How do we connect each other for good?

Since late summer 2018, Grapevine has been growing a movement of 3,000 Coventry people connected by one powerful, shared purpose – to fight loneliness and isolation.

Back at the start of our journey, we came together with an organisation called Act Build Change to develop a community organising methodology that would be the key to unlocking and growing the infrastructure and tools of Connecting for Good. Act Build Change’s mission is making community organising accessible to all.

Community organiser Sophie talks to two people in a local cafe in Coventry
Connecting for Good in action in Coventry. Image credit: Tara Rutledge

Connecting for Good is moving those 3,000 people from their own experiences of isolation to powerful connection. It is organising places to listen, plan, dream, build leadership and take action. It is special and we are working hard to strengthen its foundations so it continues long after our own funding ends.

Steph Wong from Act Build Change has documented the Connecting for Good story in a series of seven blogs.

The first launched last Monday (22 March) and the second was released this week. Below are excerpts from both.

We hope they speak to you. If they do, click the link to read more. With five still to come, there is plenty more to discover about Connecting for Good in Coventry – a movement for everyone, sparked by Grapevine and local people.

Blog One: How do we connect each other for good? Who gets to organise?

At Grapevine I am coaching some of the finest organisers who live with their chronic pain, long-term illnesses and caring for and being cared by their disabled loved ones. They challenge who can and can’t organise, lead, or strategise. The success of Grapevines organising moves at the pace of trust in the relationships they build. There are no Gods or martyrs and humility is regarded far higher than ego. They’re not letting the received wisdom of our “founding fathers” stop them from broadening participation in our profession.

In Coventry, people are organising like their lives depend on it. And for some people in the room it does. People like George, 54 who has a history of enduring mental health issues, PTSD, suicide attempts and being failed by services. Or Derek, 70, who experiences regular brain bleeds and last week called us to ask for support to develop an idea, for which he has already recruited two people.

So what does a representative revolution look like? How could we end loneliness with the isolated leading? How do we share space for more people to organise and be powerful, so we live up to the value of connection, where no one is left behind?

Read more.

A group of people sit together in a cafe working on a series of protest banners as a group
Connecting for Good in action in Coventry. Image credit: Tara Rutledge

Blog Two: Building powerful relationships

Breaking the rules of relationship building, one conversation at a time.

Community Organisers have been told 1-to-1s must fill our diaries, take no longer than 40 minutes and always face to face (before COVID-19). This is so the organiser can have multiple conversations a week and not put off busy people from showing up.

“How do you do that when the woman in front of you had a stroke when she was 13 and was left with a stammer and dysarthria, so it takes her three times as long to speak as anyone else? Hanging on her every word and welcoming the depth of her experiences of the inequalities she and others face. We embrace and appreciate the time it takes to hear her. That doesn’t fit into a 40 minute deadline.” – Mel Smith, Deputy CEO, Grapevine

When you bring an accessibility lens to your practice, you realise for many of us that isn’t going to work. When you have been ignored for so long it can take time to trust and share your heart’s yearnings for your life and city.

Grapevine’s organisers are patient with lateness and no shows. Working with people with multiple and complex needs means people may change their mind, lives get disrupted or folks might feel too nervous on the day. Just like any of us can. Imagine if all of us acted with thoughtful pace rather than busy speed? Imagine the richness of conversations, the feeling of not being pressured but understood.

Read more.

Blog Three, I Heard it on the Grapevine.

Follow @StephWong_, @actbuildchange and @grapevinecandw on Twitter to read the next five blogs first and for more detail on sparking community action in Coventry, Warwickshire and across the UK. Connecting for Good is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund.