Archive for the ‘Communities’ Category
Support for people who are digitally excluded is one of the key planks in the Welsh Government’s tackling poverty strategy. For the last six years there has been a significant investment in this support through the Communities 2.0 programme, which is run by the Wales Co-operative Centre. The programme is shortly coming to an end, and the Welsh Government is developing its approach to digital inclusion support in the future. As Dave Brown, the Centre’s Director of Strategic Development & Performance, writes, it therefore seems reasonable to ask: does publically funded digital inclusion support actually lead to permanent, positive changes in behaviour around computers and the Internet?
We know that Communities 2.0 has been hugely successful in providing targeted support to individuals. Over 52,000 people have been directly helped so far. Countless more are supported by local delivery partners. But do these people actually end up online? Do they get the benefits of being connected? Do they continue to use and develop their skills? Thanks to a new longitudinal study by BT and Citizens Online, we know the answer. And it’s a resounding “yes”.
The study looked at people helped by the Get IT Together project, which is supported in Wales by Communities 2.0. They tracked people attending training sessions and surveyed them when they did the session, and again two years later. The study found that 60% of those who did not have home Internet access at the start went on to install it. Many without a home connection accessed the Internet through public points like libraries, or used connections of friends and family. Clearly the message is getting through, to the extent that most beneficiaries go on to invest in the “gold standard” of digital inclusion: broadband at home.
It is the direct support to the person who is digitally excluded that brings the benefits. But digital inclusion sessions don’t organise themselves. One of the huge successes of the Welsh Government’s Communities 2.0 programme has been the way the Wales Co-operative Centre staff have led the planning and co-ordinating of digital inclusion activity locally. We have brought together partnerships, secured funding and driven organisational change to put digital inclusion at the top of the agenda.
The challenge for us now is to keep it there.
We’ve received a guest blog post from Duncan Forbes, Chief Executive of Bron Afon Housing, looking at how co-operation runs through his organisation and how they’re currently working with young people:
“A group of young people are seeing a building being transformed into starter flats, following the spark of an idea they had three years ago.
Bron Afon’s Youth Forum has worked together to give us the best possible advice on meeting the needs of housing for young people.
After all, who else is best placed to solve the housing problem for young people? Our work as a co-operative starts with our youngest members. They have won awards and spoken at national events about how they organise themselves and get things done.
Suzy Sorby, a member of Afon Youth, and she said: “Due to such an interest with young people and homelessness, in 2011 Peter Mackie, a Cardiff university lecturer attended one of our youth forums and said ‘By 2020, housing for young people will be extremely limited’. This is where the seed was planted.”
Three years later and a lot of research and advice from the group has led to our decision not to demolish an unused building, but instead convert it into eight starter flats. They told us there’s a gap for young people living on their own for the first time, to get support if they needed it.
We have set up Own 2 Feet Living to follow this up and enable young people to live independently, in affordable rented accommodation.
They also wanted young people to learn construction skills so eight volunteers are spending a day a week on the building site, being mentored one-to-one by our trade staff.
They will come away with the experience of working on a building site through courses such as ‘asbestos awareness’ and ‘working from heights’ and be ready to take the standard qualification needed to work in construction.
Bron Afon’s approach to mutualism and working as a co-operative on Own 2 Feet has been featured in this national report, The Enabling State, by the Carnegie Trust UK. That report shows that communities can be transformed by organisations being the facilitators and not the leaders on decisions.
Young people have taken the lead with this initiative and provide each other with mutual support, facilitated by the work of our skilled youth team and our volunteers. Working in this way, the group has dramatically changed the lives and life chances of many of its members for the better, including young people who have previously fallen down the gaps between other support and care services, which is referred to in the report as the ‘disadvantaged minority’.
If you want to find out more about our Youth Forum’s approach to co-operative working please let me know.”
Co-operatives Fortnight runs from 21st June – 5th July. This year, we’re paying tribute to the Rochdale Pioneers who, along with Robert Owen, were among the forefathers of the co-operative movement.
We’re doing so by showcasing the work of 14 ‘Modern Pioneers’ from the Welsh co-operative sector, through a series of blog posts. Today’s post looks at the work of Marc Jones, Co-owner of the Saith Seren pub which is a community co-operative.
“I chair a community co-operative Welsh Centre in the heart of Wrexham, which has a café bar, regular live music, fundraising events, rooms upstairs for community meetings, a toddlers group and language lessons. We re-opened a historic listed building that had been a pub. We’ve been open for more than two years now without any grants – just the hard work and funds from our members and volunteers.
Big corporations and councils are increasingly pulling out of serving smaller communities in Wales, especially rural areas. Co-operatives and social enterprises are the one way that communities can battle back and take control of their local shops, pubs, services and factories. Co-operatives have to be given far more support to get off the ground, both practical and financial, but the will to develop them is there.
It’s a great way to involve a lot of people in a community project but it can also be deeply frustrating because some of the banks and other institutions, including some local authorities, often don’t understand the nature of the enterprise. We have had to make money from day one and our 150 members have sustained us during some lean times. I’m incredibly proud that we have kept going during an incredibly difficult period of trading, both generally and specifically in Wrexham town centre.
One of our regulars turned up covered in paint splatters one day and we asked what he’d been up to. His response was that he’d just finished painting the pub toilet walls! We’d been talking about giving them a lick of paint but he went ahead and did it off his own bat. We’re very lucky that our customers will often help out with small jobs and use their trade skills to do the job for mates’ rates.
We employ six people, three full time, and re-opening the pub has helped, in a small way, to revitalise the town centre economy. We also work with other co-operatives and social enterprises locally – North Wales is something of a hot spot for community pubs and Wrexham FC is also owned by its 3,000 members (of which I’m one).” (More from Wrexham Supporters’ Trust later in the Modern Pioneers campaign!)
“We are a bridge for Welsh learners, supporters of the language and others whose Welsh may be rusty, to regain confidence and use the language in a social setting. This is particularly the case in a town just 10 miles from the border. We are also a community hub for many voluntary groups and community meetings.
The co-operative movement has a strong tradition here in Wales, with Robert Owen being seen as a pioneer in his own right by many of us. It’s important that our history is remembered.”
Find out more about the Rochdale Pioneers through a special, interactive photo.
The Welsh Government’s latest ambitious programme to support jobless households was recently launched. The Lift programme is part of the Tackling Poverty Action Plan. I went along to the launch event, at the offices of Cardiff Community Housing Association, to find out more…
Lift recognises that some people in some communities will need more support than others to get, and keep, a job. With this in mind, the programme will be running across Wales in eight Communities First Clusters (soon to be nine), with the aim of getting 5,000 people into work, or at very least in a situation where they are immediately employable, by 2017. Read the rest of this entry »