People, place and purpose – how The Friendly Bench could be a solution.
According to a report by think tank Theos, ‘Neighbourhood resilience relies on three factors People, Place and Purpose’¹ but with more people experiencing loneliness and social isolation, coupled with the cost of living crisis and many public spaces being forced to close, how can our communities survive, let alone thrive?
At The Friendly Bench we believe community is the answer, that local people are the best placed to know what their community needs and how to address it. That’s not to say they have to do it alone, our communities need to be given ‘permission’ to do it, they should be supported, given guidance and, of course, help with accessing funding.
As we know ourselves, when you bring a community together and discover the wealth of knowledge, skills, practical support and enthusiasm that is contained within in, it is truly remarkable. That’s not to say it is easy, sometimes communities can feel defeated, that they have already lost the battle and that the problem is just ‘to big’ for them to solve. But by encouraging everyone, of all ages and abilities, giving them permission and a platform to share their skills, their gifts, when motivated the resilience and aspirations of a community can blossom.
Place is important too, a location, a venue, a hub where what you do happens or begins or ends at, it is the focus for what you do. However, finding a location to bring a community together can be problematic, as many of us know in our own communities, public buildings, libraries, community centres, youth groups are closing down every week. There may be options to take on a building, but the rent, managing and running of a building is expensive and time-consuming.
But not all public places have to be buildings, they can be outdoor social spaces. That’s where we come in, The Friendly Bench is a low-cost, low-maintenance public social space which can be located wherever your community needs it. Our purposely designed The Friendly Bench provide an inclusive and accessible outdoor social space for all ages and abilities. Built to comply with Disability Discrimination Act on Public Seating, The Friendly Bench provides an accessible, attractive and welcoming social place for people of all ages and abilities to come together, build connections and be a part of their community. Seating up to 12 people and surrounded by sensory planting, it provides a convenient and comfortable social space where everyone can meet, connect and get involved with their community.
Purpose – why are we doing this, what are we hoping to achieve, what are we hoping for? Most people want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, they want to belong. Perhaps you want to reclaim your community, aspire to make it a nicer place to live, a safer place, a healthier place, a friendly place? By having a common purpose and working together towards it, it can lift morale, give a community meaning and also everyone a sense of place – what is also called social capital. Having access to support and advice, learning from others who are doing the same thing in their community, collaborating on joint initiatives and being part of a wider community is also vital to your success.
At The Friendly Bench we recognise this, that is why every group that joins us become a member of our The Friendly Bench Network and receives ongoing support, advice and guidance from The Friendly Bench team. This is in person to person support, online advice, tips and ideas, plus we have our own TFB Network Member Facebook group were everyone shares best practice, ideas and supports each other. Our regular newsletter with stories, fundraising opportunities and updates on what’s happening across the Network and also our free Evening Classes, where we give all members the opportunity to meet and get involved / collaborate with national voluntary and charity organisations.
In addition to this, being part of The Friendly Bench Network, we also help you promote your projects and the events, ensuring that everyone both locally and nationally get to hear about the great work you are doing in your community.
As Theos state in their report, ‘Resilience is something that ‘comes up’ from the neighbourhood itself, as people are cared for, as they grown, serve and eventually lead.’
‘In its essence, it is not about meeting needs but about summoning people to be all that they can be.’ By adopting this long-term community-led approach and moving away from outside, short term interventions, our communities can not only become more resilient and sustainable, they can be transformative.
To find out more about The Friendly Bench and The Friendly Bench Network, click onto menu tab above.
¹Bickley, Paul; People, Place, and Purpose: Churches and Neighbourhood Resilience in the North East, (Theos, 2018)