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Helping Nottinghamshire Sparkle: Exploring ways to enhance communities and skills for all


  • Picture of Mimi Errington FRSA
    Mimi Errington FRSA
  • Picture of Robert Mayo FRSA
    Robert Mayo FRSA
  • Employment
  • Communities
  • Community engagement
  • Public services

Our projects will improve the physical environment, adding ‘sparkle’ in the neediest communities. Teams of ‘Sparklers’ gain valuable work experience and a sense of pride in themselves and their communities, providing support by keeping communal areas clean and tidy. Further services such as gardening, light maintenance, painting, decorating and befriending are also provided.

In Nottinghamshire, Community Sparkle has been set up to help the very long-term unemployed in Bassetlaw, Mansfield and Sutton-in-Ashfield Districts gain both experience and skills through supported work placements that make them employable while providing services to deprived areas of local communities.

An RSA Catalyst Award kick-started this CIC partnership. The partners, A1 Housing, Bassetlaw Community Voluntary Service, Hope Community Services, The RSA, The Welbeck Estate and Workpays Ltd, have a shared interest in helping long-term unemployed people, a spread of expertise in the field and/or the means to facilitate apprenticeships, training, learning and job opportunities and to provide a broad range of work placements.


What sparked Community Sparkle?
Founder Directors Robert Mayo, RSA Fellow and Development Director for the Welbeck Estate, and Helen Richardson, Managing Director of Workpays (a broker and intermediary between employers, learners and people seeking to enter the world of work), found that available work placements do not necessarily suit those who have been unemployed for years and that some, even after completing the government’s two-year Jobcentre Plus Work Programme, still lack relevant experience and basic skills. Without these, individuals’ confidence and their usefulness to the workplace shrink to nothing.

The partners’ response was Community Sparkle, an organisation that gives people who are furthest from the labour market a second chance to prepare for work through a programme of supported work placement, training and assisted job search in their local community.

Our aim is to improve participants’ self-discipline, pride and sense of teamwork. Skilled and knowledgeable project managers who understand acceptable workplace habits, such as arriving on time, working hard and being suitably prepared for work, help participants re-learn these habits in supportive environments that improve confidence and self-esteem.

In addition to personal growth, participants will be able to improve their CV and learn interview and job-seeking skills.


Where we are
Community Sparkle launched in Bassetlaw last October. Within two months, we secured work placements for 32 participants – or Sparklers - and three full-time jobs. The Sparklers have carried out decorating work on a playschool building and done various jobs as part of the transformation of a disused, derelict Drill Hall in Worksop into a youth centre and storage area for a charity.

Our programme aims for every Sparkler, over a period of up to six months, to gain the skills necessary to then enter into a more general work placement (for example working in a charity shop) or, ideally, to find full time employment.

To achieve this, teams of 10 to 15 Sparklers work 30 hours over four days each week on projects, such as painting community centres, carrying out gardening work, light maintenance and cleaning up outdoor spaces. On Fridays, they learn employability skills and are helped with job searches.

Our aims have coincided with a District Council need. Recent Council austerity measures in Bassetlaw, Mansfield and Sutton-in-Ashfield Districts have significantly reduced the number of their community services.
These cuts, along with increased unemployment in deprived areas, have created a cycle of community neglect and loss of neighbourhood pride and respect. The District Councils want to address this problem. They see Community Sparkle as an ally and are co-operating and supporting us wherever possible.


Where we are going

  • We plan to run teams of Sparklers in three Districts, with a total of 40 on the programme at any one time. We anticipate that the average Sparkler will spend eight weeks on a project before progressing onwards, letting us provide work placements for 240 people every year and hopefully place 48 in full time employment

  • We plan to open a ‘Ready for Work Wear’ shop in the Bellamy Road Estate in Mansfield offering free clothing for job interviews or the first few weeks of work for those who cannot afford them. The shop can also provide excellent work placements for Sparklers to collect clothes, wash and iron them, display them in the shop and serve customers

  • We have applied for a grant to purchase a minibus, to transport Sparklers to and from projects

  • Because Community Sparkle is a transferrable programme, we will be going where relevant need takes us


Please contact Robert Mayo FRSA via the comments section of this blog for further details on this work.

Don't forget you can stay up to date with the RSA's work on Public Services and Communities via our new newsletter. To sign up and hear more about RSA work in this area by contacting Joanna Massie RSA Project Engagement Manager.

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