In our era of digital connectivity, where not everyone has access or wishes to use online resources, the importance of having in-person connections within a community cannot be overstated. Building strong relationships among individuals, organisations, community groups, and public services can help create a resilient support network, encouraging shared resources, knowledge exchange, and a collective commitment to neighbourhood improvement through face-to-face interactions. Each of our The Friendly Bench actively support this approach ensuring inclusivity for those who may not have digital access, recognising the importance of real-world connections in an increasingly virtual world.
Facilitating Connections and Partnerships
An essential aspect of community building lies in establishing and nurturing connections with various stakeholders. The outcome of such efforts is evident in the reported increase in local people's connections with vital services, as indicated in the data gathered from The Friendly Bench sites as revealed in our newly published independent evaluation.
Across The Friendly Bench Network, a significant achievement has been the establishment of over 150 connections with local businesses, councillors, funders, police, churches, libraries, health and well-being service providers, and voluntary sector groups. These connections, both new and strengthened, have played a pivotal role in fostering a collaborative ethos, ensuring sustainability, promoting The Friendly Bench and linking community resources, such as access to physical spaces and skills. The ripple effect of these connections extends to shared event promotions, joint initiatives and funding opportunities, contributing to the overall benefit of the community.
Example Connections and Their Impact
The purpose of these connections goes beyond a singular focus, serving diverse purposes that enrich the community fabric. Some notable examples include:
Access to Funding/Donation:
· Collaborations with local businesses like Morrisons, Asda, and Co-op have resulted in generous donations, ranging from event items to refreshments in Ipswich.
· Partnerships with organisations like Sport England have facilitated funding for activities aimed at enhancing physical health.
Delivery of Activities:
· In Chester, TFB has forged relationships with local artists and musicians, broadening the appeal of events and engaging a more diverse audience.
· Collaborative efforts, such as nature walks with Ipswich Borough Council Park Rangers, demonstrate the positive outcomes of community partnerships.
Signposting to Other Services/Activities:
· Wellbeing walks in Bury have been facilitated through a connection with the local social prescribing service, utilising TFB as a base.
Working on Joint Initiatives:
· Collaborations with care homes, as seen in Overslade House's involvement in creating decorations for TFB Rugby, showcase the intergenerational and community-building aspects of these connections.
· Engaging with the local Mayor, BBC Radio Suffolk, and the Royal Horticultural Society has not only raised awareness but also attracted additional funding.
· Partnerships with businesses like Cemex and Greencore have resulted in corporate volunteering, contributing to the maintenance of TFB sites.
· The involvement of local organizations, such as Life Central Church in Halesowen, and Friendship groups in maintaining TFB, exemplify the community-centric impact of these connections.
In conclusion, the positive outcomes derived from these community connections highlight the transformative power of collaboration in building stronger, more resilient neighbourhoods. As these connections continue to grow across The Friendly Bench Network, so does the potential for further community improvement and a shared commitment to the well-being of all residents.
Talk to us about how The Friendly Bench could make a positive difference in your community. The Friendly Bench could help enhance outreach, encourage connections and build a happier, more resilient community where everyone can come get together and contribute.