Meeting the groups making a difference


Alex Flower is a Grant Administrator at CDF. He works on the Community First programme to give out small grants to community projects. Community First is an £80million government-funded initiative, running for four years until March 2015.

As a Grant Administrator on the Community First programme I speak to community groups every day, so it’s great when I am able to meet some of the people taking part and see how they are able to really help their local community.

alexpullquote1Recently, I was excited to be given the opportunity to visit the Crewe South ward  to see the difference Community First was making in the local area.

I met Dorothy, the Panel lead for Crewe South (and my host for the day!), at the train station in Crewe. Community First Panels are groups of volunteers that meet to decide on projects for funding in their area.

Dorothy kindly agreed to show me around some of the projects that have been funded by the Community First programme in the area and introduce me to other volunteers that make up the Panel.

Pockets of deprivation and community activity

On the way, Dorothy was keen to tell me about Crewe’s proud history as an engineering powerhouse, particularly in relation to the rail industry. At its height, Crewe Railway Works employed 20,000 people. By 2006, the number was less than 630 and deprivation in Crewe has steadily increased as its main industry has declined. However, community projects are doing great work to improve their local area and Community First is helping to support this activity.

We met the other local volunteers at the Crewe YMCA branch and it became really clear to me that everyone was very invested in their local community.

Priorities set by local people

I was also told about how the volunteers on the Panel decide which projects to fund, based on what local people really want in their communities and which groups are in the best position to achieve these results.

A great example of this was a Scout group who applied for funding; the Panel requested that a certain number of children from a local estate had to join the Scout group for it to be approved. This proved a success in bringing the community together and the group continues to recruit more members from lower income backgrounds.

Homework Club for local children

alexpullquote2Richard then showed me around the café in the YMCA that we helped fund. The project itself is still running and is a Homework Club that is on every weekday evening.

The children get help with their homework and a free hot, nutritious meal.

These children are from the most deprived areas in the ward; I found out that they often would not have a proper dinner or have the space to actually do their homework at home.

It’s really great to see local children getting the support they need from their community.

Small grants making a big difference

The Crewe YMCA use our funding to run pilot scheme projects, such as the Homework Club for children. This means that they have evidence that proves their worth when applying for larger grants. The evidence will be used to roll out this project in the future across the country. I thought this was a really interesting use of our funding and it allows CDF to be an integral part of community work in ways that extend beyond the legacy of Community First.

Keep an eye out on the Just Act blog in the coming weeks for a second installment of Alex’s reflections on his trip to visit projects in Crewe.

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