Linking groups to each other, funding and learning opportunities to kickstart activities that bring communities together

Dudley CVS was contacted by local authority workers at Lye Community Project to see if we could support newcomers to the area from the Roma community who were facing barriers. The Roma community faced discrimination from different communities in the Lye area.

Dudley CVS met with members of the Roma community who wanted to set up a mutual support group. The biggest challenge was language barriers.

Together with the help of the vicar of Christ Church, Lye, who could speak a little Romanian and with the help of Google Translate, Dudley CVS supported the community to set up a group and to understand how community groups work in the UK. We developed a dual language constitution so that group members and local partners could both understand what the group was about.

The group later found Romanian volunteers, who could overcome the language barriers and offer some support. We worked further with those and other volunteers and:

  • Gave training on committee roles and responsibilities
  • Helped the group plan its activities
  • Supported with small funding bids.

Our development officer also linked the group with a team member leading on the Active Citizens initiative, which helped Reaching for Change to build relationships with others. Reaching for Change really embraced an approach that involved trying things out before deciding what worked.

Through Active Citizens, Reaching for Change ran a joint trial with Diyya, which encouraged different communities to learn about each others’ languages, culture and traditions.

Finally, we contacted Time Bank, which runs an initiative called Talking Together. Talking Together at the time helped Muslim communities to offer basic English courses for members with little or no spoken English. Together with Time Bank, we made the case to Time Bank’s funders that the Roma community in Lye also faced significant linguistic barriers. Time Bank’s funders recognized this and allowed Talking Together to support the Roma community for the first time. We brought Time Bank staff together with volunteers from Reaching for Change to plan basic English courses.

Reaching for Change has been able to organize and run activities for both the Roma community and the wider communities in Lye as a result of the support.
Volunteers offer a drop in at Lye Community Project so that the Roma community can get help with basic things such as school enrolment and health care.

The joint activities run with Diyya through the Active Citizens initiative has helped two communities to break down barriers. People from both communities now recognise each other in the street and can say hello to each other. The activities have helped to reduce distrust and fear.

Reaching for Change is now able to run basic English classes to help those from the Roma community to access further support.

Inspiring people with possibilities: Do Fest Dudley!

In Autumn 2016 national charity IVAR (Institute for Voluntary Action Research) approached Dudley CVS, Healthwatch Dudley and Dudley CCG with an opportunity to host an event as part of a learning and sharing roadshow they were creating. IVAR has worked in Dudley before, on a programme called Building Health Partnerships, which helped local organisations to work together to improve local health and wellbeing. (It was from this that our PSIAMS work was grown.)

It was agreed that an interesting aspect of local activity to highlight was the participation of local people in practical projects which they co-designed and developed together in the places they live, which have positive effects on their health and wellbeing. It occurred to us that talking about practical projects for an afternoon wasn’t quite like being able to get involved yourself, and from this the idea for Do Fest Dudley grew.

The newly formed CoLab Dudley team took on the task of curating a 3 day festival of doing with practically no budget, reaching out to their networks and local people to develop a jam-packed programme of doing, learning, sharing and talks. Healthwatch Dudley instigated and hosted two productive Do Fest Create sessions in advance of Do Fest. Local people got involved and made bunting, windmills and decorated boxes for seed bombs.

Do Fest Dudley opened on 13 March with an introduction to Wikihouse affordable self-building from DemoDev. Soon 22 eager doers embarked on the building of a WendyWikiHouse – a scaled down WikiHouse designed to fit in the coffee shop at gather.

214 people from all over Dudley, and also Wolverhampton, Birmimgham and London took part in Do Fest over 3 days. There were 7 Trade School classes, 6 Learning Labs, 10 Lightning Talks, a crafternoon and a Dudley SOUP micro-granting dinner. On the afternoon of 15 March IVAR welcomed 57 doers and encouragers from Dudley and beyond to the Do Fest Summit. The keynote speaker was Pam Warhurst from Incredible Edible, who inspired people to get growing and sharing. Wildflower seed bombs were deployed that very afternoon!

Co-created by a total of 72 individuals, Do Fest Dudley provided a taste of what’s possible, insights into ways we can nurture a participatory culture in Dudley, and opportunities to make, share and learn with local people who are leading change through practical, enjoyable projects in the places they live.

 IVAR blog post about Do Fest:



Supporting residents to make things happen in Coseley!

In Coseley, a weekly tea dance had been run by the local police neighbourhood team and a local church for about 5 years. The tea dance was always well attended by local older people in the community. Last year it was in danger of having to stop when the police staff who ran it moved out of the local area and the church was no longer able to accommodate it.

Our East Coseley Changemaker Support Officer worked with three of the regular attendees to keep the event going and they were happy to help. We supported the tea dance participants to apply to the East Coseley Big Local Community Spirit Fund to help restart the tea dance. The participants were able to apply to this fund because the tea dance was open to all and only required a small amount of money to be kickstarted. The Community Spirit Fund awarded a small amount of money to help the participants get started; it covered the hire of another church hall and an entertainer.

To help the tea dance to keep going after the small amount of funding was spent, we helped the participants change the format of the event slightly. This meant speaking to participants and encouraging them to bring their own lunch instead of providing a buffet and agreeing a weekly charge of £3 each, which people are happy to pay.

Now, with a few tweaks, the weekly tea dance pays for itself. Everyone contributes to making the event happen, instead of a few people who are relied on to provide a costly service that would have required ongoing funding to sustain and the increased bureaucracy that can bring. The tea dance has a regular attendance of 30-40 people.

This event makes a difference to the lives of the people who attend; many of them live alone and do not have regular outings, and they look forward to the tea dance. It is run in the daytime so that they feel safe to come out of their homes. It was also specifically run at this time of the day because some of those attending have to look after grandchildren after school, it’s a time for them that they can enjoy. It is also a way of helping them to stay active through dancing. We have had various agencies come along to offer advice on issues ranging from health and wellbeing to safety and security.

Some of the tea dance participants said:
“I am glad this carried on I look forward to it”.
“It’s the only time I get together with my friends”.