On Saturday, Fellows helped their local MP Tristram Hunt to host a day bringing together a diverse audience of Stoke’s private, public and third sectors. Around 80 people turned up to share successes, make connections, and think up future collaborations.
The MP invited Lord Glasman made a keynote speech emphasising that we need to build relationships across the community. He argued that "only through harnessing the power of relationships, rather than the power of money (private sector) and the power of the state (public sector), can we tackle the problems that face our communities".
(More on Maurice Glasman and Fellowship in a later post).
He cited some (admittedly) unscientific research from political party meetings which said that on average there were only 12 attendees, and, shockingly, only 5 would either speak or vote. He saw this as symptomatic of the lack of democracy in public as well as private institutions. Contrary to this, the event format made it easy for all participants to share their story, with the aim of building connections and collaborations that would continue in the future. Six workshops let experts from social media, business, community asset transfer, social enterprise and education share their lessons and offer advice to participants.
As well as building relationships on the day, there was a concerted focus on making sure activity continued beyond the meeting. To this end, one of the dozen Fellows there Clare White FRSA along with the RSA’s Senior Networks Manager Vivs Long-Ferguson led a session where people exchanged new ideas for initiatives and offers for support. Among those offering support were:
- The chair of governors at Stoke-on-Trent college offered students happy to fundraise on behalf of local initiatives
- A local resident connected to Meanwhile willing to help people who are looking to temporarily use empty shops
- The community outreach officer from Tesco set out how he soon hopes for free Wi-Fi to be installed and talked with local businesses about how they might make use of this
Fellows working for Staffordshire University offered local initiatives spaces and potentially student labour if it fits in their course
Among those mentioning their initiatives were local residents running arts projects in disused spaces and wanting to start up a food bank as well as a community group looking for a new space. (More on one local social enterprise The Ethical Computer Company in a later post)
Here, one participant describes the connections he made with a credit union and food bank:
At the end of the event, the leader of the local YMCA branch got everyone off their seats to arrange a meeting with someone they had met at the event to explore a mutual interest they had discovered. I will put in the number of meetings arranged at the end of the week.
If you have lessons to share from your area, please visit the conversation continuing on Stoke Stories’ facebook page.
Or if you are a Fellow and want to put a similar event on where you live, please get in touch with your Fellowship Networks Manager.