Groundwork North East with Coalfields Community Co

A Neighbourhood Challenge Project

And the winner is….

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This month has seen the culmination of our project with the final judging of the Community Competition. 

Although we had only one entry in the end it was  still a well debated decision as the judging panel felt the group still had some way to go but were very impressed by the support the group had gathered for their project.  Moorsley Community Association have been named as winners with their project for a community facility to be used as a meeting place and venue for training, activities and events.  The group have managed to attract over thirty new volunteers for their project and have had interest from agencies such as Surestart and the Primary Care Trust to use their facility.

The challenge for the judging panel was to decide whether the group have demonstrated that their project would be sustainable and be used by people in Peat Carr and Moorsley, it was felt that the support they had gathered showed that people would use their project but that more serious consideration needed to be given as to how they would continue to generate revenue for the project and adhere to the many legalities of running a community venue.  With this in mind the panel decided that the group could be awarded an initial installment of the prize in order to put together a business plan and research what running costs they are likely to face as well as policies they may have to have in place.  The prospect of this could be daunting for any group so the panel have recommended Moorsley CA visit similar groups to share their experience and they will also be supported by ourselves and the local CVS at this stage.

When the group have secured their planning permission they will receive the next instalment of their prize which will allow them to get their facility on site and then finally kit it out, they will also have to hold a reserve which will cover their running costs for 2 years.  The role of the panel has been very important in helping set the group a valuable steer on how they can progress and we are very grateful to the panel for their expert knowledge and guidance. 

As always with this project there are challenges ahead for the group but they have been given such a massive boost from seeing a reward for their hard work and this will give them the motivation to make their idea a reality.  I feel through their experience of the project they have been able to get to grips more realistically with what their project entails but also get more in touch with the whole community which was more difficult before.

We are now organising a celebration event to be held in three weeks time which will recognise all of the achievements of the project and formally announce the winners, all of the community is invited and agencies who have helped along the way and we hope it will be a good opportunity for the group to spread the word more about their project and make useful connections that will help them on their way.  We also hope that it will act as a reminder for the community of what they have achieved and may inspire them to continue doing things for themselves.


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March 27, 2012 at 8:40 am

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Nearly there

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Since our last post we have had to face the prospect of only one group submitting an entry for the final round of the Community Competition with our walk group dropping out and our toddler group heading the same way.  It was disappointing, however we can see that staging the competition works as it has enabled these groups to see that they are not yet in a position to realise their projects so although they will not enter the competition they have had a taste of what is involved in getting set up and hopefully in time they will feel more prepared to give it another go.

We have just two weeks to go now until the deadline for the application and our remaining group have been working hard to gather support for their project.  An event was held on 11th February and it was encouraging to see new faces coming along to those and three people prepared to volunteer with their project which demonstartes growing awareness and enthusiasm for their project.  The challenge has been to combat fatigue however, I felt that although the event was positive there is still more work to do so we met to work out how we could do this without it being too onerous for the group.  They are now undertaking door knocking with a few members volunteering to do this as they were given a boost by the success of the event.  They are informing local people about their project and getting their suggestions for activities so that there is a real opportunity for this project to be totally community led.  It’s going well and we’ve also put the group in touch with local agencies who also seem interested in getting involved.  Our youth worker has also surveyed young people about what they would like to do in the area and the group are already incorporating this into their bid.

Youth work has been one of the things we can be proud of this month too.  We have spent quite some time discussing the idea of the need for youth provision in the area and working with Gentoo, our partner and housing provider in the area and local youth services our youth worker has been able to agree an arrangement to hold a weekly drop in session at Gentoo’s bungalow- the Nidderdale Centre, before the project I don’t think this would have been thinkable but through our partnership working and increased knowledge of the area I think the confidence has built up to allow this.  Sessions will start in March and hopefully can lead to more projects for young people making a real difference in the area and helping people see that something can be done when they work together and that efforts are being made to improve things in Peat Carr and Moorsley.

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February 24, 2012 at 11:27 am

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Timing is everything

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The new year has not started off too promisingly for the Neighbourhood Challenge as we are faced with the prospect of two projects possibly dropping out of the competition.  For one it is due to despondency, not through lack of trying the group cannot get people interested in their idea and are on the brink of giving up.  For our second group, despite three efforts to meet to discuss how to plan their trial run we have only managed to get one person to turn up and now we have had to come to the point where they seriously look at whether they will continue in the competition.  For both groups it seems to be a lot about timing.

For the second group, we believe that members seriously want to get their project off the ground, but in their own time, for individuals there are big life changes going on and this project has to take a lower priority, I also believe that because they have had the idea as a result of the competition rather than it being something they were naturally developing and then looking for funding for everything feels a bit rushed, particularly for a group who are not used to working in this way.  They need to be able to take their time to get used to thinking and working in a very different way.  If we look at the one remaining group in the competition their project is an idea they were already working on before the competition and so for them the timing is a little better although they still have hurdles to climb before the deadline.

For the first group again timing is a factor in their lack of success getting people involved, perhaps if their idea had come a year later, people in Peat Carr and Moorsley would be more prepared to get involved in a new project having experienced similar things in the area which can only be achieved with sustained activity that we have not been able to provide this year.  Over the last three years we have run various activities, some have been regular such as weekly growing activities and with each year the number of activities have increased but people in the area are not used to getting involved and will not engage, we think it will take many more years and more activities to finally persuade people that these things should not be met with suspicion.   

It is disheartening that despite all our efforts, attitudes still seem to be the same, that people are reluctant to do something new or to dare step out on their own but it has been less than a year trying to change these attitudes and it would be very optimistic to expect that we could reverse such long held beliefs in less than twelve months.

There is however a glimmer of hope in one of the unsuccessful competition entries, we met with the football coach and an interested parent earlier this month to talk about how coaching could still take place in the area.  The coach is still very keen to try coaching in Peat Carr and Moorsley and we have given him a seed fund to run a few more reduced rate tasters to try and get people along, we have also put him in touch with Gentoo and the Councils local newsletter who may be able to help promote the sessions.  It looks promising and hopefully in March/April something may start to happen there.


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January 26, 2012 at 10:50 am

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Going it alone?

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This month we have met with two of the groups who will be competing in the second stage of the challenge prize and it has brought home just what a challenge it will be.  Working for Groundwork, developing projects and completing funding applications becomes second nature and it is easy to underestimate just what a shock it can be to groups who have little or no experience of this kind of process. 

We have aimed to make the application materials quite straightforward and questions minimal but it is clear that planning a taster in three months and also thinking about a project plan is quite a monumental task for the groups and this is more prevalent if group members are not sharing responsibility which we have identified could be a risk.  As with many community groups there are always the natural leaders who often take on many responsibilities and end up doing a lot of the work themselves or there are new groups where people are still unsure of their roles, with all of our projects this is the case and our main challenge will really be to stress how important it will be for sustainability that groups have support in developing and delivering their projects and share the work.

This comes with it’s difficulties as it is tempting to try and do a lot of the work for the groups to ease the pressure but ultimately this will hamper the potential sustainability of their projects as they will need to have the capacity and capability to run the activities the,selves in the long run.  As we have found throughout this project we need to keep a fine balance where we support enough to make sure the groups have thought about all eventualities but that we do not end up taking over.

This month we are proud however that local agencies have all shown willing and support to help the groups with information they will find vital in developing their projects and that we can be sure the groups have that cushion if they need it.

Written by peatmoorsleysupport

December 21, 2011 at 11:12 am

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Competition hotting up

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Planting trees on a blustery Saturday afternoon in Moorsley  Community Led walk in Peat Carr and Moorsley

This month has seen the competition really begin, with a final flurry at deadline time we received six applications in all for the £30,000 prize.  Applications ranged from values of £1500 to £30,000 for projects involving community gardens and a community resource to walking groups, toddler groups and football groups.

The judges met last Friday and three applications have made it through to our second stage where they will now be given a small seed fund to try their projects out and show in their application what they have learnt from the experience.  The groups will have until early March to try this out and get their Stage 2 applications in.  We hope that by doing this the winning group will be well prepared to start their project by April and will have the confidence to make it a long lasting project.

The judging process was interesting as all panel members had put a lot of consideration into the applications and how they met the criteria, there was a general consensus on all projects with very little disagreements.  I think preparation helped with this as we sent summaries of the applications out to panel members before the judging and asked members how they would score the individual criteria.  We also asked the panel members to highlight where they felt applicants needed to strengthen their submissions which should also help our groups greatly.

Over the last month I feel we have learnt a lot as we have discussed the NESTA event at our Action Grouop meeting and Action group members have met with Katherine from NCVO to discuss the project and having this time to reflect on the project we all agree that there are ways we could have worked differently, that having more of a presence in the area or having regular NESTA events on certain days would have helped establish the project more.  Over this month we have been holding more community events such as walks and tree planting which have been planned and organised with local people but we are still coming up against the same apathy from residents which our local action grouop members find hard to fathom too.  Perhaps the colder weather does play a part but with flyers delivered to doors and offers of free food and trees we still can’t attract people to events.  This is still our biggest challenge and one I think we will only overcome after years rather than months but there is a feeling that maybe once activities are fully run by local people within their community they have a better chance of succeeding as they have the time and determination to get people involved and are a constant presence in the area.

The main source of pride this month has been our Community Champions event which was a real boost for people involved in the Neighbourhood Challenge and local community, many of these champions are part of submissions to the Challenge Prize so hopefully the event will give them the impetus to see their projects through and unearth the next group of community champions. 

Although in the next month we may not have the challenge of organising events we will certainly face more and varied challenges in helping support our Stage 2 applicants as this will be quite an intensive process and knowing when to get involved and when to step back will be an important learning curve.


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November 29, 2011 at 12:04 pm

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Celebrating our Community Champions

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Last night was a really positive night for Peat Carr and Moorsley as we held our Community Champions Celebration evening.  The purpose of the event was to recognise the contribution made by local volunteers and make local people more aware of what they do and hopefully encourage more people to take their lead.  The Deputy Mayor and Mayoress of Sunderland attended to give out the awards and this really helped raise the profile of the area and those volunteers as Peat Carr and Moorsley is an area the Mayoral team have not visited before but were keen to return to.

We had 15 nominations for Community Champion awards and they attended with their friends and family, many were nervous and apprehensive about accepting their awards but ultimately at the end of the night we had a lot of proud people who were bouyed by the fact that there is value placed on what they do and that it does not go unnoticed.

We hope now that this encourages the Community Champions to continue with their hard work but will also inspire their friends and neighbours to have a go.

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November 2, 2011 at 12:12 pm

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Lessons learnt

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It’s a time of ups and downs at the moment with our Neighbourhood Challenge, it feels as though so much is going on, it’s hard to keep up but at the same time it feels like things are slowing down, we’ve got quite a few events being organised at the moment but time is running out for our competition entries and frustration is creeping in with poor attendance at our gardening Make A Change events and having to rearrange our other two again and again until we are left facing just one week until the application deadline.   

We’ve got two established project ideas now with a third and possibly fourth on the way but having attended the NESTA event last week we can’t help but feel envious of other projects who have something like 30 project ideas coming forward!

The event was very useful as it helped us see some ways that we could have done things differently but also reassured us that in some cases our approach may be effective, one of the issues we discussed with other groups was how to get new people involved in the project, we’re really happy to see people who are already involved in community activities stepping up but would like to see those people who are not regular faces at event planning meetings or manning the tombola stall too.  We were concerned how we could attract these people and felt it wasn’t something that was happening.  From the event we learnt from talking about other group experiences that when first launching the prize and asking people their interests we really needed to get people to ‘sign up’ there and then as we have found with our football application, gathering people with a similar interest together and supporting them to form a project can be effective because as we know people need a little push from us to take the step towards making an application.  It appeared this was the most successful approach for other groups and with hindsight this may have helped us attract more applications after our initial Make A Change events. 

Although it can at times feel disheartening that we have not been inundated with projects for the competition it is really encouraging to see the people who have put an application together who are now starting to feel really excited about the prospect of running their own project which is a real step forward and I think that our way of working with the groups to support them to put their applications together and bring in people with knowledge linked to their idea will pay big dividends if they are successful as they will have really thought the project through.

Next month will be a busy one with community led events taking place such as walks, tree planting and a litter pick, our last two Make A Change events which have had to be frustratingly rescheduled, a Community Champions awards evening, celebrating the contribution of volunteers in Peat Carr and Moorsley and first stage judging of the applications.  Ideally these activities would have been more spread out over the year to again try and encourage people to come forward, however they are probably coming at the right time to help keep momentum going after the competition deadline as the groups will need support from an engaged and inspired community to turn their projects into reality.

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October 25, 2011 at 1:19 pm

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