About the network
Surrey Lifelong Learning Partnership successfully applied for Learning and Skills Council funding to develop a network to support community development workers working across Surrey. It had been identified that there was no network in Surrey that engaged frontline community development workers, and it was felt that they would benefit from support because they and their line managers often have no background or training in community development work and have to learn in situ.The funding allowed for the recruitment of a part-time dedicated network coordinator, for the costs of training and networking events and for some network support resources.
The network was established in 2008 and provides free training and networking opportunities for frontline community development workers. The network is free to join. Helen Thomas was recruited as network coordinator and commenced work in June 2008. After establishing a mailing list of community development workers and consulting them on their training and support needs, Helen planned an initial programme of once monthly training and networking meetings between September and November. Building on the success of these, and informed by ongoing evaluation and feedback, she planned a further series of six monthly meetings between January and June 2009, with individual workplace consultancy visits tying in with one of the training events.
A total of 33 community development workers are currently on the mailing list, and 24 have attended training events. Surplus places on training events have been offered more widely to others working in the community. Events to date have included:
- a seminar on community cohesion
- training on occupational standards and qualifications in community development
- talks from the Primary Care Trust regarding health promotion and from Woking Citizens Advice bureau on encouraging people to take up benefits
- sessions on evaluating impact and demonstrating the value of community development work to funders
- advice on organising events and planning and promoting projects successfully
- training on risk assessment
- a session on mental health awareness
- fresh ideas for getting and keeping people involved.
Feedback has demonstrated the value of the training and networking to the workers:
- “It has been really useful. I made useful contacts for networking for my new role. Have been made more aware of the variety of issues / barriers faced and how my role can make positive differences”
- “I will look at ways of incorporating accredited training into some of the projects I work on”
- “A useful reflective space outside of work”
The network coordinator will continue to support the network in 2009/10. Plans for Autumn and Winter 2009 have been informed by a consultation exercise carried out in August.