Brixham Youth Enquiry Service

A Neighbourhood Challenge Project

February Blog

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What’s happened this month?

We have completed our social prize challenge in Brixham and our independent judging panel of local people have chosen the 6 prize winning projects; each to win £3,500 to continue their projects within our community.  We’ve done it!

Brief outline of the process

Last spring, we put out a call for ideas, ran a series of outreach events, networking workshops, learning conversations, group talks, radio interviews and promotion through various local publications, to raise awareness of the challenge.   We devised the challenge criteria and an application process; offering support to people to come together and apply.  In July, our independent panel of eight judges, a mix of local people – two local business people, a minister, retired judge, taxi company owner, charity chair, business consultant, photographer – chose 36 of over 50 projects who applied to take part in our 6 month challenge, competing to develop new projects to ‘improve life in Brixham’.

From the outset, all projects confirmed which challenge criteria they proposed to meet and how they intended to do so; our focus was upon developing young entrepreneurs, intergenerational micro-enterprises and community action groups.  We had £24,000 to share between the projects as ‘kick start cash’.  At the beginning of the challenge we met with each of the projects to run through a simple agreement, decide upon their training needs, set achievable milestones, gather information for a baseline; gauging their personal well being, their confidence in themselves and their project idea, and to set a series of scores over a range of indicators which would then become our baseline measurement and part of our eventual distance travelled toolkit for each project.

In line with support requests gathered at those initial, target setting meetings, we then devised a training programme of personal and professional development sessions, team building events, inspirational speakers, one to one mentoring and community gatherings.  All volunteers from every project were invited to sign up to as much, or as little, as they wished.

Each project had a key community organiser working alongside them, to support where necessary; signposting to other local activities, linking people and volunteers, arranging visits to other groups and project-specific training or networking opportunities.  Many projects chose to run their projects from The Edge, our centre for multigenerational activities and sharing.

Throughout the challenge our community organisers made contact with all the projects on, at least, a monthly basis to check progress and project direction and offer support, advice, signposting and eat cake.

In November, all projects had a mid-challenge review, at which point we gathered well being and distance travelled data from the project leaders and key volunteers. We asked a range of simple, open questions around impact, reach and achievement; from this information we scored each project, determining ‘added value’ from the initial scoring taken when the project began back in July.

The same process was followed in February at the end of the challenge period.  At this point, however, we asked broader questions including potential wider reach of the project should they win one of the prizes, alongside what the project would do if they weren’t one of the cash prize winners.

We then gathered all the data, scores, feedback, comments for all the projects and collated this into a document for the judges to help them make their decision as to the prize winners.

Project Summary Sheets

Final NC Spreadsheets

Challenge Criteria Examples

By the end of the challenge, 26 projects remained as strong competitors, all meeting the basic challenge requirements and chose to take part in our ‘final show & tell’ to the judging panel.  This took the form of an afternoon at The Edge when each project set up their own ‘market stall’ to promote their project; photos, DVDs, artistic time lines, things they’d made, stories of people who had benefited, food to share, activities to try.  It was just an inspiration; so much energy, so much sharing, so much connecting.

In addition to the market stall, some projects chose to do a 5 minute presentation to the judging panel and everyone else at the event; others chose, instead, to sit on the ‘sofa of enquiry’ and have a more informal chat with one of the judges during the afternoon.

The following evening, the judging panel met with the community organisers to make their decisions.  The community organisers were there to support the decision making process and help with any questions around the challenge criteria, scoring information or general project information.

After three hours, the judges had chosen 6 prize winners  –

  • BYTES (Brixham Young People’s Training and Employment Service)
  • Upcycling
  • The Edge Training Kitchen
  • Juicy Theatre
  • BEST (Brixham Edge Sports Tasters)
  • Forgotten Crafts

Neighbourhood Challenge Winners

Along with seven young people to receive special awards for either ‘outstanding contribution to community cohesion’ or ‘impressive demonstration of entrepreneurial skills’.  Each of these young people had led/co-led a new project –

  • Katie Harper – Spotlight (drama)
  • Kyle Perkins – Parkour Experiences: Brixham Chapter
  • Becky Bedford – Community We Care (club for people of all abilities)
  • Harry Bower – DJ Outreach (taking music into residential homes and into the community)
  • Millie Bower – Millie and Me (Event management and coffee house business)
  • Zanalee Barton – Indigos Cooking Club (intergenerational cake making)
  • Ivan Slipper – Role Playing at The Edge (fantasy gaming clubs)

The judges wrote out to every project, sending the letters at the same time.  Samples of each letter are shown here –

NC Prize Winners Letter

NC Unsuccessful Letter

NC Special Award Letters

Our next event is the Brix Awards (an annual spoof on the Brit Awards) on Wednesday 21st March when the prize winners will be awarded their prizes and special awards given out, alongside recognition for community contributions by young people from a number of local groups; organised by Brixham Young Volunteers, the Brix is also a time to acknowledge adults in our community who give their time, love, energy and commitment to our young people – these people are given gold bricks.

What have you learnt?

It would’ve been better to have found a way of having more time to enjoy and celebrate the amount of effort put into the ‘show & tell’ event on Sunday afternoon.  It was one of those days you want to capture in time and savour again and again.  So many people gave so much that day and there was too little time to really celebrate what had been achieved.   Mind you, with 26 projects, you’d need a whole weekend to do it justice.  Because the day was the culmination of the process and, primarily, an opportunity for the judges to speak with people, it felt a bit rushed which is a pity.

Recognition and Celebration are critical. We need to find another way of promoting all of this work. It really matters.  The prize winners will have their celebration at The Brix which will be great, but for those who haven’t won a prize, I think they might be feeling quite deflated at the moment.

We have our Reflection and Celebration workshop with ICARUS on the 31st March.

The past few months have been an absolute roller-coaster.  Our charity is a small, local charity with a big reputation.  Just prior to our successful bid to the Neighbourhood Challenge we chose to expand and move to larger premises; an old, vacant, disused – and very damp- church.  Our growth, reach, expansion and project developments over the past year have been staggering.  So much is happening, so quickly, that it’s been a challenge to capture it as we go – like trying to hold a shaft of sunlight.

One of my greatest pieces of learning over the past few months is just how pressurised this work can be; a few key people juggling way too much and giving hours and hours of their time, voluntarily.  The seemingly simple task of writing a blog – which could be enjoyable, fun and satisfying – has become, for me, my nemesis.  Sounds dramatic, I know, but, with so much to do, blogging has always been shunted to the bottom of my list.

What’s been challenging?

In truth, the Neighbourhood Challenge has been the least of our challenges in recent months!  What it has done is given us the opportunity, and focus, to model an approach which is clearly evidencing the impact of trusting people – of all ages, from all walks of life – to develop their project ideas.  This has come at such an opportune time for Torbay.

Just as we began our challenge, last July, we were advised that the local authority would no longer be able to financially support our charity; our programme manager who was on secondment from the council (and had been for many years as part of a Service Level Agreement) would be made redundant and we would no longer be receiving any funding from the council for our provision, within months.

Our focus since then has been on developing our strategy for securing investment, contracts and trading  to ensure the sustainability of our much-needed services to the community in the future.

We have had to raise our profile locally and have spent considerable time networking with the local authority and elected members to ensure the value and importance of our work is recognised and becomes key to developments over the next year; with massive cuts and reorganisation of the youth service, we are working very strategically to ensure the voice – and value – of the voluntary sector and the future of our young people, is recognised .

Last November, the TORCOM (Torbay Community) Children and Young People’s Consortium, met to discuss the ‘Developing Social Impact’ work package; a plan which is to be written to demonstrate the impact on social capital of the voluntary and community organisations in Torbay.  This is part of the CPIP (Children’s Partnership Improvement Plan), under the ‘Involving the Community and using Knowledge and Skills’ project which the local authority are devising as part of their safeguarding plans.  As a result of this initial meeting, Brixham YES and Play Torbay organised an ABCD 2 day event, Dare to Dream (title taken from the Manchester Community Foundation event) hosted by Cormac Russel of Nurture Develoment; funded by NESTA and  The BIG Lottery.  This was held at the end of January.  The purpose and timing of this event was to influence local authority thinking around how to involve communities and how best to spend the ever diminishing financial resources available to us all, keeping a focus on reaching communities and working more smartly one with another.

Dare to Dream attracted 150 people from across Torbay including the deputy CEO, Director of Children’s Services, deputy mayor, other elected members, commissioners, charity trustees and CEOs and a great band of community volunteers of all ages.

The outcome of the event was –

  • a commitment by the Director of Children’s Services to support a community of practice developing the ABCD approach across Torbay
  • to hold an event to promote ABCD for all the elected members (27th March)
  • to work towards removing red tape so that community events/projects can be more possible

Our first gathering of Conference Connectors was held in February and over 30 people are now actively involved in promoting ABCD as the way forward, developing strength  based approaches as the cornerstone of all community initiatives; and, as a direct result of Dare to Dream, the CVA and Community Partnerships are considering their structures and looking to develop a more workable model, equitably with the local authority, to ensure that grass roots community impacts are recognised and valued at a strategic level,– without layers of prohibitive beaurocracy diluting the messages and diminishing the impact.

The tide is turning.  This is a revolution because it’s accessible, tangible and replicable.

What are you most proud of?

Juggling –

  • the practical redevelopment of our new home – The Edge and growing our community cafe
  • increasing its use to 6 days a week, 5 nights a week, every week, with over 50 groups having used in since last March; hosting over 500 hours of community events (in addition to our regular weekly activites)
  • nurturing our fledgling Neighbourhood Challenge projects and supporting their growth,
  • seeing two of them become businesses as a direct result of the challenge,
  • Spearheading strength based approaches across Torbay – being bold, speaking out
  • Influencing local authority practice and becoming a key partner in community improvement planning
  • Developing links with Job Centre Plus and securing a small amount of funding, through the South West Foundation, to help us expand our work with unemployed young people
  • More people getting involved, sharing their time and enjoying the environment at The Edge; seeking us out
  • Giving a home to someone who was living rough; who, in exchange, gives us fresh fish for our cafe, helps clean and has become our friend
  • Supporting other rough sleepers into rented accommodation
  • Being a safe haven for people with mental health issues or learning needs; somewhere to be accepted just the way we are
  • Being there for people in time of need and offering practical, meaningful, purposeful ways of becoming involved at The Edge and elsewhere in our community;  a route to wellness through ‘doing’
  • Opening a FoodBank this coming month
  • Seeing unlikely friendships emerge – multigenerational, multicultural; just human beings finding kinship in their own way, in their own time
  • Being brave enough to use the word that four letter word – ‘love’ – for what goes on here

YES Presentation click here for our YES Presentation


Written by andrewbxyes

March 5, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Fantastic blog! I’m exhausted reading it – but that could be something to do with the stress of our own NC project! Thanks for all the tips – we’re gearing up to our Challenge Awards night on 28 March. Be good to catch up with you at the NESTA event in London and swap experiences.

    Jenny French (Lower Green Neighbourhood Challenge)

    March 14, 2012 at 10:04 pm

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