Creating an impact and giving people a strong voice
Reflecting on a successful (and challenging) year
CommCats, like every other Community Interest Company, is required to write a report each year about the impact of our activities on the people we aim to help. This is published as part of our annual report and is full of statistics about everything that we have done that year. Those numbers are useful, but we have always felt that they hid, as much as they highlighted all the amazing projects that we have run and the people that we have had the privilege to support.
I am delighted then that this year we have been able to publish a very different impact report – one that still has all those numbers, but which in various ways has been able to shine a spotlight on the people behind the numbers. It has been a particular pleasure as I am in the last few weeks of my time with CommCats, and this report has provided a great opportunity to reflect on all that CommCats’ people have been able to achieve over this last uniquely difficult year.
Despite this terrible pandemic, our organisation saw significant growth last year with a number of new contracts to help local areas create the environment needed to allow community micro-enterprise to flourish. The Local Area Coordination Network stayed strong, despite the refocusing of many Local Area Coordinators on co-ordinating community action. We worked with a number of local authorities and providers to help them work differently with the strengths of the people they support. We gained a Covid-19 grant for a wonderful project called Valuable and Vulnerable, which had a focus close to my own heart – challenging the stereotype of vulnerability among people who were shielding.
I am proudest though, of the way in which our staff and community micro-enterprises adapted to the pandemic, barely missing a beat as they moved to a very different way of working.
The virtual working platforms allowed us to meet, run events, workshops and courses, and publish podcast interviews. Many of our community micro-enterprises were front-line workers and our Catalysts worked hard to help them navigate the rules and get the equipment they needed to stay safe. Other enterprise leaders moved their services online and, to help them, we launched The Buzz – a platform for community micro-enterprises keen to work virtually. Changing the way in which you deliver services takes not just time but money, and we were so pleased to be able to run a grants programme to help with that diversification.
As the report itself says:
“At the beginning of the pandemic, we quickly changed our way of working and have worked virtually for much of the year. We have worked creatively and imaginatively to ensure that our activities continue to have a positive impact on people’s lives.”
The horrors of 2020/21 have affected all Community Catalysts people in one way or another, but we have also been privileged to be involved in some wonderful projects and programmes with many truly inspirational people. We have continued to develop new ways of working, extending our offer to both younger and older people.
I am moving on to a new phase of my life, but I know CommCats will go from strength to strength under the leadership of Pip Cannons. I’m looking forward very much to seeing our new developments become part of business as usual – and what happens next (but from afar Pip – I promise!)
Outgoing CEO at Community Catalysts
Sharing our impact
Our interactive impact report for 2020-21 touches on the challenges of the pandemic and covers all our work streams – Communities Care, People Can, Innovators Learn. We also share our impact from across the Community Catalysts’ family, including our work with Small Good Stuff and the Local Area Coordination Network.
Bringing community enterprise to younger people with a learning disability
We’ve recently extended our offer of support to community enterprises who work, or want to work, with younger people (in the Preparation for Adult age bracket of 14+ years old).
We have a long track record of providing specialist technical advice and guidance for enterprise leaders around regulation and legislation but to date, our focus has been on those enterprises who support older people and adults with a disability. We were aware that many of those amazing community enterprises who already support adults with a learning disability would be great for younger people too. Extending their offers would also help to prevent that “cliff-edge” at the age of 18 when people move from children’s to adult services…
…So, we’ve honed our skills, provided specialist training and in-depth guidance to our team of Catalysts and launched a new offer supporting those community enterprises working with 14+ year olds. We’ve also been linking in and building connections with the Preparation For Adult teams.
It has been great to see the collaboration between the Preparation for Adulthood Team and Community Catalysts…I have been particularly pleased to see the way that young people themselves have been involved in shaping the programme and co-producing the activities on offer.
John Williams (Assistant Director of Adult Social Care Birmingham City Council)
Voices for colourful lives
Through our partnership project with Borough Care we’re supporting care home residents and their families to give a strong voice in the way services are designed and run.
The project has been running since October and, while it’s been a particular challenge to connect with and really engage with relatives through the pandemic, by working creatively we’ve managed to form a core group of about eight family members who have been very supportive.
We’ve also learnt that family members’ concerns may sometimes be different from those of their loved ones. For example, people living in Borough Care homes were keen to talk about food, drinks and mealtimes and their opinions were strong and varied on this subject, but their family members shared views on other topics.
This is a ground-breaking and exciting project for us and we are so pleased to be working with Borough Care and the people it supports to learn, create, and develop new ways of working together.
The Borough Care board and senior team have been amazing, showing a willingness throughout to help us to create a process that works. They have shown a real commitment to hear challenging and even dissenting voices, to reflect on the practice of the organisation and to take prompt action to improve what they do
Clare Slatter (Project Worker)