“We’ve got an enormous range of skills and expertise in the area.”

Community Builder Graeme Urlwin tells more about his work in Harpurhey and Moston. Continued from Awards With a Difference at Forever Manchester

I’m out in the community every week visiting places where people get together. For me, it’s an opportunity to meet new people who aren’t involved in community activity.

One of those places is the Wellbeing Centre where one of our LRG members, Joan Tipping, oversees a range of mostly creativity-based activities.

There’s a restaurant run by Mind, staffed by people who have been through the mental health system. People stay for lunch so it’s a good time to chat.

I met Danny who plays pool with a group of men three lunchtimes a week. They have all survived the mental health system and are keen to set up a football team.  A Cash 4 Graft has enabled them to buy a little bit of equipment and be independent from local football teams which are all a little too competitive for where they are at.

Val’s husband has dementia. She wanted to start a support group for people with dementia and their carers. A Cash 4 Graft helped fund some much needed resources to run the sessions.

Tom had recently been diagnosed with diabetes, and has found it difficult to get his head around. He used a Cash 4 Graft to get word out to people in a similar position and started a support group.

Larger grants from the Fourteen programme, still only £1,000, have helped support the many therapeutic sessions that take place at the centre.

All of these activities have stemmed from me ‘hanging about’, chatting to people and having a funding system that has no bureaucracy attached to it. Small amounts of money leading to significant benefits for a significant number of people.

So what happens when a bit more money is needed and the Fourteen programme has finished in the area? How are these new initiatives sustained?

People have been supported to think beyond just a financial need. Networks have been created where people are now more aware of small scale streams of cash such as those distributed by Forever Manchester, and the Neighbourhood Investments Funds from the City Council.

More significantly, the LRG has a new initiative developing called ‘The Big Meet,’ which will grow and grow even after Forever Manchester has left the area.

The Big Meet brings together all of the community-based activity – about 70 groups in Harpurhey and Moston –  to support each other with governance, the law, policy-making, fundraising, marketing and social media.

Seventy groups equates to hundreds of people and an enormous range of skills and expertise that can be pooled and shared. It’s not all about money.

Graeme is pictured at The WellBeing Centre, Harpurhey with Joan Tipping, left and Val Meakin.

Awards with a difference at Forever Manchester

Community Builder Graeme Urlwin tells why Forever Manchester’s approach is different.

Before I came to Forever Manchester I was at the other end of the funding process.  I was the  person writing the bids.

If successful, the money would soon be spent and it was time to start making new bids to continue the new activity the original bid had funded.

It’s an eternal treadmill and many funding-dependent organisations have folded over the last few years as funding sources have dried up.

At Forever Manchester there is a focus upon assets and how the pooling of skills and resources can lessen the need for funding.

When I came to Forever Manchester and was introduced to Cash 4 Graft – awards of £250 for grass roots start-up activity – I was sceptical. ‘What can £250 do?’

Over the last 18 months I’ve learnt that £250 can do a lot and that interesting things happen without a great big fat grant behind them.

Cash 4 Graft is designed to support local people to get an activity off the ground in their locality. They don’t have to be a formal group, have a constitution or even a bank account, just four people behind a good idea.

There’s a simple application form and, when successful, you’re given a credit card with £250 already on it, so there’s no worry about overspending. The whole process can be turned around in just over a week.

Since I’ve been working in Harpurhey and Moston Cash 4 Graft has helped set up a diabetes support group; take 45 kids to the local panto; support the development of a new foodbank; bring a disparate community together on a housing estate; help a dementia group buy some resources; funded craft sessions with older people. The list goes on.

But for me it’s not necessarily about the activity that is supported, it’s more about the process of applying for a Cash 4 Graft, and what that achieves for the people involved.

When local people discover that there’s a bit of money available, and it’s exclusive to them, it gets them thinking about what they could do. That leads to new ideas and enthusiasm and the money becomes irrelevant.

With the pooling of resources and skills, and a bit of begging and borrowing, their idea can happen without the need for funding.

The process has shown them that ‘we can’t afford to do it’ is no longer a valid reason for not doing something. The process itself gives groups and individuals confidence.

Local people coming to us for an application form are usually completely new to anything like that. Just the thought of sitting down to write a funding application can be daunting. But having done it, and been awarded the money, gives people confidence and self-belief which carries them forward.

To make a Cash 4 Graft application from Forever Manchester click here

More from Graeme next week as he tells how local people have benefited from Cash 4 Graft awards.

Photo by Anthony Bradley.