Our Collaborative Action Groups are still going steady, despite the ever-changing environment we find ourselves in. We are both enjoying the new way of working and trying to develop new opportunities to communicate and engage with those groups that are working hard to make a difference within the smaller communities of Milton Keynes, as well as making connections and joint working at a Milton Keynes wide level.
We want to share with you our experiences of the Collaborative Action Groups and our new way of working, as well as what we have learnt, where we’d like to develop and the future of our Collaborative Action Groups, and what the best bits have been so far…
Making a difference…
We as an organisation have learnt so much more about both ground-level groups and organisations that reside and work within the different areas of Milton Keynes, as well as those that operate on a MK-wide level. We hope we have helped those who have participated and attended the Collaborative Action Groups gain a wealth of connections for them to engage in joined-up working across Milton Keynes to benefit their service users and beneficiaries.
We are now in the process of using an information sharing platform: SLACK. It has been very well received between our groups and they can access all types of information we share with them, as well as relevant meeting details and resources relevant to discussions taken place in meetings. These resources, in turn, can be shared with group beneficiaries. This has provided us with 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 had 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, Milton Keynes Council. We are also able to help provide solutions and ideas in these meetings to help combat change at a ground level. For example: one issue we identified was managing volunteers’ emotional wellbeing and burnout. We then received a generous offer of support from volunteer counsellors from the wellbeing centre for volunteers to attend a support group session and 1-2-1 counselling, which would help to tackle/ ease and manage issues – 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 groups were to learn and to develop a new way of working at Community Action:MK and to try and establish a new way of joint-up working across the Milton Keynes VCSE sector as a response to the pandemic, built from our goal of trying to understand local needs of groups and local communities. We wanted to bring groups and organisations together in different areas of Milton Keynes to tackle and help combat the issues and gaps that had arisen from the lockdown on a local level. We as an organisation feel these groups have given us a wealth of learnings in terms of adapting to the current climate (digital platforms, online meetings) and what we have been hearing from those grassroot organisations. We realised soon that thankfully, we were not the only organisation attempting to adapt to the new online world, and that also gave the groups a sense of togetherness.
Through our recruitment of groups and organisations, we learnt that there is some disconnectedness between Milton Keynes groups and we hope that our CollaborativeAction Groups have helped to ease that in some way. An example of this was a permaculture group and a yoga group for cancer recoverers that operated in the same facilities, and yet, had no idea about one another! From the meetings they attended with us, they were able to realise just how close they were and made a connection, so hopefully, we may see some future joint-working from those groups.
We were also able to hear of some fantastic community spirit from the on the ground groups we spoke to, and it became a wonderful moment of togetherness and uplifted the whole feel of the meeting to hear about the positives that were happening in spite of the lockdown and current uncertainty. This also transfers to the innovative ideas that have arisen in order to help local communities, such as parish councils continuing community fridges in a safe way, different art groups sessions being delivered online, physical activity groups among neighbours in their front gardens / green spaces around them – the list is endless. And we get to hear about these things! Definitely something to come along to if you need 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 complimented 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 recommending 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!