Dudley SOUP: Exposing curious people to great ideas to bring an international movement to Dudley

Dudley CVS had come across an interesting project initiated in Detroit which celebrates and supports creative projects through micro-funding community dinners. Detroit SOUP promotes connection and change in a place through crowdfunding, creativity, collaboration, democracy, trust and fun. A few people in Dudley respond really positively when we mentioned SOUP – their eyes lit up at the thought of a SOUP dinner in Dudley, or got genuine interest from local people by sharing the idea on social media.

We put some information about SOUP in a blog and did an open call for anyone interested in getting involved in starting Dudley SOUP. We thought about the sorts of skills and interests needed and kept sharing and sharing on social media, saying we already had much of what we needed (a borough jam-packed with people with creative ideas and aspirations to run great projects, a hall at DY1 that could be used for free to hold SOUP events, instructions on how to start a SOUP from Detroit and friends in Birmingham who had started a SOUP in 2015). So all we needed was a team of people combining leadership flair, creative awesomeness, web wizardry, storytelling mastery, soup making spells and a sixth sense for finding hidden treasure.

10 individuals responded to the open call and we facilitated a 2 hour session in which they formed a SOUP team, took on roles and agreed a way forward.

The simple act of bringing people together around an idea like SOUP led to someone who had never been active in the community to get involved, and people who do a lot in Dudley’s voluntary sector through their work to get involved in activity which they clearly saw as ‘not work’. The Dudley SOUP team formed in April 2016, launched online the same month, and held 3 micro-granting dinners between September 2016 and March 2017.

The following is feedback from SOUP participants

SOUP creates opportunities to…
“bring people together in a community & to share knowledge”
“realise the ideas people have to make a stronger and resilient community”
“realise how fantastic people are”


The thing I value most about SOUP is…
“The non-judgemental nature & acceptance of everyone.”
“That it is happening & celebrating Dudley.”
“It’s a bit of a beacon of good stuff & good people that challenges perceptions about Dudley.”
“people come along because they care about others.”
“community and possibilities.”
“being part of it”

One of the Dudley SOUP team, Helen, had never been active in the community. She tells the story of how she was inspired to get involved, saying “I was really drawn to the simplicity of it and the fact that someone with a spark of an idea can walk away with a little money to use to make a difference within their community.” You can read Helen’s story in full here.

Inspiring groups by encouraging them; inspiring others by demonstrating what’s possible

Bayer Street Allotments Association initially approached Dudley CVS to talk about their aspirations and their funding needs to achieve them. The group wanted to be more community minded and bring new people to the allotments to share their love of growing. In particular, the group wanted to engage with schools and young people.

To do this, the site needed to be more accessible to young people, people who are disabled and women. The biggest part of the group’s plan was to install an eco-toilet costing around £10,000, so members of the group asked for support with funding.

After meeting with the group to understand what they wanted to achieve, the support we gave was around more than funding. We helped the group to become eligible for funding, which involved supporting the group to adapt their constitution and to understand the rules within it.

Support also included identifying Awards for All as a possible funder and linking them with staff at the Big Lottery Fund.

A big challenge the group faced was to do with its lack of lease. Awards for All needed assurances that the local authority had no plans to remove the group from the council-owned site for at least five years. We liaised with the local authority and Awards for All to help reassure the funder.

Finally, because it was clear that all of this would take time, we encouraged the group increase their links with East Coseley Big Local, which would help build community support for the project.

Bayer Street Allotments Association has been involved in lots of community growing projects in and around Coseley and members can now welcome more people onto the allotments site thanks to a successful £10,000 from Awards for All for an accessible eco-toilet which has now been installed.

The group also received an award from the Green Spaces Awards for all the hard work their members put in to engage people in growing.

What’s more, Dudley CVS heard from residents living near Grange Park in Dudley who were keen to resurrect the Friends of the Park group there. We took them to visit Bayer Street Allotments to see what the group had been able to achieve. The visit really inspired the Grange Park residents to get to action and we have been working with them to set up Friends of Grange Park and plan activities there.

“We’ve got a big sense of achievement and we’re looking forward to other projects we can get our teeth into and encouraging others to get involved in voluntary work.” Tom Blackham, Bayer Street Allotments Association

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: https://www.ivar.org.uk/the-power-of-small-actions-in-grassroots-regeneration/



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”.