Forever Manchester is the only charity that raises money to fund and support community activity across Greater Manchester. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to be happy, and by working with local people we help bring the community together to create something special.
Explaining the funding bit of what we do is relatively straight-forward. The money we raise from local people and businesses, or wherever we can get it, is used to fund all types of community activity across Greater Manchester which we deliver in the form of grants and awards.
As well as promoting and processing our various funding programmes, we also support and guide groups through the funding process. We provide help and advice on how to apply for funding and how to fill in our online application forms, as well as making sure that a group has the correct policies and documentation in place to ensure that they can access the relevant funding.
We also support communities by working closely with them. When we work in a local area, we get to know as many people as possible, we find out what they love about where they live, and what they like to do in their neighbourhood. We discover what interests and passions people have and work closely with them to turn their great ideas into a reality, helping to make a real difference to their lives of others.
Technically and professionally this approach is known as ‘Asset Based Community Development’ (ABCD) and it is delivered by members of the Forever Manchester team we call ‘Community Builders’. Typically, we work in an area for two years and our work follows a four-staged approach which is repeated time and time again as we meet more and more people.
For Discovering – Uncovering those hidden gems.
A fundamental part of our approach when working in communities is to identify, connect and highlight the people, community groups, organisations and physical spaces that already exist in the area.
The most important thing in building a stronger, more connected community is to involve the people that live there. People are the community’s biggest asset and form the building blocks of a strong and healthy community.
The Forever Manchester team get out and about starting conversations with the people they bump into. When we chat and listen to local people, our aim is to learn a bit more about them. Every person has unique skills and strengths that, when shared with others, brings amazing benefits for all.
All neighbourhoods have existing, established locally led groups that are often run by volunteers. These groups, together with organisations such as schools, health centres, local authorities, job centres, charities and emergency services are extremely valuable in any community. They provide a wealth of knowledge and information about people and groups that are active in the community. Buildings, green spaces and transport are also valuable community assets that can be put to good use for the benefit of the community.
By exploring these existing resources, we often uncover some hidden gems. It’s all about noticing, listening and telling others about anything that might help to connect people, groups and places together.
For Bringing People Together – Connections form the heart of strong communities.
Once we have discovered some of the amazing people and valuable assets in a community, we then connect them together to create something special. Making connections is not only central to our work – it’s also the fun part. The more connections we make, the more possibilities become available.
Most people need a bit of encouragement to try something new. We introduce and connect them with people with similar interests, and encourage them to attend a group that they might be interested in. We also use community ‘Get-Togethers’ as a way to get them talking and sharing ideas.
For Something New – Turning ideas in reality.
With a better understanding of what people want to get involved in, together with the knowledge of what can be used in a neighbourhood, we can then encourage people to come together to create exciting new projects together.
And when advice, encouragement and funding is needed to help get these ideas off the ground, Forever Manchester is there to provide a hand up to support them.
A new community garden project, for example, perfectly illustrates this. In every neighbourhood there’s always that bit of barren, unused land, just waiting to be used. With our help we’ll find out whether it could be used for a community garden. We then seek to utilise the assets that may already exist in the community.
We put a call-out asking for people to come along and help transform the space, encouraging them to bring along spades, folks, seeds, bulbs and plants. And more often than not, you’ll find a few green-fingered individuals who are eager to ‘muck in’ and willing to pass on their knowledge and techniques to help others learn.
The work that goes into laying the foundations for new projects like this are community activities in themselves, often bringing previously unconnected people together.
For Sharing – Passing on skills and knowledge.
As part of work we also run Connecting Communities workshops designed to share our skills and experience to help local people add real value in their community.
To do this we use some fun and interactive exercises including; ‘The We Can game’, ‘Heads, Heart and Hands’,’ Teach and Learn’ and ‘Mapping Your Area’.
The ‘We Can Game’ shows, in 10 minutes, just how many skills people have. ‘Heads, Hearts, Hands’ digs down just that little bit further, exploring an individual’s passions and interests. ‘Teach and Learn’ explains how to start connecting people in the community around a shared interest. The ‘Mapping Your Area’ exercise helps make the workshop local and relevant; we bring a small map of the area and ask people to use it to record all the good stuff that’s going on in the area.
It’s also important that we help people and groups share their stories with the rest of the community. Stories inspire involvement and stimulate new ideas and can make people feel connected to what happens where they live. They also help to inspire others to get involved and support the new groups into the future.
For Happy Days – everyone should have the opportunity to be happy.
All the major ingredients that make for a happy, fulfilling life grow out of our communities. Real community thrives on taking part, where passion and shared interests are the key ingredients. Real community delivers a set of unrivalled opportunities — to connect, make friends, share, interact, help, care and discover — things that you just can’t replicate with government or corporate strategy.
Real community helps deepen and refine our sense of inclusion, belonging and place, it brings out the best in us. Our role at Forever Manchester is to be the champion of local people who are prepared to do extraordinary things to make our communities thrive, and to make sure that the talents, skills and interests that we all possess get a chance to be put into action.
We are all extraordinary people. We all have the power to create happy, abundant, resilient thriving communities, the freedom to create our own vision of the future and the power to make that vision come true.
Date added: 7th May 2020