Tag: Birmingham

Community Lovers Tour Of Birmingham: Emma Woolf – Friends Of Cotteridge Park

Cotteridge Park is the second stop with our guests from Holland and it was a beautiful day for a walk in Park, and weren’t the only ones to think so.

We arrived to find Emma Woolf of Friends of Cotteridge Park elbow deep in wood chippings in the Forest School with a group of girls from a nearby school.
Cotteridge Park

The Forest school is just one feature the group have introduced since they became involved with the park – You can read about that in their chapter here:

But essentially, Emma tells us, It’s all about forging partnerships with volunteers, local schools and the local community. Today in the forest school, Year 9 field volunteers have helped create a path around the area using wood chippings from the railway that runs alongside the site, Contractors were there over the weekend cutting back and chipping  the trees from over the tracks, “Can you chuck that over here?” Emma asked them, so they did and now it’s been put to good use.

Cotteridge Park

They’ve also been cutting back the willow to make archways along the paths. The girls, Emma notes, like the craftier stuff and the boys, who usually come along to help Sunday mornings, like the heavier work like turning compost. Wendy, one of the other volunteers at the park, remarked of the paths the group were creating, the girls do curved lines the boys would have done straight ones.

Cotteridge Park

Working Together

We run the park in partnership with the local authority. They own it and they deal with the day to day upkeep so we can innovate. For instance one project is around outdoor excersize. Adults and children working out together in the park … this works on all levels but most of all because there is no funding for pretty green spaces but there is for health. Parks are outdoor gyms, we can keep people healthy and make our groups sustainable by applying for grants for things like walking groups, running groups etc…

Cotteridge Park

We have 20 volunteers who help out regularly, but in addition to that we have 700 on our email list and different people get involved at different times. They are more likely to come along if it’s something they’re interested in and that’s ok. We’d rather they come an do a bit of something they like, be that weeding or building, than feel obliged to do something the don’t like and not want to come back again. in addition to these volunteers and our daily visitors, 5000 come annually to COCOMAD and we make the whole event free as far as possible.

Involved community

Cotteridge Park
Not everyone likes what we do, Some people think us working here brings people in and in turn causes anti social behaviour, but we think the opposite is true. Having people here using the park deters ASB and on the whole the community are proud of the park as they’ve done it themselves.

Even the kids get involved with things like litter picking and we hold regular spray paint workshops that they attend, decorating the park for themselves so we have very little problems with graffiti.

The pride the community have in their park really showed when we had our Green flag judging – the place had never looked so tidy, everyone was out in force picking up rubbish and making sure we looked our best.

Q&A

(Paraphrased from the questions and answers with the visitors)

How does the partnership work out?

A. It’s been nothing but positive, we have a really good relationship with our park manager. We have a good understanding of their position, they’re restricted by funding so can’t do it all, but we can get them to support us. We can fund-raise and apply for funding to make things happen where they can’t and that works for all of us.

For instance the land for the Forest school we bought for £7000, £4000 raised by collections. £3000 donated. We bought it and then handed over the ownership to the local authority for the people of Cotteridge.

What do you fund-raise for?

A. Everything needs funds, be it the tennis courts need relaying, or for new the benches. Then there’s the festival we apply for grants, ask local business and have buckets in the park.

Is this your full time job?

A. No I’m a volunteer, it takes up time  – but it’s a break away from my day job and I enjoy it. I get to play outside all day, in my wellies. I probably spend up to 2 days time working on the park, but I’ve now become involved in a city wide network “Birmingham Open Spaces Forum” which involves and supports other groups and that takes up some more of my time too.

Cotteridge Park

Community Lovers Tour of Birmingham

In January we launched the Birmingham edition of The Community Lovers Guide, 12 stories of of the ways volunteers, community and social enterprise are changing relationships in the city. – a simple  book of stories of the ways volunteers, community and social enterprise are changing relationships in the city.

The idea for the series was born at a railway station in Rotterdam and bought back to Birmingham, and now  tomorrow 12 Dutch visitors will be following in its foot steps and visiting places and groups the feature in our edition of the book.

The visitors are a mixture of professionals, researchers and civil servants from Holland  and they’ll be joining us as we head to Stirchley to visit Tom Baker at Loaf, to Cotteridge  for a walk around Cotteridge Park with Emma Woolf of the Friends of Cotteridge Park and finally a visit into the city centre to join us for the Central Birmingham Social Media Surgery.

We’ll be posting about their visit throughout the day tomorrow but if you’re interested in finding out more about the places they’re visiting before then you can read the relevant chapters of the Communnity Lovers Guide to Birmingham below.

Loaf – Bringing Back Real Food

Friends of Cotteridge Park

Loops of Generosity – The Social Media Surgery Movement

All chapters of the book are available to view online, or is for sale via Blurb.

Cyber-bullying, Internet Safety and Social Media Surgeries

Tragedy of Cyberbullying

We’re currently working with BRAG, Bullying Reduction Action Group, supported by the POD and Link2ICT to pilot a project in the Nechells area of Birmingham, working with schools to develop a social media surgery that focuses on skills as well as conversations around internet safety and cyber bullying.

We’ve been working with students from Heartlands Academy from years 7, 9 and 12 to turn them into surgeons and inviting groups of parents in as patients so that they can be taught how to use the sites and tools that their children maybe using, and to discuss any concerns they may have with them using “the internet” with their children’s peers.

We’d held a session at the beginning of the project to identify what the students thought of the  internet, what sites they used and how aware they were of their own and others safety online. We then held the same session with parents and teachers and the differences were vast. The students had identified way more sites they were using than the parents and teachers even knew of , and even if the adults knew of a site or platform they were in most occasions not using it themselves so were maybe unable to properly advise on security and privacy settings to help the students keep themselves safe.

Surgeries

Last night was the second open surgery, where we had a group of year 9 students on hand to answer parents questions and we had 5 patients come for support.  Their questions were varied from “How do I stop my child from using Facebook?”; “How do I set myself up on Facebook”  to “How do YOU keep yourself safe online?”. Answers in short ranged from you “You can’t – but have you thought about coming to an agreement with him like this that I have with my Mom”; “Here let me show you how…” and “Like this…”

Every parent that came in I spoke to before and after the surgery and all of them were impressed by the advice they were given, one even commented that she felt better able to go and talk about Facebook to her own daughter, now she “knew what she was talking about”.   The students had really enjoyed becoming the teacher, and some great conversations had taken place.

We’re just about to move into the second phase of the project – introducing parents from a local junior school to the surgeries, focusing on years 5 and 6, the parents of the students who will soon be looking for their places at senior school,  finding much larger circles of friends and potentially becoming  more active users of social networks themselves as a result.

Learning

I’m really enjoying this project. The students have been amazing and the parents really open to being guided by “experts” much younger than themselves, and I’ve done my fair share of learning too. There were sites the students mentioned and conversations that have taken place that has prompted me to go home and have fairly frank conversations with my 13 year old son. Practically though I’ve also learned a thing or 2 about running a project like this. They are:

  • Plan in advance. Schools are busy places with lots of sports clubs and other extra curricular activities. Trying to schedule sessions around these was hard so plan early and try and get a regular slot.
  • Schools internet access SUCKS! – For someone who is used to open internet access pretty much everywhere I go working with in the restraints of a school building was hard! All the sites we were discussing Facebook, Twitter etc were blocked, so this goes back to point 1. Plan in advance and get the schools network admins to unblock the computers you’ll be working from. (Or do what I did take a  MiFi and my own laptop – although only works with decent 3G coverage)
  • Parent involvement early on is a must. Communicating well to parents what the aims of the project are and how the surgeries would work was really important – That way when they attended the surgeries they weren’t surprised to be sat down learning from someone their children’s ages instead of being talked at my an “expert”.
  • Working with students from different year groups has worked well,  pairing the year 7 students with year 9 & 12 students has helped them to deliver support, and opened up conversations across the year groups – as while the Yr 7 students may have the tech skills and experience, they don’t necessarily have the communication skills the older students have to enable them to get to the bottom of the things the parents really wanted to know.

Age isn’t a barrier! Birmingham East and Sheldon Community Website

At the same time as running the project we’ve been working on in South Birmingham with the Community safety team we’ve been engaging with communities in east Birmingham in the same way. In fact we’ve just wrapped up the first lot of surgeries in Shard End and it looks like we’ve had some great results with people coming to learn about twitter, facebook and blogging.

One of the patients who attended was Lol Thurstan.

Lol came along to a Social Media awareness session we held at The Pump on Kitts Green Road and subsequently attended our Social Media Surgeries at Shard End Library. Chair of his residents association and lead coordinator with his neighbourhood watch, He wanted to learn how to use social media to support his Neighbourhood Watch group

In just 4 sessions (including the initial awareness session) Lol has established B26 Community, A neighbourhood website for the Sheldon community that allows him to not only share Neighbourhood Watch news but can also involve other groups in the community to improve communication in the area –

By his own admission Lol was a late comer to starting to use technology but he came with a willingness to learn and as I think you’ll see from this video, age isn’t a barrier to learning something new and getting stuck in !