The Stoke on Trent Community Share Network

Our latest update on the Stoke North and Stoke South meetings and future sessions.

Totally Stoked recently co-hosted two community network meetings, in partnership with local organisation All the Small Things CIC and their 1000 Lives project.

The Stoke North Sharing Network event was on 30th September, followed by the Stoke-on-Trent South event, which was held on 18th November, both using the Zoom video conferencing platform.

Both events followed a similar format  – showcasing great presentations from key speakers and encouraging chat and sharing amongst the attendees, through question and answers, breakout rooms, a noticeboard style sharing activity (using the interactive ‘Jamboard’ platform), and a short mapping exercise.

Organisations spoke of how Covid-19 had affected their ability to carry out their usual work and in some ways connect with their services users, volunteers, participants, and their ability to reach out to those unknown, potential new participants – people who might need to engage with their projects and get support.

This link takes you to a recording of the first event ( Stoke-on-Trent North Sharing Network held on 30.09.2020 ) If you want to watch the whole session why not grab yourself a mug of tea and settle in (with a few biscuits maybe !)  – it lasts for roughly 1 hour 50 minutes.

If you don’t have time to watch the full  footage … here’s an overview of the North and South meetings:

All the speakers were really open, honest, and informative. Willing to share their highs and lows during both lockdowns in Spring 2020 and Autumn 2020 and the attendees all appreciated this.

All explained how they faced the challenges of not being able to meet with people and having to stop projects mid-flow and consult with funders and even seek emergency funding.  They showed us how they adapted, ensuring they were still able to continue their valuable work and connect people to what they needed…food parcels, furniture, advice support,  social interaction, education, and engaging activities.

It is evident that COVID has added sudden and overwhelming pressure on community organisations. They were really needed by people and they had to deliver quality and quantity … but maybe on limited resources. A great tribute should be given to all our community organisations – they rose to the challenge and still do.

Some had to furlough staff to survive and ensure the models that they created were workable, even though they may not be sustainable long-term. It is still felt that community life may never return to exactly how it used to be, yet the organisations will continue to adapt so that they can re-engage with the public in a more physical and face-to-face way eventually  – once COVID restrictions are relaxed and vaccines help society to move back out of our homes and into our communities.

The excellent speakers included John Webbe from Emmaus Furniture Mine and Vicki Gwynne from Middleport Matters Community Trust for the Stoke-on-Trent North event and Kath Walton from B arts for the Stoke-on-Trent South event.

John spoke of how he had to furlough staff during lockdown yet still supported the Council and other agencies in supplying furniture for homeless people and they have now also employed a Volunteer Co-Ordinator to support the volunteers.  The provisions of stock for the homelessness project put a great strain on their own shop stock reserves. They needed to be flexible, so they now sell – bric-a-brac, clothes, electrical goods and paint and have used social media to create an online shop window and collection service.

Vicki took us through the history of how Middleport Matters came into being and how it has grown from strength to strength. During Lockdown#1 they had to stop their workshop and coffee morning programmes, they had to furlough staff and diversified their outreach by supporting isolated people door to door.

Their new approach included providing 30 local families with food parcels and regular doorstep contact, activity packs and homework to young people and providing a friendly chat, books, and crosswords for the more senior residents. They have now increased their staff quota, from 3 staff and 4 volunteers to 6 staff and 5 volunteers.

Funding will be an ongoing challenge as the landscape is continually changing, needing to reallocate funds from existing grant programmes to accessing emergency funding packages and then trying to get local pots and wait for new funds as the funding bodies slowly start to reopen for new applications.

Kath showed a presentation on the various exciting participatory arts, telephone performances, community baking and other community projects that B arts have been delivering over throughout 2020. They were full of enthusiasm though this shouldn’t hide that they were just as anxious as every other organisation at the start of the crisis. They had emergency meetings and contacted their funders to ask how they could adapt their budgets and funders were helpful and flexible which allowed the new activity to take place and ensure projects could ride through the pandemic using online delivery, sending craft packs to participants by posts, and running cookery classes online, creating YouTube films that people could watch later if they couldn’t attend the live broadcast. They have also found that telephones have become really important ways to reach people, which may seem a bit old-school in a digital age, but it’s a more connective experience for many people.

What people liked about the sessions …

found interesting at the Event

  • seeing how other small charities have coped
  • Speakers use of statistics and knowledge of how to target their support
  • Hearing about the good work in our communities and the impact it has had
  • organisations ability to adapt their services
  • good to network and get ideas – work in unison, not in competition.

What’s Next?

The two events have helped shape the themes for the next few sessions and our next meeting is on January 20th and will cover the ever-popular and important issues of funding and income generation. To book your place use this link  Alternatively search Eventbrite.co.uk for “Community Share Network – Funding and Income Generation.” 

Join our Stoke-on-Trent Sharing Network

If you want to attend future sessions, get on to our Community Share Network Events mailing list. Email hello@totallystoked.org.uk with your organisation’s details and we’ll keep you up to date.