Community Spirit: Essex Community Foundation
ECF works with people, families, companies, trusts and public agencies, managing charitable funds on their behalf, helping them to support the local causes that matter to them, so they can give with confidence.
This year ECF published its first Community Listening Project report*, which conveyed the experiences of 35 charities in Essex. One of the areas highlighted is how important a sense of belonging and inclusion is to thriving communities.
Andy Payne Worpole, Head of Grants and Programmes at ECF (pictured above ), said, “Organisations viewed our role in supporting them to thrive, as not only providing grants, but also building relationships with them, listening and responding to their needs and supporting small and grassroots groups, particularly those who are marginalised and historically underrepresented.
“This first Community Listening report has been so successful that we are now working with partners to better understand how the current cost of living crisis will impact charities, and how we can continue to help them through the difficult winter months ahead.”
Key findings from the report included:
- A key aspect of Thriving Communities is a sense of belonging and inclusion. The term ‘thriving’ was often understood to describe a realistic state of wellbeing: not one with an absence of problems, but one where problems could be overcome in appropriate and timely ways that prevented them from escalating to the point of crisis.
- Being part of a community by default (such as where you happen to live, or your particular faith) was not sufficient for a community to thrive. Members of thriving communities felt that they belonged; that they could develop healthy social networks within the community, that there was a shared commonality of experience, and that there were shared aspirations for the future of that community.
- Organisations said a sense of belonging and inclusion allowed for the confidence and empowerment needed for people to be active participants in their communities. Organisations themselves considered their role in this to be multi-faceted, from hosting social groups and befriending services, to providing a non-judgemental and accepting environment.
- An intersectional approach was key to creating a sense of belonging; for example, a recognition of the fact that people are complex, often belonging to multiple communities at the same time, and therefore experiencing multiple needs that cannot be addressed holistically, when only one aspect of their lived experience is considered.
Andy added, “Many of the funds we manage, help local charities to support people who might otherwise face exclusion from their local community. During the year, ECF partnered with East of England Co-op, to award £35,000 in grants from their Community Cares Fund.
“The programme focussed on mental health and wellbeing, food justice and local community action, and the funding provided a huge boost to charities that were contributing to inclusivity in Essex.”
There are a multitude of charities supported by ECF every day, and here is a small snapshot of some of them:
One Community Development Trust based in Tilbury, is a charity that helps people to work together, to achieve the best for themselves and their community. Their ‘Headstart to Employment’ project, supports local people who face multiple barriers accessing paid work. Some of the ways they do this is by helping people find job opportunities, submitting applications, preparing for interviews, and providing English improvement lessons where English is not their first language. This project works with local businesses, colleges, and other charities to support people into paid employment, training, or volunteering. During Covid-19, One Community developed a relationship with Amazon, who had a recruitment drive locally, and supported people to access online interviews where they had no IT at home.
Headway Essex helps adults with acquired brain injury and their families living in Essex. Each year, around 9,000 people are admitted to Essex hospitals with a brain-related condition. Headway Essex encourages independence through a wide range of activities and support. Their centres offer a safe, supported and inclusive space, that encourages socialising and communication. They offer a wide range of activities including daily living skills, cooking, social groups, as well as helping with jobs and education. All of which helps people with acquired brain injury; increase their independence, feel less isolated, and improve their mental health and wellbeing.
“By venturing into the community, people can develop networks and friendships that can support them in the future. With newfound confidence that develops through the social group activities, they go on to take a more active role in their community through volunteering and for some the chance to return to work.”
Joanne Hockey, Trusts and Grants Manager at Headway
City of Chelmsford Mencap Society helps to nurture, empower and celebrate individuals with learning disabilities of any age, by enabling their own unique sense of belonging, dignity, resilience, independence and achievement. This is reflected across all projects and the support they offer. They provide holidays and playschemes, helping families to access respite and care, which may not be possible through mainstream provision. They also provide advice and advocacy for families when accessing education and healthcare, as well as sports and leisure activities through their Outreach Academy which helps to build skills. To celebrate the Platinum Jubilee, they led an art exhibition to help those with learning disabilities to explore and make art. This celebrated talents and addressed barriers for people who often feel excluded from creative culture.
Support 4 Sight is based in West Essex. With only 20% of blind and partially sighted people in the UK in work, Support 4 Sight recently received a national award, recognising their Support for Employment programme, which helps people in Essex to find and retain work. This programme is now being rolled out nationwide
*To view the full report visit https://www.essexcommunityfoundation.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Community-Listening-Project-Full-Report.pdf