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Focus on connecting communities - Community Champions | City of Sanctuary | Birmingham City Council

Focus on connecting communities - Community Champions

Overall project aims are to improve cohesion and integration through increasing the connections and involvement of new arrivals and new communities with community networks, services and activities, and support communities taking the lead and ownership within their neighbourhoods.

One of the methods to achieve this is by the introduction of community champions

The Polish Expats Association (PEA) was commissioned by BCC to recruit and train community champions from Central and Eastern European communities.

PEA provided not only training, but also networking opportunities for individuals who were identified as champions from these communities.

PEA carried out extensive interviews with the individuals about the aspects of community work they were most interested in, skills they have, and ones they wanted to learn.

Two community champions, Dana and Irena, both joined the programme. They wanted to improve their ability to represent their community, and to increase visibility and opportunities for their community.

Dana and Irena had been running the Czech and Slovak Club for several years.

The club was running on dedication, volunteers, and money out of their own pockets.

The club provides activities for the Czech and Slovak community in Birmingham to keep it connected and engaged. It organises community events, English lessons and support activities.

It also runs a supplementary school for Czech and Slovak children where they learn their languages, history, literature and culture preserving heritage and identity.

PEA organised a series of training sessions for the community champions. The training was provided by local relevant experts in the following specific fields:

  • The role of a community champion
  • Equality and Diversity legislation in practice
  • How to set up your organisation
  • Make every contact count
  • Marketing and PR for community organisations
  • Fundraising and making successful grant applications
  • Business planning

Feedback about the training has been very positive with Dana stating: “Connecting us to likeminded groups, support organisations and local members of parliament has helped extend awareness of our community, as well as ourselves as a community organisation, has been really useful.

We have also been successful with two recent grant applications, because of improving our understanding of the grant application process that we found invaluable.

We have really benefitted from the program and wish there was more ongoing support for community interest companies like ourselves. “

Irena said: “I was introduced to the program by the Czech and Slovak Club UK and through the training realized many of the other Central and Eastern European groups faced identical challenges, and the advantages/opportunities from working together.

On a personal level, I have taken on new skills and projects (hosting a live information session, making an instructional video, hosted quiz nights) that I would not have considered before.”

Both Irena and Dana have booked individual 1-1 sessions to seek additional guidance.

These regular 1-1 sessions ensure the champions are receiving the specific support they need. Further 1-1 sessions are planned to support the champions' final projects.

The two successful grant applications have been a turning point for the Czech and Slovak Club and filled them with optimism for future endeavours. Irene and Dana are now trained community champions, and this has increased their confidence in representing their communities, reaching out to professional bodies and planning their projects.

During 1-1 sessions the champions commended the valuable opportunities the programme created in connecting them with previously unknown organisations and professionals.

It also gave them the chance to be introduced as community champions to councillors and MPs.

The Polish Expats Association has successfully reached out to communities from Central and Eastern Europe and provided training to support them to build independent and effective communities that promote inclusion and empowerment.