Chief Executive Liza Kellet shares her experience of a fact-finding mission to Glasgow to inspire allies and to learn more about Self-Reliant Groups from those who know best: members of groups, in their own words.
It’s not often in the UK that you’re rolling out of bed and thanking the heavens that there’s no snow. On Friday the 9 March 2018 I found myself peeking through my curtains and punching the air.
We were off to Glasgow for Trust Leeds’ first adventure. The field trip was an opportunity to encourage catalysing people and potential groups to appreciate how Self-Reliant Groups nurture confidence, skills, enterprise and savings. And, just as importantly, how they help people to feel part of something, have a purpose and do something more for themselves, their families and their communities.
My supportive entourage and I had set our sights on Scotland as it’s home to charity Wevolution.
WEvolution is nurturing a movement of people from disadvantaged backgrounds and their aspirations for a better life – where they are in charge. Bringing people together in its Self-Reliant Groups (SRGs), WEvolution promotes a way of working alongside communities that is based on trust, self-governance and collective endeavour towards entrepreneurship.
WEvolution’s SRGs are the first of their kind in the UK so it was a great learning opportunity to meet with this inspirational organisation.
SRGs are small groups of 5 to 10 people who commit to meeting weekly and develop strong bonds of trust and friendship, save small amounts of money together, learn skills and support each other to create income-generating opportunities for themselves.
It was thanks to Leeds Community Foundation that we could pay for the mini-bus up to Glasgow – the Leeds Fund Small Grants programme is designed to support community-based activities and build capacity – perfect for a tiny, brand new organisation like Trust Leeds to get a project off the ground.
What an SRG really means
So nearly four hours and 220 miles later, 10 of us arrive in Glasgow and are greeted by the team at Wevolution’s Inverclyde hub. We’re introduced to our first SRG – the women of ‘Five Mummies Make’. They shared a few words about what being part of their group means to them.
“The group has had a brilliant effect on me and my family. We run events, tea parties, and sell a variety of handmade items. I crochet and our other members make paper flowers, sock monkeys and handmade cards. I have a habit of under-selling myself so the group is great at honesty – whether that means they think items will sell or not! After our first event we were exhausted, we’d never done it before, but we were so proud of ourselves. Since then we’ve raised £2,500 for ourselves and for local charities. We’ve been able to lend money to one of our members to help her pay her rent. Obviously there’s the expectation to pay it back but not the pressure like you’d get from going to a bank.”
Several other SRG members talked about feeling lonely and isolated before they joined a group, as one person put it:
“We’ve become friends and family. We’ve had so many similar experiences, emotions, illnesses, feelings etc that when they [other members] say ‘I know what you mean,’ they actually do! It means so much and for me it’s the support that’s incredible.”
As a direct result of this field trip, volunteers, local people and staff at community hub LS14 Trust worked with Trust Leeds to set up our city’s first Self-Reliant Group – the Glitter Fairy’s SRG. (Follow them on face book @GFSRG6 – yes, this group was born out of the field trip, and within 3 months of weekly meetings to get the fundamentals of SRG membership sorted, they have their own face book page and are already generating income and making savings)!
What’s more, Linda was so intrigued by hearing about one group’s activities – holding traditional afternoon teas for local older people – that she decided to do one herself. She wrote to thank the Glasgow SRGs for their inspiration and example, and wishes they will visit LS14 hub so they can share their ideas and news of the local SRG. [See photo of Linda at her tea party]
And so it goes full circle: people building ideas and confidence together, sharing, teaching each other, saving, supporting and nurturing – by doing something for themselves and helping others… who then pass it forward.