Community organising: theory in practice in Coventry’s Ball Hill

Two good things happened last week and because of their connection, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to share a story of sparking community and shifting power.

The first event saw the beginning of a series of Community Organising workshops run by our Connecting for Good Cov team for 30 local people taking action to end marginalisation and isolation in Coventry.

A large group of people gather around a table in a community space in Coventry for a photo during community organising training. Some are seated, some standing and some kneeling at the front for the group shot.
Last week’s introductory Community Organising session is the first in a series of five for local changemakers.

This and four further free sessions taking place over the coming weeks will help our changemakers really get to grips with:

  • What community organising is and why it works
  • How to build a narrative to tell your story and help spark the change you want to see
  • The power of what we call a ‘1-to-1’ (or a conversation that connects two people, gauges potential and moves towards action)
  • The importance of having a core team and how to build one
  • How taking action and building power can create sustainable change.

Connecting for Good Cov is a movement to end isolation and marginalisation sparked by Grapevine and local citizens.

Developing leadership and capacity in people who can continue the work and grow further leadership and capacity in others is our long-term aim – turning the resources ordinary people have into what they need to win change.

As one workshop participant said:

“The person who is leading is just unlocking the ambition of others.”

This five-part series is by invitation only for the first cohort but the team would love to talk to more people.

Are you interested in creating lasting positive change in Coventry? Email our community organisers at

Small wins, big changes

Onto our second bit of news! Closely related to the first and illustrating this training in action – we have a new blog from community organiser Siân Lewis about Ball Hill.

Locals from this part of town are joining our workshops too.

Siân says: “Towards the end of last year, Connecting For Good decided that we wished to shake up our way of working. We wanted to try our hand at place-based organising and focus our energy onto turning groups of people into constituencies that have the power to make significant change. Easy, right? It felt like a new stage of our work and we jumped into it headfirst.

“We chose Ball Hill, an area in Coventry, and we started listening. We did walking parklets down the streets, engaging with people in discussion and asked them questions like “If you could change one thing about the area what would it be? And “What do you like about Ball Hill?” We could feel the energy brimming as we walked. People had things to say and they wanted people to listen.”

A young women with long hair wears a hat and sunglasses and holds a board covered in post-it note ideas from the community.
Grapevine community organiser Siân in Ball Hill.

So what happened in the first month?

“We saw different teams form and they began moving forward — all at different paces, times and rhythms. We found that some teams naturally took to the community organising approach while others needed more time, guidance and inspiration,” writes Siân.

“The barriers became clear: the lack of funding in the area, the decline of footfall, the disbanding of the banks etc. There were so many moments of frustration and tension for the people of Ball Hill, and the CFG team had many conversations about how to navigate that feeling of disbelief. The feeling that nothing will change. It’s a really hard feeling to get over sometimes, especially when you feel like you are fighting the fight alone.”

We discovered the area was full of individuals with ideas and solutions, who had never really had the opportunity to get their voices heard.

This is changing and community action is progressing. Teams are forming around different themes including:

  • Environment: A team coming together to think about ways of bettering the environment in which they live
  • Air Pollution: A team working to become citizen scientists in the area, collaborating with schools and the community to raise awareness and think of ways to use data to make change
  • Business: Local businesses coming together to potentially form a business network
  • Creativity: A team thinking of creative ways to raise Ball Hill’s profile, potentially focused around banks or lack of
  • Community: Conversations about a team dedicated to carving out a space in Ball Hill to serve as a community hub.
A group wearing hats and coats and all wrapped up ready for a litter pick in Ball Hill.
March’s Love Ball Hill litter pick, organised by local people. Next one is on 2 April from 1pm.

“Organising a litter pick for some might not feel like a great achievement, but it’s about lifting this work up and working with someone to understand how their power has increased due to it,” says Siân.

The team didn’t come to the area with answers. We came with a mindset of development, learning and progress.

Citizen scientists

The Air Pollution team in particular is learning and progressing with the University of Warwick to establish a joint research team on air quality – one of the community’s key concerns.

We know that third sector organisations like us are often viewed as gatekeepers to research participants, while ‘service users’ are viewed as subjects rather than active contributors. Both the University and Grapevine want to change that.

A group sits around two long tables in a school gym with paper, pens and coffee mugs on the table.
The first session involving community members and the research team from the University of Warwick.

We want to create an informed base of resident leaders with the capacity to advocate on behalf of the needs and interests of their community.

Our vision is that they will be more able to influence policy and practice so that they and their community get a fairer deal.

Imagine a city with community scientists on the ground, equipped to research and present on the issues close to their hearts. That could start here. Watch this space.

Follow the story

More on our community organising work as it develops.

Follow us @GrapevineCovAndWarks and @ConnectingForGoodCov on social media for updates and opportunities to get involved (@GrapevineCAndW and @CfGCovAndWarks on Twitter).

Read more about our community organising practice in Coventry and Warwickshire through weekly notes and ‘working out loud’ shared by our community organisers on Medium. Explore the website and sign up for our newsletter here.

Connecting For Good Cov is funded by The National Lottery Community Fund. It forms part of our #SparkingCommunity and #ShiftingPower strands of action.