Birmingham COMMUNITY Matters: celebrating our return to in-person events

Entrance to Soho Community Hall, with BCM banner

This blog post predates our current website. We updated it in July 2022 so the links would continue to work but some of the information is out of date. For example, we now call ‘Community Matters Helpers’ our ‘BCM helpers’. 

Have you heard about the 2022 upgrade to Zoom? The ‘Room’ installation lets you meet real people in a real place. Honestly, it has the potential to change the world!

Sorry – we know we’re too late for April Fools’ jokes. We’re just excited that, on Wednesday 30 March 2022, we were able to hold our first in-person BCM session for two years.

Thank you to Carol and Soho Community Hall in Handsworth for hosting us. Thank you also to the lovely people who booked in advance to come and meet our Community Matters Helpers.

What happens at a BCM session?

At our face-to-face sessions (we used to call them surgeries, but decided this is too formal), people with questions about starting, running or growing a community organisation can sit down with our Helpers, working through their challenges together.

Pre-pandemic, we billed these events as ‘drop-in sessions’, meaning anyone could turn up. We’d greet people at the door, find out about their plans and problems, and then match them with the Helper best placed to support on the day.

With this first ‘real life’ BCM session, we asked people to register before the day – mainly so we could manage numbers and ensure everyone would have space to spread out. But knowing a little about our guests in advance helped us to provide even more relevant support.

Moving our services online in response to the coronavirus pandemic meant doing some advance planning. We got smarter about matching people with suitably experienced BCM helpers at a mutually convenient time.

‘Everyone has something to learn and everyone has something to teach’

The morning was brilliant – and a reminder of why you can’t beat being together with people in real life.

We met someone who asked about securing funding for a community room and cultural centre. Together we talked about mapping costs, and the extra considerations required when the building is listed.

Later we talked with someone else about expanding the reach of community organisations. We explored ways they could find volunteers to help them run, and expand their networks of users through referrals and social media platforms.

While exploring with someone else the potential for a community garden run by volunteers, we were happy to tell them about the excellent Birmingham Open Spaces Forum. BOSF is a volunteer network organisation that brings together all the community groups in Birmingham with an interest in green open spaces.

While we talked parks and trees, someone else shared details of Birmingham Trees For Life – a dedicated tree-planting charity for the city.

BCM’s motto is ‘Everyone has something to learn and everyone has something to teach‘. This always bears out – and even more so when we’re side by side with people. It was great to hear our guests bouncing off one another with contacts and ideas, facilitated by BCM but independently of us.

If you have questions relating to setting up, running or growing a community group in Birmingham, look out for our next BCM events, listed on Eventbrite. We know there are benefits to delivering our services online too, so we will continue to offer that one-to-one support from the comfort of Zoom.

Links and resources

PS. One thing we need to say about all our services: unfortunately, we can’t usually support community interest companies. It’s not because we don’t love CICs and the work they do; it’s because we’re a registered charity with specific aims and limitations. We explain it fully here.

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