Transition Stroud Newsletter Editor Josephine Murray (JM) talks to Miranda Eeles (ME), Project Lead for Stroud District’s Community Hubs.
See below for three things you can do today!
JM: What do the Hubs do?
ME: Community Hubs are organisations that act as a central point of contact and support for their communities. They come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from a charity with more than 20 staff to a community association run by less than 10 volunteers. At the heart of all of them are relationships based on trust with people coming together to self-organise to make their area a better and kinder place to live.
In normal times, Hubs can be connectors of people, communities, local groups, social enterprises and voluntary sector organisations and a place where people can find warmth and friendship, positive things to do, acquire new skills, share their expertise and get help and advice on food, housing, finances, health and wellbeing.
In emergencies, the larger, more established Hubs can very swiftly turn into coordination centres, mobilising different organisations together to plan action and deliver targeted support. They can help in recruiting and managing volunteers, lead on Safeguarding or become fiscal hosts, enabling smaller, grassroots groups get on with supporting their communities without having to become constituted or filling in endless funding applications.
Most if not all hubs have some kind of food offer, bringing people together to prepare and or share a meal, eat in a community cafe, or run a small food pantry to support individuals and families who may need to access emergency food provision.
JM: Can you tell TS readers about some current and recent Hub work and projects?
ME: All of the hubs are supporting their communities in the current cost of living crisis. This could be through hosting advice agencies such as Clean Slate, Citizens Advice or Warm and Well, to ensure families and individuals get the support they need or increasing their warm space provision by adding fun activities for community members to participate in while offering a hot meal and free wifi at the same time.
To help meet the costs incurred, Creative Sustainability has recently launched a funding platform called Stroud District Warm Spaces. This makes it easier for both community groups and venues to access funding and for donors, whether they are private individuals, trusts or local authority, to see how and where their money is being spent. Stroud District Council will pay each group £200 to kick start their fundraising efforts. Alongside this, we have developed a map of current warm spaces to support signposting and identify gaps in coverage so that attention can be paid to those areas that have limited or no warm spaces on offer.
One really exciting initiative that has emerged over the last year is the formation of a collective called NoSH – Network of Stroud (town) Hubs – that aims to share resources, develop new partnerships and collaborate on joint funding applications.
A successful application by NoSH to the County Council’s Build Back Better scheme, through Councillor David Drew, has led to the recruitment of a Food Management Coordinator that will be hosted by Paganhill Community Group but working for 5 Hubs based in Stroud Town and Marah. The person will develop the food offer for families and people on low incomes across the town, coordinate logistics and work with local food producers and businesses to build a more resilient and locally sourced food system.
JM: What does your role involve?
ME: I started in June 2021, following research carried out in the first three months of the pandemic by Creative Sustainability that looked at how community organisations and groups responded to the emergency and the challenges they faced in the process. One of the recommendations was to create a role that looked at how to build resilience through a network of community hubs across the district, informed by lessons learned during the pandemic.
From the start, it became clear that the project needed to be seen as part of a ‘system’ that required change. Change in how the public sector engages with the community, how resources and power are shared and how decisions are made. I brought together a Steering Group that reflected as many parts of the system as possible so that change could start to happen at all levels. Members are representatives from county, district and town councils, the NHS, a local funder and three community organisations.
As well as working within the system, the role also involves supporting groups to self-organise, build connections in their community as well as each other, and develop resources to help them evolve. These are all freely available on the Creative Sustainability website.
JM: What are the future plans for the Hubs?
ME: Continuing to support the Warm Space initiative for the winter 2022-23 and then working on a number of priorities identified by the Community Hubs Working Group including: producing a costed plan, informed by the pandemic and the last 18 months for fundraising purposes; continuing to map coverage of the district and supporting the more rural areas in community engagement and building connections and developing tools and methodologies to capture the impact of Hubs and community groups on areas such as health and wellbeing, resilience and social connectedness.
|Three Things You Can Do Today|
1. Contact your nearest hub and connect with them in whatever way you can. This could be by enjoying a meal with others at a community cafe (and being generous with your donation!) offering to help in running their activities, sourcing local and or surplus produce for their food provision or sharing whatever skill or asset you have that may be of interest to others in the community.
2. Donate directly to a Hub of your choice (most Hubs have ‘donate’ buttons on their websites) or via the recently launched Stroud District Warm Spaces platform to help them support their community.
3. Advocate on their behalf and spread the word. All the hubs need resources – to pay for staff, enjoy security of tenure and run activities
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If you would like to share your sustainable living story, please contact Josephine on firstname.lastname@example.org