“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’.
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.”
CYA and their sofa were at Broadgate in the city centre to raise awareness of the troubling statistic that one in three young disabled people spend less than an hour outside of home on a Saturday.
Open Theatre Company provided the artistic direction to the ‘sofa safari’ performance dreamed up by CYA, and the safari element was made possible by Imagineer UK giving movement to the sofa through wheels.
All told, it was an attention grabbing event that disrupted the bustling shopping area’s usual Saturday happenings and propelled a group of determined young people straight into the spotlight.
CYA’s Lily explains: “We fight for disabled people’s rights… they can be kind of bored and alone and we want to change that. So people can get out more and be accepted and just make everyone feel they fit in.
“So we thought if we did this, it would get it out more so people would find out about it.”
And they have. A very big well done and thank you to all of you.
A quarter of a million in government and lottery cash is being injected into one of Coventry’s most deprived areas following a successful bid by Grapevine and a group of community-minded citizens.
It’s part of a £2.3 million nation-wide pot of funding to help people across England make their local areas a better place to live by investing their own time, skills and connections.
Announcing the funding in a House of Commons debate last week (14 February), Minister for Civil Society Mims Davies said:
“This investment in communities the length and breadth of the country will help even more people take action on the issues they care about most, including helping more volunteering, giving more money directly to local causes that people feel connected with in their community and supporting even more simple neighbourly acts, which can mean so much.”
It follows January’s news that Grapevine is bringing another £97k into the city to boost a community of connected self-care amongst residents with a long term health condition or a chronic illness (also funded by DCMS and The National Lottery Community Fund).
The £250k Place Based Social Action Scheme in Stoke Aldermoor will continue to build on foundations already laid by a group of local residents led by six women.
The six have been meeting weekly for several months to share stories and ideas on how they might transform their neighbourhood into a place less divided by difference and more united by a common purpose to be better.
The process to this point has involved around 500 conversations, 10 social suppers, a trip to Weston-super-Mare and a bit of Grapevine magic!
The group’s vision specifically focuses on children, young people and their families with a series of ongoing activities to help integrate and connect the different communities living there.
Some of the ideas in the ‘social action plan’ so far include a one stop support shop; more training opportunities for young people; improved provision for families to build parenting skills and raise aspirations; a family walking group; a summer school; and the creation of an annual festival to celebrate the area’s diversity.
Stoke Aldermoor is not unique in many of the challenges it faces – reduction in services, integration of new arrivals, unemployment, crime, social apathy and external stigma.
The funding however greatly increases its chances of changing these dynamics by getting others involved, building community cohesion, dealing with problems together and embracing future possibilities.
The next generation of social workers from Coventry University have been getting an insight into people with a learning disability directly from the very people who know the most about it!
Grapevine’s Sam and a core group of people with different learning disabilities who make up the H Team visited the university last month for the innovative session.
The ‘H’ stands for Health and that is what the team is all about – educating peers, professionals and services alike on how to stay healthy and well when you have a learning disability.
This advice and training is vital for a section of the community proven to have generally poorer physical and mental health and a significantly lower life expectancy than the rest of the population.
But it wouldn’t be this way if there was greater uptake on annual health checks with GPs, promptly diagnosed health conditions, effective treatment and more informed self care.
And improvements can always be made in the way health and social care professionals communicate with people with a learning disability – hence the need for some interesting training right at the beginning of a career in social work.
During the Coventry University awareness session, students were able to get to know the seven members of the H Team, each one with his or her own unique story, likes and dislikes.
Games and quizzes helped break down any barriers, including one called ‘Scaredy Pants’ where the students wrote their fears on paper pants hung on a make-shift washing line.
Each fear was examined with H Team participants giving students advice and strategies to help overcome them. Some fears were even reflected on both sides – for example, a fear of communicating in a way that was not understood or misinterpreted. The students didn’t want to make a person uncomfortable and the H Team didn’t want to appear ‘stupid’ for not understanding.
The ‘New Perspective’ game then sees society’s labels discarded on the floor and ‘Mum’ or ‘Activist’ (and many others) used instead. Team members said they are not defined by their disability.
By the end of the session, the students and H Team were working together to develop an assessment tool that would equip professionals to phrase questions in different ways and encourage them to consider individuals holistically, particularly including their mental health. Social prescribing and making community connections may be things not previously considered for example.
“We got great feedback,” Sam said. “The students loved the session – having the H Team there to talk to them and give them advice was better than any pen exercise! It was learning through a first-hand experience that they will always remember.”
H Team sessions like this continue on a regular basis throughout the year and the H Team is always looking for new members to bring diversity and knowledge to their group.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Read what Stay Up Late had to say about CYA’s recent stay to Brighton here.
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.
Last Friday’s Children in Need Appeal Show brought in £50.6m according to BBC News – taking the total amount of money raised since fundraising began 38 years ago in 1980 to over £1 billion.
Here at Grapevine Coventry and Warwickshire we are part-funded by Children in Need to run our Teenvine Plus and Coventry Youth Activists (CYA) projects to give young people with disabilities opportunities to forge friendships, build confidence and independence, and unlock their potential to live a full, happy life bolstered by a strong network and great experiences.
Thank you to everyone who makes this possible through their donations to fundraising – we couldn’t do it without you.
Here are a couple of quick glimpses into the fun and innovation that surrounds CYA’s activities… the first to mark their one-year anniversary last month and the second is their recent weekend away to watch a gig in Brighton.
This week marks 1 YEAR since CYA began 😲 In that time CYA has grown 8 times bigger, put on 5 major events, made it onto local radio 4 times & gathered over 400 followers on social media! We can’t wait to show you what we have planned for the next year 🙌 #CYASaturdayspic.twitter.com/2nC0sTBjBr
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.
We’re hosting our first Connecting for Good Social Living Room next week and we want you to be there!
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.
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.