense of what life is like for over half a million older people in the UK.

Contact the Connecting for Good team today to join in:

Jess – jknight@grapevinecovandwarks.org / 07776 509204

Alice – agroux@grapevinecovandwarks.org / 07776 509206

Mel – msmith@grapevinecovandwarks.org / 02476 631040

Connecting for Good logo

World Mental Health Day – Cathleen’s story of isolation

Older lady side view

10 October 2018.

#WorldMentalHealthDay2018

10 October marks the annual World Mental Health Day, when people and organisations everywhere raise awareness, show support and encourage others to take time to look after their mental wellbeing.

Cathleen's quote on loneliness

With a constant drip feed of news about the effects of loneliness and isolation on mental health – and ultimately physical health too – we are all more aware than ever of this unseen epidemic. Many also recognise that loneliness and isolation can affect any of us at any time.

We’re trying to help address the problem in Coventry through Connecting for Good – a movement of people who are or have been affected by social isolation in a myriad of different ways. The single parent, the refugee, the job seeker, the person with a disability or long term health condition, the new mother, the university student… The list has no limitations. None of us are immune.

So today on World Mental Health Day, we’re telling Cathleen’s story. Please take a couple of minutes to read it (thank you to Cathleen for sharing) and then perhaps contact our team. Their details are below and they’d love to hear from you!

“Often people pass you by like you’re just a shadow.

“If only they’d smile and say hello, you could smile back and give a moment.”

Cathleen is 87 and lives in rural Ireland. However, she is no stranger to Coventry. In fact, she moved here with her family in the 1950s at the age of 21, leaving her home in Dublin behind.

Having raised her family while Coventry was rebuilt from the ashes of the Second World War, Cathleen moved once again – this time to Northern Ireland in the 1990s to help her son care for two of her grandchildren.

The children grew up and then Cathleen’s husband passed away in 2015, leaving her living in the sleepy coastal town of Ballycastle with no real sense of purpose to each new day.

Grey house

From head of the household with four children – all grown up now with jobs as social workers, a nurse and a head teacher – Cathleen faces life with six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren living nearly 300 miles away in Coventry and the long distance lines of communication that come with it.

Her granddaughter Jo says: “Gran is not from the North… she is a Dubliner. She is a Catholic but surrounded by Protestant towns. She has no roots or connections in Ballycastle. She has her sewing group and my uncle does what he can but it breaks my heart to know she’s largely on her own.”

Although Cathleen is not in Coventry, Connecting for Good will still offer as much support as it can. Could you do the same closer to home for others like Cathleen? Or do you recognise yourself, a neighbour or relative in her story? If so, get in touch today:

Jess – jknight@grapevinecovandwarks.org / 07776 509204

Alice – agroux@grapevinecovandwarks.org / 07776 509206

Mel – msmith@grapevinecovandwarks.org / 02476 631040

For tips on everyday living and staying well, visit www.mind.org.uk/get-involved/world-mental-health-day

The #HelloYellow campaign also supports children and young people’s mental health on 10 October – for more information on this click here.

Connecting for Good is funded by the Big Lottery Fund.

(Pictures are stock images, not of Cathleen or her home).