If you’re reading my blog you are probably familiar with Community Lincs and some of the work we do and you are also probably interested in things that have an impact on rural communities. What you might not be aware of is the fact that Community Lincs is part of a national network of charities that supports rural communities all over England. Our network is one of the few that still receives funding from a Government department – in our case Defra; and we like to think this is because they really value us and the work that we do for thousands of people living in rural locations.
There are 38 of us at a county level all supported by our national body ACRE and we provide a wide range of support, advice and direct help to 52,000 voluntary and community groups delivering important everyday services. Between us we have 800 staff and 340 committed trustees and our combined turnover is £33.4 million. That’s enough to do an awful lot of good in rural England. The ACRE annual review for 2015/16 highlights some of our work and achievements and provides a really good insight into the wide ranging expertise we have at our fingertips.
I’ve recently spent quite a bit of time driving around the country visiting our sister charities in the south west. Like us they are independent rural community development charities and part of the national ACRE Network but each one is subtly different from the others. Each charity was established by local people in response to local needs and demands and as a result they offer different services; and yet there is a common thread that links us all together. Over time these charities have come together to form our national network and this network is unique – 39 members covering the whole of England, dedicated to improving quality of life and life chances for rural people.
Our predecessors recognised the strength that came from working in partnership with others and strove to help local communities benefit form a national support system. Many good things have resulted from this including the development of shared projects and best practice, the creation of other charities such as the Community Foundations; and the provision of top class support for thousands of community owned assets. All of which has been underpinned by our network contract with Defra.
2017 is going to be an interesting year for Community Lincs as we struggle with the questions what should we be doing and how are we going to pay for it. This is our 90th year and it feels as if our services and skills are going to be in more demand than ever before. Helping self-reliant and compassionate people to set up Good Neighbours Schemes, commissioning new services to reduce the isolation experienced by older people and working with communities to plan for their future economic and social needs are all massively relevant right now. Particularly in rural Lincolnshire where it’s so hard to access services and jobs; and now with the Brexit referendum having thrown so much up in the air I fear that the needs of rural communities will become even harder to see.
We recently surveyed our service users and beneficiaries to assess what they knew about us and how they valued us and I have to admit to feeling a bit disappointed by the response. It wasn’t so much that they didn’t appreciate and value what we do, it was more that so few people took the time to let us know what they thought. I have to consider whether this was because they really didn’t like what we were doing but were too polite to say or whether it was because we just don’t figure largely enough in their universe, when I really think that we should.
I certainly do, I love having my children near me, all the good food and wine, time off from work to relax and a bit of peace and tranquillity. But it hasn’t always been so and I appreciate every privilege that I have in my life now. I was reflecting on this recently having read a post on a friend’s Facebook profile which read thus:
Some thoughts as we enter the holiday season. It is important to remember that not everyone is looking forward to Christmas. Some people are not surrounded by large wonderful families. Some people can’t buy their kids one present never mind a full living room or some people will get into debt trying. Some of us have problems during the holidays and are overcome with great sadness when we remember the loved ones who are not with us. For many it is their first Christmas without a particular loved one and many others lost loved ones at Christmas. And, many people have no one to spend these times with and are besieged by loneliness. We all need caring, loving thoughts right now.
Last week we welcomed over 100 business women to the second Women’s Enterprise Day #WED_EM16. The event was once again held in the splendid Belton Woods Hotel and we were all thoroughly spoiled – by the speakers as well as the food. Delegates at the Global Entrepreneurship Week event were encouraged to make the most of the packed day, which featured six high-flying speakers, nine special workshops, a “living library” of experts, artisan trade stands, networking and lunch.
Keynote speaker Lincolnshire Co-op Chief Executive Officer Ursula Lidbetter MBE, who was recently presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award in the Lincolnshire Business Awards kicked-off an inspirational day.