The Collaborative Action Groups we are facilitating are still going steady, despite the ever-changing environment we find ourselves in. We are making the most of new, virtual ways of working and trying to develop more opportunities to communicate, and engage with groups and communities to support connections and joint work across MK where possible.
We want to share with you our experiences of the Collaborative Action Groups and our new way of working, what we’ve learnt, where we’d like to develop and what the best bits have been so far…
Making a difference…
We’ve learnt so much about ground-level groups and organisations working within different areas of Milton Keynes, as well as those that operate at an MK-wide level. We hope we’ve helped those who have attended the Collaborative Action Groups gain some useful connections to enable more joined-up working across Milton Keynes.
We are now in the process of using an information sharing platform: SLACK, which has been well received amongst our groups. Via SLACK, we are able to share a range of information and useful resources with groups to help them navigate through the Covid-19 crisis, and provide additional support remotely. SLACK is proving to be a simple way to share information to all Collaborative Action Group attendees to encourage conversation and collaborative working across Milton Keynes.
As a part of these groups and the discussions held within meetings, we are able to identify gaps and issues and share them through to the relevant stakeholders and those that are able to create change and provide stronger cross-sector relationships, i.e. Partnership boards (such as the Health & Wellbeing Board, Mental Health Partnership Board, Safer MK), Milton Keynes Council.
We also aim to help explore solutions and ideas in Collaborative Action Group meetings to help address issues at ground level. For example: one issue we identified was managing volunteers’ emotional wellbeing and burnout. With this information we were able to create a link to The Wellbeing Centre and their volunteer counsellors. This means that volunteers are able to look after their mental health and wellbeing by attending a support group session and 1-2-1 counselling. Take a look at the offer here
Some of our groups have given us feedback on our Collaborative Action Groups. See below for some kind words we have received:
‘They’ve been a space for network building’
‘A place I can go to access more knowledge’
‘We don’t know when or what is going to be required going forwards, so the groups are helpful to share ideas and plans’
What have we learnt?
The aim of the Collaborative Action Groups is to learn and develop a new way of joint working across Milton Keynes in response to the pandemic, built on a more detailed understanding of the local needs of groups and communities. We want to support groups to come together in different areas of Milton Keynes to tackle the issues and fill the gaps that have arisen from lockdown and the ongoing impacts of Covid-19. The groups have given us a wealth of learning from grassroots realities to adapting to the current climate (digital platforms, online meetings). With all of us doing our best to deal with the crisis, the Collaborative Action Groups have given us all a space to share our successes and challenges, creating a much needed sense of togetherness and a determination to work together to provide the best possible support for MK at this time.
The wide view that the Collaborative Action Groups have given us, has allowed us to see and facilitate potential connections that otherwise may have been missed. An example of this is a permaculture group and a yoga group for those recovering from cancer that operated in the same facilities, yet were unaware of each other. From attending our meetings, they were able to realise just how close they were and explore how they could support their beneficiaries even more by working together.
Through the groups we have also heard about some fantastic examples of community spirit and action, which has been uplifting and inspiring – something we all needed during lockdown and as we continue to respond to the crisis. We have also learned about the range of innovative ideas that have arisen in order to help local communities at this time, such as Parish Councils adapting Community Fridges operation so they could continue in a safe way, art groups sessions being delivered online, socially distanced physical activity groups amongst neighbours in front gardens / green spaces – and the list goes on…!
So, if you’d like to work with other groups and volunteers to help support MK through the Covid-19 crisis, and you’d like to hear examples of some fantastic work happening across the City, then please come along to our Collaborative Action Groups and feel your spirit lifted!
We have also learnt about the different areas of Milton Keynes, their different priorities and what they view as important. This has allowed us to help tailor our meetings to be as targeted as possible in supporting these groups as best we can, but we have also realised that there are common themes and issues that run through these communities. This led us to create a themed meeting around ‘Isolation / Transforming Green Spaces’. Pairing these two topics allowed such a range of groups to come along to the meeting and learn about how the two topics marry each other and complement each other in combating such things as mental health issues, loneliness and helping the environment and wildlife. We had speakers from different organisations for both meetings and we understand that this way of communicating was very well received. Watch this space for more themes and meetings. We hope to see you there!
Looking to the future…
In these uncertain and ever-changing times, we want to continue to work collaboratively and in a joint-up way, to encourage and establish key links to help and support services users of VCSE groups and their cross-sector partners. We can only do this if we keep moving forward. Our team will be looking into how the structure of our Collaborative Action Groups will look in the coming months and our hope is to create more change and give local groups and communities a voice to help create that change.
We always welcome new faces and are strongly encouraging you to come along if you think that you have even just one issue/idea to contribute, or think that just that one link you didn’t expect might just change everything to help your beneficiaries.
We know that so many links and connections have been established just by coming to just one of our Collaborative Action Group meetings – something which we are so proud and pleased to see happening. We want to help you and support you any way we can, and by attending these meetings, you can get vital and instant information you may miss in a written word. You don’t know what you don’t know!
If you are interested in getting involved with the Collaborative Action Groups project, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, so we can add you to the network.