Communities and Third Sector Lead
Jo has stopped her weekly postings, but you can still read her stories here ...
Jo's working life began at the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs but a corporate volunteering day completely redirected her, leading to the voluntary sector as a fundraiser for Shelter.
Jo's next career step was working on a specialist government project set up to prosecute loan sharks and help their victims. She worked with the most financially fragile and the amazing charities supporting them. This varied background stood her in good stead for her role at the Councils, which she has been doing for more than two years.
Outside work, Jo loves good food and running, the latter purely a necessity to the former.
Around three months ago, I felt quite honoured to be asked to write a blog.
Ten blogs in, while my blog-enthusiasm has been harder to muster in the final weeks, I am equally reflective on what I've learned in the process - and it ain't all bad.
I'm also still chuckling at a good friend who said at the weekend, “did you run out of things to say last week?!”. Damn, he saw right through me.
And that's the thing about a blog - you have to be on the ball and plan out what you want to share otherwise the deadline bites you on the bum.
Here's what I've learnt:
The blog has reminded me that I write quite well, and that I like writing too.
It's also emphasised for me how much work we do on a daily basis and that the pressure continues to mount.
Every hour of my day at work is mapped out; I know what I need to do and when and how to prioritise. So, even adding a blog each week (my record is 27 minutes to write one) adds even more pressure to my to-do list.
I've learned loads about other colleague's work; and I work at the Councils! So it's a reminder for me that we need to be both creative but much more simpler in the way we tell our stories. Also, the work is so varied and vast that you can't appeal to everyone with the work or message you're trying to convey. Plus, no matter how important your message, you really can't compete with a blog that includes dogs ...
Last but not least, I genuinely still really enjoy and feel passionately about my role and I hope this came across.
The blog has reminded me how my managers and employer allow me to be creative, push boundaries and turn things on their head and this is where my experience of other workplaces and sectors comes in.
Councils aren't the staid, boring and stuffy places they may have been perceived to be in the past, and hopefully all the blogs have broken down some of these barriers and misconceptions that you may have as a resident.
So that's me, I'm done. Just off to source a cute picture of a puppy ...
I've worked on the Communities and Wellbeing Team (CWT) for over two years now, and I'm continually amazed at the knowledge, experience and breadth of work that we cover.
At the forefront of mine and my colleagues' minds, is what do our Communities need and how can we help?
Efficiency is also a key word at this moment in time, given the rapidly reducing income from central Government. In plain language, this means we have fewer people, less budget and still a need or expectation to deliver or fund certain projects.
I'm trying to start a sentence which says “the CWT does x, y and z”. But it's really hard because it's not straightforward, sometimes complex and the outcomes or impact is not immediately evident ... but here goes:
“The CWT focus on the health, safety and wellbeing of individual residents and families, cohorts, groups and communities. We protect those that are vulnerable, we enable those that are excluded or unheard and we look at the bigger picture to connect and make change.”
Reads like fluffy corporate speak, doesn't it?
Ok, so what would happen if the CWT weren't here, let's try a few specifics as examples;
- The rate of diabetes could go up because our specialist trainers wouldn't be working with those at risk; people would therefore be less active and die younger.
- There might be more crime because information, intelligence and prevention wouldn't be shared across organisations. Residents might be poorer because they wouldn't be able to access free, impartial advice from a commissioned service. Some children wouldn't attend school and will therefore be the unemployed of the future; our Think Family Key workers work closely with parents and carers to help them with life skills.
- Partners wouldn't be as connected; we often act as the outer wheel to hold all the different spokes tight, for example, how can everyone come together to help those affected by Universal Credit. People might feel lonely and children inactive, and at worst, residents may be in danger with no safeguarding measures in place, if we didn't maintain safe Community Centres.
It's a small snapshot but hopefully this brings to life the huge variety of work on the team. What I would stress, is that we're certainly not the answer to every problem and we're also not always the best person to deliver a solution. But we're all here for the same reason, to help make the Communities of Adur and Worthing the best they can be.
I'll be honest. This week I've hit blogger's block and I think it's because of the school holidays.
Like many organisations, the Councils' back-offices are quieter over July and August, as parents try to keep their children entertained.
This week's blog is a bit more personal and sings the praises of Worthing and all that it's been offering for me and my family over the past few weeks.
And after a stroll to the pier, it dawned on me that much of the summer activities than me and my family are enjoying, are linked to the Council. Aren't we lucky?
From very affordable craft activities at Worthing Museum, to free sand castle building in the pop-up sandpit smack bang in our town centre (with spades included!), we went to the cinema this Saturday for the £2.50 children's screening … followed by the Jungle Book at Worthing Theatres on Sunday!
Even our local park is well-used and tidy, all down to the attention of the Councils' Parks team and our local Councillors who are really active in our neck of the woods.
Then there's the frequent beach trips, maintained and kept safe by my fellow blogger Graham and his colleagues. We also frequently go to Splash Pad, or where my eldest fondly calls 'the place where the water comes up', (actually, that's two separate places - with great coffee at Coast cafe strategically placed in between).
Then (on a not completely council note) there's amusements on the pier, the crazy golf, watching the bowls, cycling along the seafront, eating ice-cream and even shouting TRAIN! at our two busy level crossings (yes, that is a past-time with our kids), there's an abundance on offer.
Worthing is really changing and thriving. You know I like coffee. Well, I also like alcohol and a new micro-bar called the Grizzly Bear near West Worthing train station can also be tenuously linked to the Council as they would have needed planning permission!
Micro-pubs are springing up everywhere and shows the stark rise in the popularity of real-ale, but also the need to keep overheads low as large pubs struggle to keep going. And as alcohol is much enjoyed during the six-weeks holiday, their opening couldn't have been timed better.
Balancing childcare is hard when both parents are working but there's certainly not a lack of things to do - can someone pass the message to Andy Murray that Worthing isn't dull?
Back on form next week, enjoy the holidays!
Photos: Worthing Museum, pirates and smugglers workshop, Jungle Book at the theatre and art on the Pier
In 2016, some great individuals came together and pooled their expertise and specialist knowledge to collaborate on a new social prescribing project called Going Local.
Social prescribing is a means for doctors, nurses and other clinicians to refer patients to non-clinical services, typically provided by not-for-profit organisations such as charities, voluntary groups and statutory agencies. Metaphorically it's a prescription of a different kind and may be in addition, or instead of, a medicine or treatment.
For example, you may go to the doctor for antidepressants. The root of your depression is a recent marriage break-up, causing spiralling debts and the risk of losing your home. Getting practical help and advice for those challenges will help alleviate the depression, and this is the crux of social prescribing - looking to local communities for a solution.
Going Local recognises that a significant number of patients who visit their GPs report concerns that can be more effectively addressed by non-medical interventions or, in fact, are the responsibilities of other services.
Going Local is funded and delivered in collaboration with local partners West Sussex County Council, Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group and Adur & Worthing Councils. We host the project here at Adur & Worthing Councils and I manage three Community Referrers who literally do what it says on the tin. They take referrals from GPs and refer them to a wide range of services delivered in the local community.
The project is a two-year pilot and it's really exciting to see it evolve. We are live in six GP surgeries in Adur and Worthing and receive referrals from these on a daily basis. The process is super-easy. GPs see a patient and if they believe he or she could be helped by Going Local, they refer the patient via an online tool during the appointment. This comes directly to the three Community Referrers who then make contact with the patient.
The first appointment takes an hour. The Community Referrers will talk and listen attentively to the individual, then make suggestions and referrals to help improve the patient's mental and physical wellbeing. These could, for example, be recommendations to reduce loneliness, services to help with mental health challenges, local sports activities to aid weight loss and better wellbeing, carers or support groups for long-term illnesses. The list is endless and we're gradually building a fantastic database with all this information and using this much more widely.
Going Local works because, with the best will in the world, individuals are not likely to make, or know about, these connections themselves. Also, people have a number of complex challenges and often can't see the wood for the trees, so a period of close 'hand-holding'; by a Community Referrer can put them back on the right track.
An hour's meeting is also good. Doctors have ten minutes with a patient, and it's hard to get a full overview in this time. Patients can have up to six sessions with a Community Referrer, but we can do more.
People come from all walks of life with a huge range of different needs. Our Community Referrers are fabulous, and their strengths are in their personalities, professional backgrounds and experience. They are great at mobile working, have all their tools at their fingertips and undertake a wide range of training to be as good as they can be.
There are lots of different approaches to social prescribing both in the UK and abroad. The future of Going Local, and the concept as a whole, is really fascinating. Do get in touch if you'd like to know more or would like to share your journey with us.
With the World Athletics Championships coming to an end and last week's blog on volunteering, the link to this week could not be more seamless. Heard of GoodGym? Well, it's a new initiative to Worthing which combines running with volunteering. See, seamless.
Launched earlier this year, Worthing Borough Council helps support GoodGym Worthing as the 35th national site. It’s another part of my work stream, and you can probably see why.
GoodGym is a not-for-profit organisation set up in 2009, the brainchild of Ivo Gormley. It encourages people to combine exercise with doing something good for the community. Ivo came up with the concept after running to visit a family friend who was stuck at home. He recently said in a Guardian interview:
“It's surprising how much impetus comes from knowing that your run has a purpose, and that if you don't do it you are letting down not just yourself but others too.”
There are three offers from GoodGym:
The first is for individual runners and is called coach runs. You have a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check and are fully checked out by GoodGym team. Then you’re paired up with an older person who would welcome some company; they may have a few odd jobs for you or perhaps would like a chat and cup of tea. You go for your run, drop in for your visit, then run home. Guild Care, a local charity which supports older people, helps to provide people for GoodGym to link up with the runners.
Part two of GoodGym is the weekly group runs. With other runners, you head out for about 5km to a community place that needs some help. It could be a quick lick of paint, a litter pick or shrub prune. It’s great fun and helps burn off a few more calories before you run back. The group runs are perfect for those who prefer a chat and meeting new people and the pace is set to the group, so don’t feel you’re going to hold anyone up. There’s a great team spirit and comradery, too.
Last but not least, GoodGym also organises ad-hoc missions of a larger kind and I hear there are some exciting ones in the pipeline. Watch this space!
So does GoodGym sound appealing? If so, come and join us on Monday, 26th August 2017. You'll be running 8km in total to the Kamelia Kids Nursery for a spot of weeding and gardening, then to the beach for a few exercises and stretches.
Transport will be provided back, if needed. Like every Monday, GoodGym meets at 6pm at the Splashpoint Leisure Centre in Worthing. We'd love to see you there!
For more information and to sign up for both group and coach runs, please
To hear more about Ivo's ambitions, you may be interested in this too:
Photos from recent Good Gym events and the launch in Worthing
Video about Good Gym Speed Volunteering on YouTube
Watching the athletics this week reminds me that the London Olympics in 2012 were amazing - from the unforgettable opening ceremony impeccably delivered by Danny Boyle to our national heroes who added 'Super Saturday' to our vocabulary.
But there was something else that was instrumental to the success of our Olympics and something that us Brits are particularly good at doing. That something else was a team of 70,000 volunteers!
Here at Adur & Worthing Councils, we strongly encourage staff members who would like to volunteer with their favourite cause, group or charity to do so, and I'm the lucky person who gets to support them!
There are 800 people who work here and they all have a really generous three days each financial year to volunteer. My role is to promote, encourage and help anyone who would like to get stuck in and, since April, seven per cent of staff have used more than 500 hours of volunteering - and with lots more in the pipeline.
There's a wide range of motivation and reasons why our staff volunteer. Some want to give something back to charities that have helped loved ones, many are sharing a specific skill or knowledge and others literally just want to do something good for someone else.
People like to volunteer alone, others prefer a team activity; for example, Human Resources colleagues are going into a care home in September to play board games and cards with residents and just have a chat. It's a common misconception that people in this situation aren't lonely but some don't get any visitors day in day out, and our staff members want to help brighten up their day.
So why do we encourage volunteering? Firstly, why not? Secondly, it's just a good thing. Whilst we're here to serve our customers, we're still a major employer in the area and volunteering not only forms part of personal development for staff so that we remain happy and focused in our jobs but also what better way to understand first hand what local residents and organisations needs and want than by getting out and about?
Thirdly, it may seem like a small drop in a big ocean, but staff are all helping make an impact at lots of different voluntary organisations who rely purely on volunteers to make things happen. Charities such as the Samaritans and Citizens Advice would have packed up a long time ago if it wasn't for the tireless efforts of volunteers, and the Olympics certainly wouldn't have happened ... or been as good.
The hardest part of my job is getting people away from their busy desks. What would easily resolve this is if I could bottle up how volunteering makes you feel. If you yourself volunteer, you'll know what I mean. That buzz, that feel-good-factor, the sweat of hard work, the look on someone else's face, the words of thanks or tears when you've helped them. That. I wish I could bottle that.
If your organisation needs volunteers in Adur and Worthing, do advertise them with Community Works, and if you're after a team effort, please don't hesitate to make contact with me directly at email@example.com
Photo: Jo digging with other volunteers at a volunteering session
It's been a funny few days and some spinning plates almost crashed, so I thought I'd give you an insight into my working week - I would say “typical” but I'm not sure that exists!
Last Monday started well and I had some great training. Our team has started using some better planning tools, and one of those is called a Project Initiation Document (PID). It has to be no more than a page and include the scope, objectives, financials and evidence about why we should, or need to, do the project. Our team is currently delivering more than 70 projects! The training was on stage two - project planning once the PID has been approved. I've got two projects that I need to develop and, with the training under my belt, I'll now be cracking on with those.
The rest of Monday and part of Tuesday were spent reviewing 10 applications for our Adur Community Grants. My job is to make recommendations to our Executive Member on whether the applications should be funded. This involves checking in with a few people and writing a Council report for a final decision. It all takes time but it's well worth it and really interesting; also fantastic to see that groups have responded well to the amended criteria.
Tuesday afternoon was a catch-up with Community Works - which connects charities, volunteers and businesses - and then on to shadow a front-line service. I've just taken management of different members of staff and am really impressed with their work. I wanted to see what they do first-hand, so sat in on an initial client meeting. I listened to a resident's moving story and their daily battle with chronic health issues. It was a stark reminder of how fragile we are and the reality check I needed. I also loved observing my colleague's careful communication techniques - great job.
Wednesday was team catch-ups and a one-to-one with another staff member. I love management and the opportunity, hopefully, to help support, develop and encourage. We talked about reading and how it's really important yet always at the bottom of our pile. Note to self: 10 minutes on Twitter isn't reading. I need to be better, too.
Thursday was due to go one way but careered off in another direction with a work emergency that took a few hours out of the day. I then had a meeting with a community centre and got a big sense of achievement to finally resolve some historic finance issues. Meetings themselves are often the easy bit, it's the preparation in-between and the write-up afterwards that take the time.
Thursday was my last day in the office before some annual leave and, miraculously, it didn't involve eight cups of coffee! I've made a really big effort to drink less caffeine, glug more water, eat well and exercise. It helps sitting near my fellow blogger Tammy. You know what? I nailed it and in a challenging week.
The cherry on top was finally getting a run on Saturday morning. Phew, I've concluded life ain't bad at all, despite less caffeine!
Photo: Saturday morning run 'typical' working week
Here at the Councils, we're committed to providing our residents with the best possible services and that can involve engaging experts in their field to provide them.
One of my hats is as a commissioner and this means identifying, selecting and paying another organisation to deliver a project or service on behalf of the Councils. These projects will have been evidenced as a need by local residents or groups, and I ensure the best and most effective organisation is commissioned to get the desired outcomes for the local community.
I manage three contracts. They are with Citizens Advice, Community Works and Dial-a-Ride Southern Services.
Citizens Advice are a well-known national charity; I'm sure you've heard of them. They provide free, independent, confidential and impartial advice to anyone on their rights and responsibilities. This ranges from benefits or housing advice to advocacy on family issues or employment support. They are good at what they do because they are independent, impartial, experienced in their advice and confidential in their approach. They're a one-stop shop for help and needs are often complex.
Community Works are the Citizens Advice to all Voluntary and Community Sector organisations in our area, sharing a wealth of advice, support and training. You may be an established football club, a group starting out or a local branch of a national charity. The support is there for all.
As much as I'd love to, I can't meet, connect with and listen to all the fantastic voluntary organisations in our patch, and Community Works are the vehicle to enable that crucial support and also a two-way dialogue between the Councils and the sector.
Talking of vehicles, the Councils also fund a busy service for vulnerable people provided by Dial-a-Ride Southern Services. They pick up residents up from home, take them out and return them back; even carrying their shopping if need be.
There's a fee to travel but it's cheaper than a taxi and all buses are wheelchair-friendly. We're so lucky to still be able to fund such a service and, for me, a crucial benefit is that it also reduces social isolation and loneliness.
With commissioning comes challenges. The very fact we 'commission' can be uncomfortable language across the charity sector. Long gone are the days when we can give grants and not expect any returns, reporting or impact for the money.
I also recognise that contracting, commissioning and procurement force groups to be competitive, stretching their resources and comfort zones. But, when done correctly, commissioning carried out in conjunction with the service user and service provider should always ensure the money goes to the best person for the job.
I'm holding tight of the purse strings because I don't know what the future holds, but in the meantime I pass my thanks to these three organisations for the sterling work they do to help our local residents and groups.
- Community Works website
- Dial-a-Ride Southern Services website
- Citizens Advice Central & South Sussex website
Money. It makes the world go round. It's also one of the most commonly sought-after assets for charities. Here at Adur & Worthing Councils, we're really fortunate that our elected members still strongly support our voluntary and community sector financially. It's hard, though. Obviously we can't fund everyone, and everyone we do fund needs more.
I ensure that funds are given to the right organisations to deliver and meet the right needs for our local communities. I work with a wider group of 30-plus people in the Communities and Wellbeing team, and we recently undertook a piece of work to gather information and data to evidence what is needed in the communities of Adur and Worthing. From this, we've planned our work schedule for the year, and I've used this base to redesign our grants programme in Adur.
We manage the grants in-house and they've just been launched for this year to be much more focused on our priorities and gaps. We know there are two wards in Adur as well as some particularly vulnerable cohorts (such as our street communities and people leaving care) which need more support than others.
We've also taken time to review the grants criteria. For example, we're very willing to consider staff costs and overheads, which often don't get funded but are desperately needed.
Still on the subject of grants, have you ever noticed the textile recycling banks dotted around locally? Back in the day, someone had a great idea to give the proceeds to charities. So, along with a small grant, around £25,000 goes to good causes in Worthing through a fab charity called Community Chest. I'm sure there's a joke about old socks that I'm missing. Answers on a postcard please.
Next week, I'll continue the money stuff and tell you more about the commissioning.
Photo: Sustainable Sussex receiving a cheque from Community Chest
I'm Jo Clarke, the Communities and Third Sector Lead here at Adur & Worthing Councils. I love my role because I'm passionate about the voluntary and community sector. It also brings together experience from all my previous jobs and, hopefully, I make a difference to residents, communities and charities locally.
It's all a far cry from the work I was doing 16 years ago. I originally worked in the City for the financial data arm of the Financial Times before joining Goldman Sachs, the investment banking group. I fell into the City. It was never a goal, and, as for Sunday nights, I hated them.
So I resigned and took myself off to New Zealand, as you do. When I returned afresh to London, I started volunteering at Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity, and fell in love with work again. The cause was compelling and inspiring, and my colleagues highly creative, smart and feisty. I was proudly promoted to a number of paid positions.
Both Shelter and Goldman Sachs are defining moments in my career, a big part of who I am today and invaluable experience that I still refer to in my current role.
Over the coming weeks I'll tell you a lot more about what I do. It includes commissioning, leading our Councils' staff volunteering programme, managing a social prescribing project called Going Local, shaping our grants programme, and strategy for our community assets (buildings such as community centres). It's safe to say there's plenty to do.
Sixteen years on, life is very different but my passion for making a difference and doing the right thing hasn't changed. My mantra? If you hate Sunday nights, only you can change it. You don't necessarily have to travel to the other side of the world, though!
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