Bringing People together to co-design a celebratory event

The CoLab Dudley team was approached on twitter at the end of January 2018 about whether it would be possible to celebrate International Women’s Day in Dudley at gather. Challenges included finding a free to use space and bringing together people to design a celebratory event.

We planned and facilitated a rapid design process so that mums of young children could come together and plan an event in under two hours, with ongoing plans shaping through discussion in a WhatsApp group. We shared the plans and an open invitation to get involved over social media and through Dudley CVS networks which led to another mum joining the WhatsApp planning team.

25 people came together to celebrate International Women’s Day in Dudley.

There were exhibitions of inspirational women on display, from internationally renowned women to local women who have started inspiring projects and platforms.

Women also bought in books which inspire them, and created a playlist of inspiring songs.

Two young people performed songs live during the afternoon. One woman ran a mindfulness workshop.

Children took part in creative activities with their parents.

3 women who had heard of each other via social media were finally presented with the opportunity to discuss their interests and plans to work together in the future.

The whole event was bought together in just two weeks using a simple design process and effective use of social media.

Catherine: I came away thinking what a wonderful thing to have been a small part of and it actually made me think of people (well women) who I’ve had a connection with in whatever capacity throughout my life. I got in touch with my boss from 8 years ago which was a direct result of coming away with a really positive feeling. I learned that people have a huge amount of courage (particularly young people on this occasion). You don’t have to do huge things for them to be brilliant.

Marieanne: I was happy that people enjoyed the event and happy it helped others make connections. I’ve also been reflecting about who I am and what I want to do to help others. I’ve been thinking about what we could do next but in a relaxed no pressure way, which is quite a different way of being for me. I’ve learnt how much impact this event has had on people and this has inspired me to keep things simple in the future so that people can contribute comfortably rather then feeling like they should/have to.

Leonie: Afterwards I felt excited, motivated, feel more confident and focused to follow my vision and further develop my moms group. I would now like to do an event around raising awareness around maternal mental health.


Working together to encourage youth participation through The Takeover Challenge.

The Takeover Challenge see’s organisations across England opening their doors to children and young people to take over adult job roles and promote and encourage youth participation. It puts children and young people into decision-making positions and encourages organisations and businesses to hear their views.

We collaborated with Dudley Councils participation officer to use a partnership approach to increase the opportunities and involve more organisations including voluntary sector organisations. We organised, coordinated and evaluated all 50 opportunities.

Takeover Challenge built on the work started by the Youth Service in 2016 where 10 young people expressed an interest in taking part, 7 opportunities within the Local Authority were offered and 8 young people participated, 3 enjoyed it so much they came back in 2017 to takeover other opportunities.

A partnership approach was taken in 2017 which increased the number of organisations involved and the number of opportunities by 400%.

36 professionals provided a variety of opportunities for young people to takeover, from Dudley MBC, Dudley CCG, West Midlands Police, West Midlands Fire Service, Dudley CVS, Political figures, Members of Parliament, schools, colleges and Lunch on the Run.

50 students participated in the challenge from a third of secondary schools in the borough, three colleges and a university student.

“Meeting such energised and interesting young people, who’s engagement and articulation of questions was really great” Chief Superintendent Rich Fisher – West Midlands Police

“I enjoyed talking to lots of different people about different subjects that affected young people. I also enjoyed sitting in on some meetings about things that had to do with the young people in Dudley.” Lucy Price – young person

‘This experience has reinforced our service priorities in regards to person centred planning for individual case work. It will also encourage us to consult young people regarding areas of whole service development in the future.’ – Emma James – Dudley MBC

Building confidence and reducing isolation of parent carers

We supported and inspired parent carers to access a small pot of funding to kickstart Action Art, an art group offering time out from caring responsibilities, where people can exchange creative skills.

Three parent carers were talking about doing things creative in their spare time that would be a time out from their caring responsibilities. The issue they faced was that sometimes if they joined an organised class it was expensive, especially if they couldn’t attend because of their caring responsibilities.

Our Children, Young People and Families Officer was aware of a new LA funding pot that was available for small un-constituted groups and suggested that these women start their own group.

At first the carers asked how they would employ someone to run sessions; we asked them why they would need to employ someone when they had such amazing skills to share. One lady was incredible at cross-stitch and crochet, one was an amazing artist and painter and the other could make jewellery. After a few moments considering this, they realised that they could do it themselves, and exchange their own skills.

We helped them to prepare their application and presentation. We connected them to a venue that they could utilise for free so the only funding they needed was around £300 for some start up materials. They presented their idea called Action Art to a room full of people.

Action Art meets once a month and has grown in members, they collaboratively decide what they will make in the next session and contribute materials, resources or money to ensure the group stays sustainable.

The group developed a friendship with an Asian women’s group from Halesowen, who really lacked confidence and didn’t see the skills that they had. By them hearing the story of the women from Action Art, they began to realise that they were not so different and they also had gifts to share. The two groups meet up and exchange skills, action art show them how to decorate candles and make art bags and the Asian women’s group show them how to cook and do Henna.

Action Art told us that they have had conversations and developed friendships that they wouldn’t have had if it wasn’t for starting this project. The Asian women are asking and learning about disability, and the Action Art ladies are learning about the Asian community.

The group has built in confidence and they don’t feel so isolated learning and sharing new skills and making new friendships.

“It helped us to see our potential to achieve things we didn’t know we could.”

“We have been able to set up and maintain a group supporting others, utilising our own

skills to create a great community.”

“Donna gave me the confidence to start our own group called Action art. Without

the suggestion and support we wouldn’t of achieved this. She pointed us in the right

direction for funding too.”

Action Arts journey has lead them to encourage other groups to realise and share their skills, bringing together different communities together.