Finding ways round funding for community growing

Growing Together is a new partnership of community and environmental sector organisations. Supported by the Big Lottery Fund, it will develop “income inspiration” for community growing groups to help them become financially self-sustaining and less reliant on grants.

The project will also offer expert advice and training about income generation, as well as working with government and big business to unlock land, skills and money.

The website address currently goes to a temporary information page hosted by Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens.

The Growing Together partnership will work across the UK and comprises the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, Groundwork UK, Incredible Edible Network, Permaculture Association, Development Trusts Association (Scotland), Wales Co-operative Centre (Wales) and Cooperative Alternatives (Northern Ireland).

Blog Post Communities News from and for the VCS

Embracing social media as part of Engage MK Networking Event on ‘Building Your e-Community’

Community Action: MK held a networking event for frontline community workers and local groups, and volunteers in Milton Keynes on Monday 22nd of June 2015 at Cruck Barn, Bradwell Abbey.

The event, organised as part of the Engage MK project and funded by Safer MK, focused on the effective use of social media to promote local groups and projects and communicate with their supporters and service-users. The aim of the event was to explore how community workers could use digital communications to better connect with the communities in which they work.

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Two speakers shared shared their knowledge of social media through their interactive presentations. We heard from Sarah Moran, a freelance social media consultant and an associate with the successful local marketing agency, Jersey Road, giving useful tips on how to use social media to communicate and grow local causes. Hywel Jones, Campaign and Marketing Manager at the Milton Keynes based charity, Willen Hospice, showcased the charity’s successful way of working with social media on some of their very successful digital campaigns.

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Aside from exploring the ways of using digital media as part of the community work, the event was also an opportunity to network and share useful contacts between the attendees.

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Attendees also had a chance to explore the stalls showcasing the work that Community Action: MK does through digital media. This included stalls with information about our online volunteering recruitment service, the QuickChat mobile and desktop app used by Community Mobilisers as part of their community engagement, and OurMK, a brand new interactive website launched as part of the MK:Smart project, which allows every citizen on Milton Keynes to share their ideas on how to improve the use of transport, energy, water, health and environment in the city.

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The Engage MK Network is a partnership project between Community Action: MK and Safer MK. Our events bring together staff, volunteers and community groups working to support MK communities. We welcome all staff and volunteers who work with local communities in MK to join our network.

You can follow updates about the project, including news about our future events, through #EngageMK.


Communities Engage MK Volunteering

Developing options for the future of Library Services in MK

There can be no doubt that the face of public library services is changing. Public libraries provide a vital function in local communities and are valued by those who use them whether to borrow a book, find a quiet place to work, access Wi-Fi, meet people and so on. However the way services have to be provided has to change, especially in the light of reducing finance.

Given the scale of the financial challenge, the Milton Keynes Council cannot do this alone. It is seeking more collaborative models for the delivery of library services within localities across the Borough which is very much in keeping with the Council’s status as a Cooperative Council.

“Sharing Responsibilities for Libraries” is an opportunity to look at what may be possible in the future. The communities of Milton Keynes have an exciting opportunity to shape that future and this will only happen through active engagement with all sectors of the community. This document sets out a number of proposed ideas that have been developed so far for both improving the libraries and for delivering savings and efficiencies. A number of these savings proposals build on some very successful relationships with parish and town councils, the voluntary sector as well as local citizens.

They highlight how the use of some of the larger library buildings can be maximised. They also build on best practice from elsewhere in the country. It provides information about how the building and non-core library services could be shared with others so that the Council can focus its financial and staff resources on the core library provision.

Milton Keynes Council are seeking ways in which they can further share responsibilities for library delivery across the Borough and would welcome ideas from library customers, businesses, charities, community groups, ward councillors, parish and town councils and other stakeholders, to enable greater local input and reduced Council resources.

As part of this, the Council will be running a series of Community Engagement sessions to hear your views, ideas and your offers of help, and would encourage anyone who is interested in their local library to come along or to complete the online questionnaire.

Newport Pagnell Library 6-7pm Wednesday 24 June
Olney Library 6-7pm Thursday 25 June
Stony Stratford Library 6-7pm Monday 29 June
Wolverton Library 6-7pm Thursday 2 July
Central Library 6-7pm Monday 6 July
Kingston Library 6-7pm Tuesday 7 July
Woburn Sands 6-7pm Thursday 9 July
Westcroft Library 6-7pm Tuesday 14 July

Blog Post Charities & Community Groups Communities News from and for the VCS Volunteering

Ramadan: Safer Giving

Ramadan is a time of very generous charitable giving. People have a right to feel confident that their generosity is not abused and that their donations are being used for legitimate charitable purposes.

As part of its campaign #changethepicture the Charity Commission has produced a video for Ramadan encouraging people to check before they give. It illustrates how people can help make sure their generosity makes a real difference to those in need by giving to legitimate, registered charities.

Sarah Atkinson, Director of Policy and Communications at the Charity Commission said:

Ramadan is very much a time for giving, but unfortunately there are individuals prepared to exploit this. We want to ensure that the generous donations made by people from Muslim communities end up supporting the deserving causes for which they were intended. The commission is committed to ensuring that trust and confidence in charities remains high, so we would encourage the public to follow our simple tips before making donations.

Dr Hany El-Banna, Chairman of the Muslim Charities Forum said:

Every Ramadan, Muslims give generously to many causes in the UK and abroad. It is important that these donations do go to registered and accountable charities. I would encourage people to share the commission’s video and follow their safer giving advice to ensure that donations go to the right place.

Top ten tips from the commission to make sure you give safely this Ramadan:
  1. Before giving, check the charity’s name and registration number against the online charity search tool: Find a charity – register of charities
  2. Fundraisers require a licence from the local authority (or the Police in London) to collect in a public place. Check that they have this. If the collection is in a privately owned place, check that they have the owner’s permission.
  3. When approached by collectors, check whether they are wearing a proper ID badge and that any collection tin is sealed.
  4. If in doubt, ask the collector for more information – a genuine fundraiser should be happy to answer questions and explain more about the work of the charity.
  5. Genuine fundraising materials should feature the charity’s name, registered name and a landline contact number. Be wary of those that list only a mobile number.
  6. Make sure when you give to radio and television appeals that the process is secure. Ofcom lists the rules for radio and television charity appeals on its website: Licensing – Ofcom website.
  7. Take care when responding to emails or clicking links to a charity’s website to ensure that they are genuine. Instead, search online for your chosen charity to check you have the right web address. For further guidance see: Guidance for donors – Get Safe Online.
  8. Carefully review collection bags for clothing and household goods to ascertain whether they are from a genuine charity.
  9. After making these checks, if you think that a collection or appeal is not legitimate, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 and inform the Charity Commission: Action Fraud – Police.
  10. Don’t be pressurised to give to a collection immediately. If in any doubt, donate directly to charity.

Story via The Charity Commision

Blog Post Charities & Community Groups Communities Funding News from and for the VCS
Walking along link road - the new balancing pond is on the left

CA:MK Growth Team Explore the Western Expansion Area (WEA)

Our Growth Team – Hannah and Josan – enjoyed a great tour of part of the Western Expansion Area (WEA) – one of MK’s newest developments. The WEA runs along the V4 from Stony Stratford to Crownhill. Once complete the site will include 6500 new homes, 4 primary and 1 secondary schools, community buildings and local centres.

James Mooney from Gallaghers, one of the organisations involved in developing the site, showed us the area closest to Crownhill (called ‘Whitehouse’ or ‘Area 10). There are already some roads in place, as well as a beautiful balancing pond which will make a lovely green space for residents to enjoy.

We only explored a relatively small area of the site but what struck both Josan and I was the scale of the new development and how quickly things are happening on site! Although no buildings are up, you can really start to get a feel for where things will go, and the sheer size of task ahead!

We hope to run some walking tours for local residents and voluntary groups to find out more about the WEA. If you would be interested please get in touch.

We are also planning a public exhibition about the WEA on 8th October at the Kiln Farm Club. This will give residents the chance to hear more on the plans for the site and have your questions answered. More details to follow……

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Blog Post New Communities Western Expansion Area

Beanhill Clean Up Day brings local people and groups together


Beanhill Community Clean Up Day took place on Wednesday 13th of May.

The event was a real success, bringing together a number of local residents and groups in a joint effort aimed at tidying up the estate and raising awareness of the increasing environmental issues such as fly-tipping and overhanging vegetation.


The initiative received support from Moorland School and Beanhill’s branch of MacIntyre, a national charity supporting children, young people and adults who have a learning disability or autism to live their life their way. A group of children from Moorland School litter-picked the area around the school and the MacIntyre groups cleaned the street signs all around the estate.


“We really enjoyed being part of the event and had lots of lovely comments from local people. The children were very enthusiastic and felt that they were doing something worthwhile and useful for the community.” Juliet Jones, Head Teacher at Moorland School.

Serco, the cleaning contractor in Beanhill, joined the volunteers to help them carry out their litter-picking tasks and provided the necessary tools, including the litter-pickers, rubber gloves and bin bags. It was a good opportunity for residents and the Serco team to interact  and work together, sharing perspectives on keeping the estate a clean and safe place to be. Since the day, the team has visited the weekly coffee morning at Moorlands Centre to engage with the local residents further.

Robert Watson, Serco Street Cleansing Supervisor said “The level of support and community spirit shown by Beanhill residents was inspiring, thank you to Anna, her team and all of volunteers for letting us be part of such a successful day.”


The Community & Events Group at Moorlands Centre and Beanhill Action Group also helped to make the event a success by preparing a lovely lunch for the volunteers, which was a great opportunity to relax after litter-picking and chat to fellow residents and other groups involved on the day.


One of the volunteers who helped to run the event smoothly won the shopping-card gift voucher, which had been donated by the local Asda store in Bletchley.

Asda’s Community Life Champion came along to help with litter-picking too.


A number of local residents who were helping out with this initiative called for a new volunteer-led group to be formed in Beanhill, which would run on-going projects and tackle any key environmental problems on the estate. One resident told us:

“It would be good to see an on going group formed for caring for the green area of Beanhill, including taking care of the parks and doing regular walk arounds.”

Some of the ideas for the group and the projects it could run included an all week amnesty of the clearing of rubbish accumulating in peoples’ car ports (and forgo the charges) and a skip week where there would be a large skip at the end of each main drag for people to put their items in.

Laura Nash, Beanhill residents and the Event’s Coordinator said:

“The Clean Up Day was a great success and it was great to see a few new faces too, wanting to get involved in where they live. I would like to say thank you to the residents that took part on the streets, to those in the kitchen and behind the scenes, and also to MacIntyre for all your hard work.”

To see more photos from the day, click here.

Blog Post Communities Volunteering