Wolverhampton for Everyone is made up of a network of people with different gifts and talents, creating positive change in Wolverhampton: this is our partnership. Our partnership gathers regularly to connect and share what we’ve been doing and learning. The partnership is open to everyone, so we capture the stories and ideas shared, and invite everyone to be part of these continuing conversations and actions towards positive change — look out for the webs ? to find out how you can connect and grow ideas.

Prior to lockdown, the Wolverhampton for Everyone team and partnership had been reflecting on our growing year and planning towards the future ‘rooting years’. We have since been using our lockdown time to listen and learn about how our plans can help make it easier for people to create, share, make, do and learn things together whilst still potentially maintaining physical distancing, rather than social distancing.

Three months later the Wolverhampton for Everyone team and partnership were reunited in our first virtual gathering to share what we have been doing, learning and planning in this unprecedented period.

What we have been doing

Trade School Online

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Wolverhampton for Everyone team members have been collaborating on Trade School Online, an exciting experiment created by the people behind Trade School Dudley, Trade School Wolverhampton, Trade School Bearwood and Trade School Digbeth. Trade School Online is a partnership of organisations in Birmingham and the Black Country to connect, celebrate and share what people in our communities can do.

Trade School is an idea which started in New York and was taken up by communities around the world. Learners bring a gift item specified by the teachers in exchange for the teachers sharing their knowledge and skills with others. The ethos is:

  • Trade School is open to all.
  • Knowledge can be practical skills, talents, knowledge and experience.
  • Anyone can teach, anyone can learn.
  • No teaching experience is required.
  • Everyone is welcome to attend classes.
  • No money exchanges hands.
  • Teachers provide a list of lovely barter items. Learners bring or offer one thing from the list in exchange for the class.

Our virtual partnership gathering was buzzing with Trade School Online class ideas, including upcycling plastic objects and recycling furniture. We saw network weavingin action as we talked about people across Wolverhampton who would be interested in participating, and bringing even more skills to the network.

We discussed how Trade School Online could celebrate local talents and businesses, but more importantly how it could contribute to overcoming the hurdles of digital inequity. During lockdown, people have had to suddenly grasp new ways of online working and there’s a real need for support in digital skills. One of the key reasons for Trade Schools from different areas collaborating with each other was to pool together their experience and skills so teachers would have support to prepare their class, hosting and technology support from a friendly team.

If you would like to make someone’s day by sharing your skill, knowledge or talent, fill in this class offers form: bit.ly/tradeschoolonline

Empowering Social Entrepreneurs

Back in February 2020, the Empowering Social Entrepreneurs programme was launched to support people who are interested in turning their ideas, hobbies, interests, passions into a project, enterprise or business that makes a difference to people, communities or the environment. The programme was off to a great start with 11 people joining. Three sessions in, the participants had taken part in discussions, activities, and stories, and shared their ideas, experience and networks. The participants had already created a supportive, co-learning culture.

When COVID-19 struck, the programme paused while the group all adjusted to the new realities and ways of working. They started to meet again virtually to share ideas, thoughts, concerns and offer each other support and encouragement. They also focussed on funding and generating ideas for how income can be generated, with very helpful input from the City Council.

The peer-learning group is continuing to meet monthly, looking ahead to the opportunities and challenges that they are facing as everyone comes out of lockdown. With strategic thinking the group is exploring what each person needs to do to make their enterprise project successful.

A member of the partnership who is also participating in the programme has found that it’s good for promoting each others’ skills. When course participants hear of opportunities, they think of their peers’ talents and connect them (again, network weaving in practice!).

If you would like to learn more about the Social Entrepreneurship Course, just get in touch with us.

What we have been learning

Since lockdown, we’ve all had to respond and adapt very quickly. People are now again readjusting their lives and work as lockdown is eased and we move into recovery. The partnership shared what we’ve discovered or learnt during lockdown and what we would like to hold onto as we emerge from lockdown.

Connecting with nature and our communities

Our conversation quickly turned to how we’ve valued being in nature, and the importance of being able to access gardens and allotments.

We’ve gained reaffirmation that there is community spirit and that people care about each other.

‘People have been more present. There was a Facebook post about a lady who lives around the corner from me — it was going to be her 90th birthday and her daughter couldn’t visit her. The daughter asked if people in the area could clap outside her home. On the lady’s birthday, her daughter rang to tell her to go outside and she found 30 people singing happy birthday and clapping. It was the most profound moment I’ve ever experienced. I cried my eyes out. People brought cards and gifts, but what she gave us was more than what we gave her; a feeling of community. I’d never have done this if it wasn’t for the lockdown. People are more present.’

Connecting virtually

The absence of face-to-face interactions has been missed. It’s reminded us of the value of reading and responding to people’s body language, and how face-to-face conversations can help with decision making.

Some people used to working in an office with others have enjoyed the flexibility of working from home, whilst others have found self-motivation to be difficult and can’t wait for face to face interaction to return.

Whilst there are downsides of communicating online, we’ve discovered ways we can be more connected. Self-employed people who work from home have found that the increase in virtual gatherings has enabled them to connect more with people who usually work in offices.

Moving activities and gatherings online has enabled flexibility. Ladies Wine & Design used to take place in different places across Birmingham in the evening. Moving online, the Drink & Doodle Social has welcomed participants from London and Manchester, as well as locals with children who couldn’t get childcare to attend previous events.

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Drink & Doodle Social participants laughing with their blind contour portraits.

Virtual activities have opened up new connections. Although these will never replace physical social gatherings, we have learnt the inclusive value of a healthy mix of virtual and physical approaches to connecting and doing together.

Slowing and growing

We’ve been thrust outside of our comfort zones, and have developed confidence in talking with people virtually.

We have slowed down, and are no longer racing around.

People are worried about things going back to the way things were before lockdown. They can use this opportunity to dig their heels in and demand things change so we can keep hold of the good stuff and not see it disappear.

We’d love to hear what new behaviours, routines or skills you’ve developed during lockdown and what you’d like to take forward.

How we will be moving forward

Many people have been reflecting deeply about their values, with few people wanting things to go back to the way they were. We are at a unique junction where we can pause, take stock and reimagine. Black Lives Matter is an opportunity for us to reimagine relationships between communities and institutions. We can rethink local economies to be more just, fair, and green. We feel that Wolverhampton for Everyone can be a vehicle to drive this change through our whole system design jams that bring people together to solve complex issues. When we work together and we can dream big, and make change.

As a partnership, we shared what our needs are and what we can offer others to help drive this change.

Digital Equity

Need: There is a need across communities in Wolverhampton for IT skills.

Offer: WVSC are currently doing inclusion training and supporting people to develop their digital skills and get online. Members of the partnership have offered tips for hosting zoom sessions, and sharing training resources with the wider network.

Network Weaving

Need: We want to connect with more people across Wolverhampton, widen our message and be as diverse as possible, so we can work collectively towards a people-powered city. We need people to build on the positive word of mouth and connect other people to the network.

Offer: We offer to share our resources, experience, connections and learning so people can feel connected and able to ‘dip in’ whenever they have the energy. CoLab Dudley are protoyping ways to virtually and physically map networks to make it easier for locals to connect and design experiments together. Wolverhampton for Everyone are developing a recovery programme to facilitate design jams and build connections between individuals and institutions so Wolverhampton can capitalise on the community focus that has grown from lockdown.

Supporting Local Businesses

Offer:True Reverie have been creating T-shirts for Wolverhampton, and have noticed a recent surge in people supporting local businesses. Now shops are re-opening, they are looking into creating a loyalty scheme with other independents who can join together and promote each other.

Need:We need people to share what shops, cafes, or businesses they think would benefit from a Wolverhampton independent business loyalty scheme.

Supporting Young Creatives

Need:There has been an increase in support for design graduates, and Sister Minor Designhas signed up to a regional university mentor scheme, and has been paired up with a design graduate facing lockdown job finding. There is a will to widen this support outside of university and young people from other career paths.

Offer:Gazebo Theatrehave been working with creative young women as part of Talent Match Black Country and will be connecting them with Sister Minor.

Supporting people affected by lockdown

Offer:Lea Road Churchheld a physically distanced Big Lunch and took food to local families. Sharing this in a previous gathering, this sparked inspiration for another church to hold a similar lunch:

“Oi! Do you want some cake?” It’s a lovely way to speak to new people.’

Lea Road Church has now secured 150kg of food each week to deliver to people in the Penn Fields area who need it most — especially those who have been furloughed or have been made redundant.

Need: There is a need to connect to people in the Penn Fields area who are in need of food. People can share this email with their networks to help with this: learoadfood@gmail.com

? Can you contribute to these offers and needs? What needs do you have, and what can you offer?

? Join us for our next gathering to REIMAGINE WOLVERHAMPTON https://buff.ly/32OIXJd

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?The Wolverhampton for Everyone Library

We like to share resources we’ve found helpful or interesting so others can delve into them for information and inspiration:

? We’d love to hear what resources you would like to share. You can contact us via Email and follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagram & Eventbrite.