In April 2016 Rotherham Federation won £401, 800 from the Big Lottery’s Reaching Communities Fund to deliver its Community Voices and Choices project. The 36-month project adopted the Community Organiser approach seeking to address the lack of social capital, building community strength and empowerment in eight of Rotherham’s most deprived communities.
This is the final evaluation of the project produced in January 2019.
Shelter has produced a comprehensive report on ‘Building for our Future- A Vision for Social Housing’ in January 2019.
Amongst a number of recommendations to improve social housing, the report calls for a stronger voice for tenants including support for independent tenants organisations like Rotherham Federation. A key recommendation of the report is that “residents of social housing must have a voice with national, regional, and local government. Government should support the establishment of an independent tenants’ voice organisation or tenants’ union, to represent the views of tenants in social housing within national and local government. It should involve as wide a range of tenants as possible.“
Rotherham Federation of Community fully endorses this report and supports the recommendations made within it.
Tbe Big Lottery Fund is awarding £272,732 to Rotherham Federation of Communities (Rotherham Federation) for a further 3 years to enable residents living in eight of Rotherham’s poorest and most excluded areas to become engaged in local life, have an effective voice and be empowered as a community to influence change in their area. The project will train and directly employ 3 full time Community Organisers from our local communities in Rotherham to undertake this work.
Steve Ruffle, Chief Executive Officer of the Federation said “this project will meet continue the excellent community organising work we have been undertaking during the last three years. We are using the innovative Community Organisers approach to involve local people in planning and delivering community change.” Community organisers will help support local people get their views listened to, support them to run their own activities and bring community groups together.
Rotherham Federation supports communities to grow and develop, working with them to build their sense of belonging, community pride and spirit. We work with and through grass roots community groups that are committed to bringing communities together, giving all communities a voice and creating local solutions to local issues.
The Big Lottery Fund supports the aspirations of people who want to make life better for their communities across the UK and are responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised by the National Lottery for good causes and invest over £650 million a year in projects big and small in health, education, environment and charitable purposes. Since the National Lottery began in 1994, £33 billion has been raised and more than 450,000 grants awarded.
For more details of the More Voices and Choices project funded by the Big Lottery Fund contact Steve Ruffle on 01709 368515 or by email at email@example.com. The Federation is based at Springwell Gardens Community Centre.
Derek Corkell was born in May 1934 and
died on 14th December 2018 after a long illness. He was a member of
the Rotherham Federation of Communities
board between 2007 and 2013, He was both Vice Chair and Company
Secretary of the Federation at different times. Derek was also a Board member
of Tenants and Residents of England and chair of Windy Ridge Tenants and
Residents Association in Aughton.
Derek was passionate about involving allunderrepresented groups in what the Federation did – he was an important architect in supporting the establishment of Rotherham Deaf Futures group. Derek always encouraged people to work together – in relation to the council, our landlord he always promoted our role as critical friend, challenging when need be but never falling out for the sake of it.
Some of the learning that came out of this work included:
Listenings offer a great way to start work in an area and provide the basis for early activity. However, they should not be a one off activity but should form the backbone of work being continually updated
The contributions Listenings make to becoming known, sharing ideas and building trust should be viewed as positively as the issues they identify
People need time to develop their ideas about what they want. Your listening may be the first time anyone has ever asked them
In fragmented areas with hard to reach communities particularly from different ethnic backgrounds local people may be very reluctant to engage in Listenings and this may force a different approach early on. However, they must not be forgotten
It’s a large ask to expect people who have little belief in community life to stand up and create it. Delivering activities directly that gives people the opportunities to engage and see the benefit is fine, but they must be accompanied by the messages that if you want more you have to do it for yourself and we are here to help you. Children events, summer parties etc. give natural opportunities for people to step up and join in.
Early activity should focus on giving volunteers positive experiences and involve minimal bureaucracy. Engagement should inspire people’s self-belief and build confidence to do more.
You need to avoid failure as disadvantaged communities give up easily, start small with things you can succeed at.
Disadvantaged communities find it easier to initially engage in volunteering that gives them opportunities to deliver activities to communities rather than challenge authority. Experience says that campaigning work to change services, facilities and the local environment will follow but unless there is an existing current issue that people are strongly motivated to challenge, campaigning work early in engagement is likely to be less successful and will be demotivating.
Expect early progress to be slow in very deprived and fragmented areas. Keep in mind the number of times they have been given failed promises. Your role is to be consistent and give them time to join you. Don’t remove support too soon.
Work with communities as they define themselves and accept that it’s unrealistic to expect communities to mix across cultural boundaries before they are ready.
Promote yourselves through trusted groups and use high quality marketing materials.
Finding and using volunteers
Use Listenings to identify people who want to make things different and match them with your own or other organisations activities
Use your own staff if you have them to meet minimum safeguarding requirements e.g. for children’s activities so that things can start. But remember to explain that volunteers will need to go on the necessary courses at some point
Keep bureaucracy and form filling down to an absolute minimum while making sure people do take on important safeguarding messages
Create a flexible group of volunteers, not everyone needs to be involved in everything. An informal group of people who will help out on the day is just as important as those regular volunteers who help every week
Even if you are delivering elements of the planning make sure volunteers are engaged in the decisions and understand that they will have to do things themselves if the activity is to happen
Where possible use existing local community organisations to help you present yourself as a trusted friend to new communities. This will help get things going much more quickly
Invest in quality marketing. Poor quality promotional material does not help you say your are serious about investing in local change
New and existing groups
Don’t rush volunteers into forming constituted groups unless their activities or need for independent funding requires it. Instead give volunteers time to build their practical skills and confidence, ensuring they are ready to accept and take on board the more formal learning and responsibilities that come with constituted groups.
When groups are considering becoming constituted make sure they take up relevant training and skills development so they are ready for the more formal roles required.
Work to support groups to avoid the traps of becoming territorial, encouraging them to see collaboration as a way to deliver more for their community.
Support groups to be confident to say no to statutory partners when this delivery would either push group volunteers beyond their capacity or take the group into areas of delivery they either are not yet ready for or simply don’t want to do.
Community led plans
Don’t move into delivering formal community led plans too quickly. Recognise that communities need early successes before they will participate in these more formal ways of working.
Recognise that the delivery of community plans need confident and skilled community leaders. Where no such individuals or organisations exist the delivery of plans may fail. In deprived communities where few individuals have the necessary skills and confidence it may be better to support the delivery of such groups/individuals first.
If given the time they need to develop at their own pace, the Community Organiser approach will deliver the skilled leaders and community vision needed to develop realistic plans for community led change. But change makers need to avoid a one size fits all approach and continually tailor delivery to the needs and capacity of the communities it is working with.
When taking on trainees it’s important to plan early activities in a way that gives trainees time to gain practical experience as well as add value to communities. Without this, trainees’ confidence will be undermined and their development slowed
For the same reason it’s also important to provide the trainees with appropriate levels of supervision and practical mentoring. The process of delivering needs to incorporate steps of approval and checking to ensure planned deliveries are viable and well-executed
Using learning from practical activities, particularly where mistakes have happened can be a really valuable way for the whole team to learn how to make improvements
Managers need to recognise that any trainee scheme will have people who fail but when taking on trainees who also face life challenges they need to be willing to offer additional support and supervision
When matching Organisers with local hosts care needs to be taken to make sure hosts are seen as accessible by the whole community and able to appropriately use and support Organisers. Otherwise, some sections of the community may come to see Organisers as unavailable to them
Rotherham Federation is now one of 20 Social Action Hubs around the country. Social action hubs are locally rooted community organisations which support people to contribute to and create a better community and build a more democratic society.
The 20 Social Action Hubs are funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and led by Community Organisers Ltd. As a hub the Federation will act as a catalyst for action, training local people, members of the public sector and young people in community organising and supporting them to listen, reach out, bring people together and take collective action.
Over the next few years the Programme will see 3500 people trained in community organising across England and supported to ignite social action. People who want to make their community stronger, their government and public services more accountable and their society fairer.
The first of these volunteer organisers in Rotherham were presented with certificates by the Deputy Mayor at a special event on the evening of 16th December 2017. Community organising is the work of bringing people together to take action around their common concerns and overcome social injustice. Volunteer community organisers reach out and listen, connect and motivate people to build their collective power.
Sofia Gkika and Jessica Clarke also recieved their graduation certificates at the event.
Are you a private tenant living is Masborough, Eastwood Village, South East Maltby or Dinnington Central?
Rotherham Federation are seeking 2 private tenant representatives to sit on the Selective Licensing Steering Group. The Selective Licensing Steering Group aims to ensure licensing of all applicable properties within the above areas are licensed, contribute to reductions in the rates of anti-social behaviour, empty properties and occupier turnover and to improve private rented property and management standards across the licensed areas.
This is a great opportunity in working with us and the Council to improve some of our local communities and the properties many tenants live in. Rotherham Federation will support anyone interested in taking on this role. For more details contact Steve by email or phone 01709 368515
Congratulations to Enid Watson who has been elected by secret ballot of members attending our general meeting on 26th January 2018 onto the Repairs and Maintenance Contract Re-Tender Steering Group. The purpose of the group is to provide governance to ensure a compliant re-tender of the housing repairs and maintenance contract for Rotherham Council tenants. These contracts, currently with Fortem and Mears, are due to renew 1st April 2020.