Browse the list of questions below to hopefully find the answers to any issues you may be having. We have tried to think of everything, but if there is something we have missed out, and you can't find help with, please give us some feedback and we will try to help you as soon as possible.

Q: What is You’re Welcome?

A: You’re Welcome is a ten year plan set up by Barnwood Trust:

  • It’s about creating neighbourhoods that buzz with -
    • friendship
    • enjoyable things to do with others
    • all the signs of support and kindness between people that make life meaningful.
  • It’s about a neighbourhood, a block of flats, a group of streets, an estate or village, where
    • everyone knows someone to say hello to and have a cup of tea with
    • everyone has something they care about and something to offer
    • everyone has people to call on if they need a hand
    • everyone has the confidence to leave their house and join in, because they know they’ll be welcome
    • everyone has a voice in the future
    • everyone is building their community, every day
    • and that ‘everyone’ includes people with disabilities and mental health challenges at the heart of the action

You’re Welcome is based on the belief that:

  • everyone has something they care about and something to offer
  • it is in doing things together that barriers between people are broken down, confidence is built and opportunities emerge
  • we should focus on what’s strong not what’s wrong

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Q: What does a welcoming community look like?

A: You probably already know the answer to this question.  Think for a minute about when you have felt welcome somewhere.   

What was it that made you feel welcome?  Did you feel expected and thought about? Was someone interested in you? Did you feel that you had things in common with someone? Did you find people who got fired up about the same things as you?  Did anyone make you feel you mattered; did they make you feel good about yourself? Did you feel that your contribution was valued?

If you can answer yes to even some of these questions, then the community of people you were with was probably welcoming.  That’s what a welcoming community is like; you know it when you feel it.  The knowledge about this doesn’t lie elsewhere – each of us owns it.

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Q: What do you mean by ‘community’?

A: ‘Community’ is one of those words that has a different meaning for almost every single person.

People have lots of different communities: the estate where they live, their block of flats, their village, the people work with, the people they share interests with or socialise with, people they interact with through social media. 

We’re interested in all of these communities becoming more welcoming to everyone, but we are particularly focusing on the communities that people live in.   People across Gloucestershire we talked to told us they relate to where they live. So we think that’s a really good place for You’re Welcome to start work.

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Q: How can we include more people with different abilities and impairments?

A: Think about how you invite people to conversations, events, activities. How do people find out about them?  If you couldn’t read, weren’t confident, didn’t go out of the house or couldn’t use the internet, how would you have an opportunity to talk to anyone? Think about how you or people you know might find out about, and reach out to, those people.  Then ask the people you are reaching out to what would enable them to feel able to get involved.

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Q: Do we need permission to start doing this work ourselves?

A: Absolutely not, and anyway, who from?!  But if you’d like to meet with like-minded people and share ideas and experience, then think about contributing to the website www.yourewelcome.to or come to a community of practice.

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Q: Why is Barnwood Trust investing in You’re Welcome?

A: We have talked with disabled people and people with mental health challenges across the county and have heard how many people would feel so much better if they had something interesting to do, people to share things with, a place to meet and do things together and a place to live that feels good.

That sounds simple, but we know from listening to people how hard it is for people to find these things in reality.  That’s why we’re thinking long-term: even ten years is quite a short timescale.

We wanted to find a way to make this happen right across the County, and ultimately be self-supporting, so that’s why we’re investing in the support for people to get together do this for themselves.

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Q: How does You’re Welcome relate to Unlocking Opportunities?

A: You’re Welcome brings together all of the different areas of work that we set out in the ten-year community-based plan ‘Unlocking Opportunities’ that we published in 2011. 

In that plan we said that for the first year we would explore ways of achieving our vision, inviting people to talk with us about.  And then we would begin to develop those ideas.  We have done just that and, as a result, we’ve brought all the different areas we want to work on together and given them a different name. That’s where we are now.

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Q: Why have you changed the name?

A: People told us that ‘Unlocking Opportunities’ wasn’t clear.  We talked to lots of people in the county about what we were trying to achieve, how we could make it clearer and what might enable people to take part if they wished. 

People told us that for our vision to happen, the work needs to meet them where they are now, build on what they enjoy doing, and that everyone should feel welcome and able to join in. That’s how the new name came about.

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Q: What will actually be happening across Gloucestershire as part of You’re Welcome?

A: People will be getting together in different ways to help make where they live more welcoming to and inclusive of everyone who lives there. They may be working on lots of small projects together, they may be making better use of all the strengths that they have already got, and they will be thinking especially about involving the people who usually get left out.

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Q: Will it still be driven by Barnwood Trust?

A: Barnwood Trust’s vision, set by its Trustees in 2011, of communities across Gloucestershire where people with disabilities and mental health challenges can make the most of their lives, remains unchanged. 

The Trust is putting resources into helping people, communities, groups, associations and organisations who share the vision and underpinning beliefs of You’re Welcome, knowing that everyone will make this their own and ultimately do it their own way.

By ‘putting resources in’ we do not just mean putting money in, but also making available people with expertise and experience to advise, and opportunities to connect with and learn from other people with a similar passion for creating welcoming and inclusive communities.

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Q: Isn’t this all just ‘Big Society’ or coping with the cuts to services?

A: No.  You’re Welcome is about enabling communities to do what only they can do, like provide opportunities to make friends, share interests, have fun, act on what they care about.   Unless key services that people depend on are still there, then those people may not be able to join in with You’re Welcome and other community based opportunities. So it’s not about saving money and getting volunteers to provide for nothing the services that may be getting cut.  Services need to do what services do best and communities to be encouraged to do what they do best. 

Many people have talked to us about re-discovering the ‘community spirit’ that they feel has been lost, or only comes out in times of crisis or for major royal occasions.  People have asked why can’t we have that spirit more of the time?  We think that by encouraging communities actively to become more welcoming, and specifically thinking about how they are including people who are usually left out, we may all find more of that elusive community spirit that enriches all of our lives.  Services, even if there were loads of them, cannot do that for us.

And when cuts do bite, communities who have already come together to be stronger and more welcoming, and who feel passionate about losing something they value, are best placed to grow a powerful voice of their own to make that loss known, not rely on the voice of people who may claim to speak on their behalf.

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Q: What is a strengths-based approach?

A: A strengths-based approach is one that helps people and communities to identify what they can do, what they love and what they’re passionate about.  It then builds on these as a firm foundation.

Often we focus on what we can’t do, looking at weaknesses, needs and deficits. Deficits make wobbly foundations on which to build!

We are not ‘air-brushing out’ what’s needed or the challenges people face. But we don’t think it’s helpful to define people or the places they live in terms of what they lack or find difficult. So let’s start talking the language of strengths, not needy, deprived or vulnerable.

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Q: What is a Learning Site?

A: The Trust is currently focusing some of its work in 6 places across the county.  They have become called ‘Learning Sites’.  These are Tewkesbury Town Centre, Stroud Town Centre, Cam, Cheltenham - Springbank area, Cheltenham - The Elms area, Gloucester - Matson area.  We hope also to have a Learning Site in Moreton-in-Marsh and in a community in the Forest of Dean.

The Trust wants to support the development of examples of where people and groups have come together to make their communities more welcoming and inclusive of everyone who lives there.

These places have developed as learning sites because a few people and/or organisations in each of those places came forward during the first year of the Trust’s exploration of how we might develop welcoming and inclusive communities, showing an interest in developing the work further.

Each place is being encouraged and offered opportunities to use an Asset-Based Community Development approach to building welcoming and inclusive community, supported by animation, time banking and storytelling (for explanations of these approaches see other Q&As). 

Barnwood Trust is supporting each of these places in four main ways:

  1. bringing interested people together to share what they care about and what they want to see more of in their community, and to explore how they could work together to make this happen
  2. funding people with experience and expertise to share their knowledge with communities about how to grow welcoming and inclusive communities in different ways, for example
    • how to enable communities to make the most of the skills and enthusiasms of  everyone living there using Asset-Based Community Development (see below)
    • how to enable people who may feel left out to get the confidence to do their thing or join in

This knowledge is shared in different ways. The Trust offers:

  • direct ‘mentoring’ and training to support people who are working together to grow welcoming and inclusive communities.
  • opportunities to share with others with the same aspirations
  1. funding small grants to anyone who wants to make a difference where they live (the Small Sparks grants) and, for anyone who has a disability or mental health challenge, to develop their own skills and experience (the Opportunities Awards)
  2. working together with groups of people living with disabilities or mental health challenges across the county to develop their leadership skills and opportunities and enable them to influence others

Every learning site is different because they are being led by local organisations, groups and people, not by Barnwood.

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Q: What else is happening across the county outside the learning sites, and how can people who don’t live in learning site areas get involved with You’re Welcome?

A: There’s lots happening and lots of things people can do:

  • Find out about events in our learning programme (see the You’re Welcome website)
  • Come to one of the ‘Communities of Practice’ that are meeting regularly. 
    • These are places where people who are interested in doing things can meet others with similar ideas. 
    • They are for people who want to think about what they do a bit differently: they want to use the skills and strengths of everyone who could be involved
    • These people also want to ‘lead by stepping back’ that is they want to enable other people do take action for themselves. 
    • And having thought about what they could do differently they want to go and try it out for themselves, then come back and share what they have learned.

There are several Communities of Practice meeting at the moment:

  • a general one for anyone from any background,
  • one for faith-based associations and organisations
  • one for people with an interest in housing and community spaces
  • one for people interested in dementia
  • one for people with responsibility for communications in health and social care organisations
  • and there will soon be one for arts-based organisations too

What else could you do?

  • Talk to people involved in each of the learning sites and get ideas from them
  • Link with groups and people on the You’re Welcome website to share ideas
  • Apply for a Small Sparks grant to help you, your friends and neighbours come together to do something to make a difference where you live
  • If you’re eligible, apply for an Opportunities Award
  • Talk to someone at Barnwood Trust about what you’re interested in: we’re keen to think about creative ways of doing things that make a difference
  • Think of setting up your own learning site: talk to others with experience and/or to Barnwood about it
  • Talk to Barnwood if you, or people you know with disabilities and mental health challenges, want to get more involved

To find our more call us on 01452 614429 or email team@yourewelcome.to.

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Q: What is Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD)?

A: Asset-Based Community Development is a way of bringing people in communities together to find all the ‘assets’ that occur naturally in a community that it could use to make it stronger, more welcoming, and within You’re Welcome, more inclusive of everyone who lives there. 

A community’s assets can include

  • the skills and enthusiasms of local residents
  • the activities of local associations
  • the resources of local organisations that provide services (public sector, charities, private sector)
  • the local environment – buildings and spaces
  • local sources of funding

The approach involves six ‘stepping stones’

  1. collect stories and positive experiences in the life of the community (the technical term for this is  ‘Appreciative Inquiry’)
  2. find ‘Connectors’ and ‘Community Builders’
  3. the Community Builder and Connectors identify the strengths and assets in a community (the technical term for this is ‘Asset Mapping’)
  4. the Community Builder and Connectors work to connect all these assets and enable small groups to grow and develop in relation to specific enthusiasms/ strengths/interests (the technical term for this is creating an ‘Association of Associations’)
  5. identify small-scale funding to help to start initiatives and help mobilise groups with ideas; all grants should be matched with time given by the community (the technical term for this is ‘Matching Grants’). In You’re Welcome we are doing this largely through Small Sparks grants and Opportunities Awards 
  6. the Community Builder and Connectors work with others in their community to capture the community’s vision and create a long-term plan, based on the asset map and associations, new and old, that are developing (the technical term for this is Community Vision’)

For more information:

Nurture Development http://www.nurturedevelopment.org/

ABCD Europe http://abcdeurope.ning.com/

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Q: We’ve been doing community building work for ages: what makes ABCD any different?

A: It may not be different from the way that many people in communities and many organisations have been ‘just getting on with it’.  Lots of people just naturally get on and do stuff together, starting from common interests and enthusiasms.  And lots of organisations with staff qualified in community development help them to do just that. 

However, people tell us that in practice there is less of this happening naturally than we may like to think.  And they also tell us that, in some places, they don’t feel allowed to work in this kind of way.  They tell us that they feel that this approach gives them permission to do what they’ve always wanted to do.

Another concern is that community based opportunities that are already working from peoples’ strengths are sometime not easily open to people with disabilities and mental health challenges.   So we’re interested in finding ways to ensure that the people who are all too often left out are at the heart of community life.

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Q: What is ‘animation’?

A: We’re not talking cartoons here! In You’re Welcome we are using the term ‘animation’ to describe a way of working with individuals and groups of people through which they can grow in their sense of who they are, what they want to do and be, how they relate to each other, and what they could achieve together. The animator works with individuals and groups to help to build relationships in which people can not only develop themselves but also have a care for each other. 

Animators interact in a particular way to create the stimulus which moves a person or a group of people to feel able to take action to find what they want to do or be, and to participate with others.  They work with people, situations and relationships, joining with them to help them get a perspective on their lives and to see the possibilities.

People are finding animation useful as a different way of working with groups and individuals.  In You’re Welcome we will be running training events to enable people to learn animation skills. 

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Q: What is time banking?

A:  Time banks are built on the principle of being a good neighbour, with people in a neighbourhood swapping their time, skills and resources.  Because everyone has something to offer and, in a time bank, all skills are valued equally.  The offer may be as simple as walking a dog, stuffing some envelopes or it may be repairing a computer or teaching a language. The ‘currency’ is time: if you give an hour of your time you earn ‘time credits’; then you spend these through getting back an hour of someone else’s time, doing something you need. But the beauty of this is that as well as gaining time credits, people taking part in time banks often say that they also gain confidence, make friends and feel better about themselves.  That’s why they fit so well with the ideas behind You’re Welcome. In Gloucestershire, time banks are run by Fair Shares (http://www.fairshares.org.uk/).

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Q: What is storytelling? 

A: The process of storytelling is important in helping people to connect with each other and understand shared experiences. The sharing of stories helps to inspire people to make a change perhaps in their own lives, and in the way that they can contribute in their own communities. Increasingly people are using the internet through ‘social media’ – Facebook, blogging, tweeting, websites – to tell their stories, so they are available for many more people to share.  Some people are calling this ‘social reporting’.

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Q: People are already very busy and volunteers are in short supply: is it realistic to expect communities to do more?

A: You’re Welcome doesn’t assume that people will do more.  It’s about people doing what they already enjoy and what they already care about, and finding other people who share their enthusiasms and concerns. And when they’ve found them, if they want, they might do more of what they enjoy, and see how they can find more people, especially people who might otherwise get left out.  If it becomes a burden, then it isn’t making the most of your strengths.

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Q: What is the difference between a Community Builder and a Connector?

A: In You’re Welcome, Community Builders are people in communities who co-ordinate the energies and enthusiasms of the community, and in particular to do that by finding people who naturally connect with other people.  They set out to find connectors and when they find them, they follow up on their interests and encourage them to go and find people who may share interests and enthusiasms, and then link them up.  So Community Builders are good at seeing possibilities, thinking sideways and following their noses.

Connectors live in the area and naturally get on and do.  They love talking to people, more or less anyone, and they love helping to make stuff happen.   They are the people you can think of when you think to yourself ‘Who would know who lives at number 54?’  or ‘Who would know what’s happening in the village hall on Saturday’ or ‘Who would notice if my curtains weren’t drawn for a few days, or there were no footsteps in the snow going up to my front door?’ Connectors are supported by their Community Builder to keep on connecting.

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Q: How are connectors and Community Builders different from parish/town/city/county councillors?

A: Parish/town/city/county councillors represent people in a certain area, ensuring that a wide number of voices are heard and can influence decisions that affect their lives. They have a representative role and approach. In their role they build connections and community, but they are not just Community Builders, many have responsibility in terms of shaping legislation, designing services and decision making on behalf of those that elected them.

Community Builders do not speak on or act on behalf of residents. They never do for residents what they can do for themselves, instead they help residents get connected and confident enough to speak for themselves about the things that matter most to them.

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Q: Isn’t it the job of the parish, district or county councils to build communities?

A: It’s everyone’s job to build community.

Councils perform an important role in developing consensus so that decisions can be reached that support the interests of the general public.

But Councils are also well placed to fund and support the practice of local community building in many ways which happens on the streets where people live. So, just as councils can support Community Builders, community building can increase the number of voters prepared to join in and make a difference. So building communities is important for local democracy.

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Q: How will we know when a Community Builder is no longer needed?

A:  Communities continue to become more disconnected, they are also getting older and more people are experiencing heightened levels of loneliness and isolation. Community Builders are paid to help the community change these things. While the funds for Community Builders are not infinite, we hope to demonstrate the importance of the role they play and to advocate for on-going investment in their role. We believe the resources are there to do so in the County.

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Q: How long does the Community Building process take?

A:  In other areas across the UK we are seeing positive results within 12 to 18 months of a Community Builder coming into post. The idea is that the process keeps recycling and goes deeper over time to include more and more people. This takes longer, and in fact is an on-going process.

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Q: Housing providers have been investing in communities for years: how is this different?

A: Anything that builds community is valuable and housing providers have done some great work.  We want to stimulate more activity that builds communities; and we think that asset-based community development, which builds connections around people’s skills and interests, will be more sustainable in the long term, providing a solid platform for developing plans that are owned by people in the neighbourhood. Housing providers are sometimes constrained by providing a service to their customers, whereas we want to identify the assets of the whole community, and in particular we want to ensure that disabled people are at the heart of building communities. 

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Q: Shouldn’t agencies (e.g. housing providers) be focussing on financial inclusion and welfare reform issues in the light of recession, instead of community building?

A: Financial inclusion is very important and we applaud the work of agencies in that area; similarly, basic services such as decent housing are vital. But so are friendship and informal support – they are essential to our wellbeing. However much money we have, however attractive our home might be, our capacity to enjoy it will be undermined if we feel isolated or insecure. And for many, increased wellbeing and a wider social network results in a greater capacity to find work, too.

So we want to encourage housing providers and others to consider how the investment of small sums in building communities can bring great rewards. It’s essential though that the community is in the driving seat and that lots of new contacts are made, so that the benefits don’t melt away when the funding stops. We think that ABCD (http://abcdeurope.ning.com/ and www.nurturedevelopment.org) offers a way to do this and that through You’re Welcome the strengths of a wider range of people will be included.

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Q: How will vulnerable adults and children be safeguarded?

A: The aim of You’re Welcome is to generate more of the ordinary, positive links between people in communities. Whilst, sadly, there are always risks involved, those risks will be there with or without You’re Welcome. But there are also huge risks associated with people being isolated and alone.  One of the most effective ways of keeping children and vulnerable adults safe from harm is to ensure that they are not isolated and that there lots of people involved and seeing what is happening.

We will however be ensuring that Community Builders are offered training in safeguarding and that communities are encouraged to be more vigilant and crucially, more aware of those who are vulnerable.

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Q: How can you change communities across the whole county – it’s a huge ambition?

A: Barnwood Trust can’t, but working together we can.  We’re not doing this by ourselves.  And lots of great stuff is already happening.  But people often don’t know about it, or don’t realise that what they are doing is so great.  So we’re not starting from scratch either. Others don’t quite have the confidence to do what they may be itching to get on with – we just want to make this normal and everyday so that more of it can happen.  And of course we have at least a ten year time scale. 

What’s wrong with huge ambitions, big visions and dreams anyway?

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Q: How can we measure the difference this work makes?

A: We are committed to finding out if the work we all do to make more welcoming and inclusive communities is making much impact.  So we are investing funds in working with the learning sites and others to track the changes that might be happening.  It’s not going to be easy, as lots of the changes are subtle, and people don’t necessarily want to spend time on collecting evidence – they just want to get on and do.

But we have developed a number of ways to help us do this, and we are sharing those with a range of people across the county who also care about how to do this in a meaningful way.  If you are interested in finding out more detail, contact Clare Fletcher on 01452 634014 or email clare.fletcher@barnwoodtrust.org.

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Q: What will success look like?

A: What do you think? 

What do you think it will feel like if we all create neighbourhoods that buzz with friendship, enjoyable things to do with others, all the signs of support and kindness between people that make life meaningful?  If in a block of flats, a group of streets, an estate or village, everyone knows someone to say hello to and have a cup of tea with, everyone has something they care about and something to offer, everyone has people to call on if they need a hand, everyone has the confidence to leave their house and join in, because they know they’ll be welcome, and that ‘everyone’ includes people with disabilities and mental health difficulties?

And if in every neighbourhood people are actively building their community every day.

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