Royal Voluntary Service's Steering Group conference

Steering Group members from six Local People projects supported by Royal Voluntary Service came together to celebrate, connect and share.

In May, Royal Voluntary Service held their first ever Steering Group conference in Newcastle upon Tyne which brought residents together to share their experiences and celebrate their successes.

At the conference, Royal Voluntary Service introduced their role as an organisation both supporting and learning from the Local People projects. The Trust spoke about the background and vision of the programme, which involves supporting residents to develop a shared vision for their community and to take action on the issues that matter most to local people.

Toni Lancaster, the Project Manager of the Local People programme at Royal Voluntary Service, said: “The Steering Groups have always expressed an interest in the wider Local People programme and have more recently expressed a desire to meet each other and find out more about the other projects and the activities arranged in the communities.

“The Telford (Shropshire) and Biddulph (Staffordshire) groups had already met once which was so successful that we decided to go for the full conference. Nine months of planning later, 42 Steering Group members attended from the six project areas travelling from Arbroath (Scotland), Biddulph, Boston (Lincolnshire), Peterborough, Telford and Thetford (Norfolk).”

On the day, the groups held discussions around engagement approaches and challenges. There was also an opportunity for each group to share examples of their own learning and tools for planning different activities. Telford spoke about their Steering Group training and development; Biddulph shared their experiencing of influencing in regards to a local bus route that they campaigned to get reinstated; Boston shared their learning of setting up an independent activity group for singing; the Peterborough group presented the newsletters they created to promote the project activities in Bretton; the Arbroath group shared experience in social dining as an engagement tool and Thetford shared learning from past years’ experience of running community wellbeing fayres and larger engagement events.

Toni explained: “As well as partnerships in their communities, the conference has given the groups the opportunity to work more closely together, showcase ideas and ways of working and talk about some of the challenges that come up. This day was a great opportunity to exchange learning between the projects.

“The groups realised that they are not alone with the challenges they face, such as getting more people involved and how they reach more isolated people. Every group said that older men were not involved in the projects and didn’t engage in activities enough. Grobidwere also keen to make contact with more marginalised residents and shared potential methods to overcome these issues.”

One Steering Group member said the day was “useful and insightful” and that most enjoyable elements were “meeting the other groups, exchanging ideas and aspirations, hearing how they overcome situations, and hearing about other activities, communication and organisation.”

On being asked about learning from the day, one member reflected that:

“All projects have similar challenges; we all have the same things in mind, new skills and ideas.”

Another said that the day “added an extra layer and reinforced my knowledge”.

Two months on, Royal Voluntary Service report that the conference has acted as a catalyst for lots of discussion, inspiration and planning from the groups. For example, the Thetford Steering Group has begun to boost their campaign to make Thetford more accessible. Whilst this has always been a concern, the group are even more motivated to take action since being inspired at the Steering Group conference. This campaign will involve the wider community as it gathers pace and demonstrates how the group is progressing.

Kirsty Neale, the Trust’s Partnerships and Learning Officer said “We look forward to hearing about other activities, actions and friendships that have been inspired and nurtured by the partnerships made at the conference.”

Royal Voluntary Service are delivering six Local People projects across England and Scotland funded by People’s Health Trust.

To find out about more great ideas funded by the Trust, click here.