IDEAS - IDEA01
|The thoughts that led to 'The Golden Valley Groups Initiative' and hence to the development of this site.
(a) It may seem reasonable to expect that people who have lived a long time in an area will know what is happening in and around that area ... but that is often not the case, even amongst those who play an active role in their community.
(b) Many community-support groups do an excellent job and are much respected. However, many of them are not good at supporting each other. The most common reason for that is very simple: most are run on a low budget with resources that are overstretched, often by part-time volunteers who are so busy that they can barely manage to keep on top of their own projects let alone spend time, effort or money on helping other projects.
The above thoughts were brought into focus when Peter, the founder of 'Golden Valley Groups', was thinking about how to help develop contacts between Dore Community Transport ("Dore CT") and other local community-support groups. In some ways, Dore CT is a typical community-support group. It is greatly appreciated by those who use it but most people (including many of those who work with other community-support groups) are not aware of what it can do. Consequently, it is not used as much, or supported as much, as it could/should be. It quickly became clear that:
- it would have to be shown to the busy people who run the other community-support groups that it would be in their interests to help Dore CT; that
- to do that would require some kind of initiative that would act independently of Dore CT and support all local community-support groups; and that
- as with so many other problems in Life, any solution would have to be based on simple Communication.
The Golden Valley in Herefordshire is fortunate in many ways. One is that there are a number of villages along the valley where there is a good sense of "Community". That sense used to be fostered by local churches and to varying extents that is still the case with, for example, parishes grouping together to produce magazines that help identify what is going on in their vicinity. However, it is a basic fact of Modern Life that churches no longer play a key role in most people's lives and that, increasingly, communication is most easily (and cheaply) dealt with using the Internet and Social Media i.e. web sites and things like Facebook. However, whilst he found several web sites and Facebook pages that support various types of activities around the Golden Valley, Peter could not find one that was dedicated to supporting all local community-support groups at grass-roots level. [He knew of HVOSS and soon came across Community First but they are not really grass-roots organisations.] As a result, he decided to set-up one - this one - to be informative & useful for ALL members of The Public but to be especially helpful for local community-support groups. That was Idea#01. It was quickly followed by the realisation that web sites are most effective when they are supported by occasional face-to-face meetings (see Idea#02 and Idea#06) and backed-up by visible reminders (see Idea#03).
Idea#01 was quickly tweaked by the acceptance that, for it to be likely that any initiative could be set-up and kept working over many years, it would have to be based on simple communication only and involve different age groups. We'll come to the former point in a moment. The latter point is not easy to deal with because it is a simple fact of Life that community-support groups are run by those who have enough free time to be able to spend the amount of time needed to make a difference and that often (albeit not always) makes it difficult to get the active support of those who are in work, whether that be in a career or at school or college or university or at home. That, in turn, often leads to the groups being dominated by elderly people and, sadly, that can put-off younger generations. So: how do we get around that? Let us not presume to try to answer that ourselves. We will need help with that (see Idea#07).
As for that comment above that the initiative should be based on "simple communication only": although it would be great if various forms of mutual-support resulted from our enhancement of communication between groups, that is not something that should directly involve us too much. Why? As otherwise we could quickly become involved in working closely with those community-support groups on a day-to-day basis. That may sound good but it would not be sustainable and it could easily lead to it being perceived that our Groups Initiative was interfering with the operation of those groups. It is no part of this initiative that it should interfere with other people's work. A reputation for that could quickly lead to a withdrawal of support. Keeping the initiative simple is key to its chances of success - and to its sustainability. We realised at the outset that, to start with at least, we should not try to do too much but should set up something that has a chance of being kept going over many years with minimum effort. This is not us being lazy! It is us being realistic in what we can do and in what we can keep on doing.