Bringing People Together - Guest Blog Post from Transforming Communities Together

Another first for Walsall, as Walsall Wood is the location for the UK’s first-ever Bringing People Together group.

Blog by Su Parker - Project Coordinator, Bringing People Together

Little did I know when my ‘walk and talk’ dog walking group turned into a ‘sit and zoom’ group, that this would be the start of an exciting new initiative!

Bringing People Together is a project that has developed from the learning of groups gathering using the telephone or online platforms during the pandemic caused by COVID 19.

Bringing People Together (BPT) is an initiative of Transforming Communities Together, a Walsall based charity involved in several initiatives including Near Neighbours and Places of Welcome. Almost overnight, the groups we support in Walsall, the Black Country, Staffordshire and northern Shropshire had to radically change the way that they work. Groups moved tentatively to find ways to keep meetings happening and create safe spaces for people to meet each other without leaving their homes. We quickly learnt that these groups brought real connection in such isolating times.

Transforming Communities Together approached The National Lottery Community Fund to see if we could get funding to form these groups into a network that could leave a real positive legacy in people’s lives.

All BPT groups will share a set of principles based on inviting, welcoming and mutual respect:

Bringing: inviting others to join;

  • BPT groups are open to everyone, aiming to include anyone in their neighbourhood who wants to meet new people or who is feeling socially isolated.

  • For the purposes of the pilot, a small number of BPT groups may self-identify a particular feature and every person within that category is welcome to join the BPT group e.g. every person experiencing homelessness in a particular area.

People: welcome to everyone;

  • BPT groups are safe spaces which aim to reflect the diversity of people in their neighbourhood.

Together: encouraging mutual respect;

  • BPT groups aim to value the contributions of each and every participant.

Once we found out we had received funding in mid-June, we were able to start turning these principles into a reality.

We have been able to co-produce our approach by listening to the best practice that has developed over lockdown.

We have a strong emphasis on everyone being included, so we have been researching into the various technologies to safely host telephone and online groups, regardless of someone’s previous use of technology.

We were meticulous about the safety aspects so that each group can be open to everyone who wants to come and be secure.

Training is the final important aspect of BPT, so we have been developing bespoke training so that BPT hosts can be confident in running the group, as well as knowing how to best equip others to join.

There always needs to be a group of people to pioneer something new! As the lockdown slowly eased, my ‘sit and zoom’ group were able to restart socially distanced dog walking, but through personal invitations, our group had grown to include others living in Walsall Wood who didn’t want to walk but still wanted to chat. The group decided on a day to meet, joined the network and became the first official Bringing People Together group! We continue to meet weekly and invite others to join, so that we can enjoy getting to know new people.

Walsall Wood BPT was a small start of 6 people. It was a tiny acorn and we look forward to the network of Bringing People Together growing into a mighty oak, where many other people can enjoy connecting to others from the comfort of their own home.

If you are based in Walsall, the wider Black Country, Staffordshire or northern Shropshire and want to know more about bringing people together please get in touch by emailing su.parker@tctogether.org.uk or visit www.bringingpeopletogether.org.uk/

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