HOW TO RUN A COMMUNITY PROJECT
We have run over 15 community projects, with budgets ranging from £2,000 to £15,000, and on average involving between 80 and 150 people. This page provides an example project (one we carried out in 2012 based on the nearby London Olympics) and shows the planning stages we went through, how we implemented it, and what could have been improved. It may be helpful if you are thinking about starting up a community project.
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If you would like more help with setting up a community project, please get in touch by email at email@example.com.
Planning the project
About the Project
The ELTA project provided opportunities for local community groups to contribute to celebrations around the 2012 Olympics with textile and paintings created in workshops run by a professional artist and experienced community textile tutors, with local volunteer assistants. An outreach worker worked with people unable to access mainstream classes. A website was constructed as a publicity and teaching tool. Three exhibitions were held in different venues during the middle of March to show works created on the project and provided much needed cross cultural community celebrations. Some of the work produced is currently being merchandised in local bookshops and galleries and will be shown again in an exhibition at St Martin in the Fields in May which will be opened by the local MP, Stephen Timms.
Planned Outcomes for the Project
The project aimed to build learners' skills in textiles and arts leading to participants' work being shown at final exhibitions, local bookshops, crafts gallery and project website. As the work for both textile classes led to communal creation of hangings, it taught people how to work as part of a creative group, learning skills of negotiation and teamwork, and encouraged students to learn from one another. Work was completed for an exhibition in central London with accompanying merchandising for sale. The appointment of the community designer enabled one participant to learn web designing and desktop publishing skills. Through the appointment of assistant managers and project administrator the project strengthened participants' community management skills and experience.
Wider Benefits of the Project
It also improved community cohesion by bringing together different ethnic groups through a common interest in textiles and art. A volunteering internship opportunity developed on the project, providing a much needed step from unemployment to paid work for local people. The outreach worker took the project to new, hard to reach participants, venues and organisations. The project increased the number of social and cultural events in the community. The participants and teachers made new relationships with local people with shared interests and made learning less forbidding, with friendly atmosphere and classes running at the pace suited to the participants. Those with English as a second language had a chance to improve their linguistic skills. The outreach worker was able to find out which local groups needed craft and textile teaching so that in future we could target our services where the needs were greatest. She also found out what kind of teaching they wanted, with many groups wanting teaching at basic levels and going at a slow speed as the groups comprising people with wide range of disabilities. (In particular we expanded the market for classes with adults with learning difficulties.) We opened up pathways of learning for participants to continue to learn in a more formal setting and with more resources at Morley College.
The outcomes for learners, which we had not predicted:
Good for people's health - especially older people who spoke of the benefits of walking to project. The outreach work sessions were taken up nearly entirely by disabled people or adults with learning difficulties, as was one of the four weekly textile sessions - this was not planned. We unexpectedly developed a writing project and beginnings of oral history project, carried out by the community designer and called "Patchwork Lives", which helped create more confidence with writing and literacy skills. For participants this departure gave confidence in speaking skills when interviewed. There was a real sense of pride in being involved in lively, well attended exhibitions - and in their work being sold (the art class exhibition unexpectedly sold 4 pictures.) Sales of cards at shops and galleries went very well and our cards were wanted for the future - this is a great boost to participants' self-confidence. Exhibitions were very important in getting new people to join in the project. In particular the exhibition of the work by adults with learning difficulties surprised everyone by the quality of their work and the public could see that their work would make a successful and valued community exhibition. This not only gave those participants who could understand their involvement with the exhibition a feeling of worth but also boosted the morale of the carers, some of whose work was also on show. Older people talked of the benefits of utilizing their powers of concentration and focus.
Monthly management meetings were held throughout the project, when tutors reported on progress each month. The project co-ordinator also reported at regular intervals to the chair of the management meeting to discuss any problems as they arose.
Note: We followed the normal timetables of setting up classes in the academic year: I think it might be more difficult to run this project at other times of the year, so have used actual times rather than abstract numbered weeks as we carefully organised the project to work around the academic year.
Week 1: Initial planning meeting
Week 2: designing of publicity and begin working on the website
End of August: distribute publicity locally.
Continue distributing publicity and promote project by talking with community centre workers about the project.
Week 3: 4 weekly, two-hour classes begin.
Appointment of administrator and outreach worker
Mid October: appointment of community designer and induct volunteer.
Last week of October: half term for all people
End of November: Questionnaires created for interviewing participants and workers.
Early December: All people interviewed about their participation in the project.
Preparation of December report.
Mid December: Pre-Christmas sale of merchandising.
Accounts done with project finance officer.
Leafleting of local community centres for the following term's classes.
Main work on website (went online in early January).
More leafleting of area.
Classes begin second week of January.
End of January: begin to organise and ensure that work will be finished by end of term exhibitions. Discuss with participants what they will put into their final shows. Induction of second volunteer.
Start to organise dates for final show and who is to take responsibility for what.
End of FebruaryL more interviewing of participants and staff about the project. Design of exhibition invitations.
Early March: Distribution of invitations through project participants and local community centres. Organise who is to do catering for all events.
3rd week in March: Exhibitions
4th week in March: final classes reviewing participants’ work done and where they will progress to.
End of March, beginning of April: Write reports. Do accounts with project finance officer.
Publicity: we created 30 A4 posters
500 A5 Leaflets and fliers using 6 different leaflet and flier designs link to attachments with pdf files of publicity designs.
30 Posters - A4 and A3 sizes
150 final exhibition invitations
We constructed a website: www.eaastlondontextilearts.com
50 invitations for May exhibition printed early as early publicity for next exhibition.
Administration : --- days
Project management : --- days
Tutor costs : --- hours
Outreach : 60 hours
Volunteering expenses : ----
Equipment purchase : A4 and A3
Printers, A4 Laminator
Project Strategy for Publicity:
We found that the best publicity methods were meeting local community centres managers in person and giving out leaflets, fliers, local posters to nearby community centres and churches and attracting new participants through existing participants. The exhibitions proved very good at attracting new interest in joining our projects, though as they were at the end of the project this rather made its sustainability easier than boosting participation numbers. The fact that we had three different exhibitions at three different centres also increased the coverage of our publicity. We designed a special leaflet for classes for adults with learning difficulties - this proved successful in getting new offers of work for the following term. International Women's Day was very important in bringing new demand for our work.
Download Publicity Documents:
- ELTA Flyer January 2012
- ELTA Leaflet
- Garden Cafe
- Garden Cafe Invite
- Garden Cafe Textiles Poster
- Hathaway Invitation
- Knitting Poster
- Knitting Poster A4
- Nu Life Exhibition
- Nu Life Leaflet
- St Barnabas Flyer
- St Barnabas (March 2012)
- Trinity Centre Flyer
- Lecture 1
- Lecture 2
Our website (www.eastlondontextilearts.com) has links to shops and web sites where we buy textile materials. We did intend to make the web site a learning resource, but early in the project we discovered that very good web sites dedicated to teaching embroidery and other simple textile techniques had already been constructed and we decided it was more sensible to point participants to these sites rather than expend much time and money in creating another learning site. Listed below are some of the web sites we found useful. Many others also exist and are worth exploring. Embroidery and other techniques can be taught very well on Youtube clips.
This site connects to many other sites and video clips making a very good starting place for a project wishing to start teaching embroidery and textiles.
Good guide to embroidery techniques:
The Encyclopedia of Stitches by Karen Hemingway
The Knitting Bible by Claire Crompton - Available on Amazon
For those interested in learning embroidery techniques we used books produced by The Royal School of Needlework. Go to their website and then to books and then to "embroidery techniques and " there you will find a series of 26 "how to do it books"
Lesson Plans for Drawing, Painting and Textiles
We used Van Gogh drawings as reference points for the first term then for the second term people, having learnt how Van Gogh used life around him for his inspiration and subject matter, turned our attention to our own environment. We used photos of the docks to create a series of images of this spectacular cityscape that surrounds people in Custom House.
Go to google images enter Van Gogh drawings and lots will come up. Also important Van Gogh Letters which are all online.
Go to: http://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/ this is the web site for the Van Goh museum (you need to find at the top of the page where you can get the site in English language version. On this website are pages linking to the complete letters which describe in intense detail his learning about drawing and painting as well as describing his turbulent inner life. There is a good selection of books of Van Gogh drawings for sale on Amazon.
For teaching adults with learning difficulties for textiles we only did running stitch and spent our energies exploring the 101 things to do with running stitch. See our website specially designed for textile work of adults with learning difficulties. We found Disability Arts Online website and we used no other references either books or web sites.
Throughout the project our teaching was on an informal basis with no lesson plans. Instead, for textiles, we drew out designs and carefully prepared a range of materials matched to participants’ abilities and interests. People learnt from each other as much as from the teacher, and where lessons became more formal and more demanding, less seems to have been achieved. Our emphasis was on accepting whatever people gave to the project - whether it was one afternoon's work or most of their free time for the whole seven month period of the project. We did not push people to learn what they did not want to and sought to confirm and strengthen what gifts and interests they had. This resulted in creating a motivated group of learners with few people dropping out. The tutor at The Hathaway textile group taught in a more structured way different textile and embroidery techniques, using textbooks produced by the Royal School of Needlework.
Designing and printing our books
For Designing and Printing:
We did all our printing with desktop publishing software which can be bought cheaply if you are a charity. The software we used was Indesign and Photoshop. This is through Microsoft education department (go to Microsoft website and then to education and there is a contact telephone number for ordering charity software).
In the end we only sent Christmas Cards to commercial printers - the rest was done on home printers (more precisely small office printers. we bought two Canon Printers, one pixma ix6500 for A3 copying used for printing decorative papers and large posters, the other Cannon pixma 885 which had copier and scanner). We became skilled at producing publicity cheaply by creating designs that used little ink and as we only printed them out as we needed them reduced our printing costs considerably.
The paper we used we bought from Shepherd's Bookbinders (google this name for more information) It is produced by Fabriano and is specially designed for home inkjet printers and comes in three weights - all of which we use. It comes in A4 and A3 paper packs for inkjet printers. They have a web site www.bookbinding.co.uk and are helpful in the shop. The paper looks expensive but is not. They sell a video showing how to do simple bookbinding which is all we found we needed on our project. The paper can be ordered through their web site and then posted.
Also the book by Kathy Abbott "Step by Step" about learning book binding was also very helpful. There are many good books on Graphic Design. I suggest going to nearest good bookshop and looking through what they have and choosing the one most suited to your project.
For this we used a questionnaire for basic biographical information and for qualitative information about how people valued the project we used interview format.
Interviews were done at the end of both terms and these were done by the project administrative assistant and the project coordinator and were done in an open ended way allowing participants to say what they wanted.
Download Evaluation Documents:
- Volunteer Report
- Outreach Report
- Outreach Worker Report
- Questionnaire on Needle Craft Skills
1. Take time to make all workers and volunteers feel like a team. Encourage specialisations within the team so that a created range of skills that can be done "in house"
2. Keep the project "on track". Two terms is a very little time and if the final outputs are to be achieved, it doesn’t take much to get behind. Make sure the coordinator sees what each person accomplishes, ideally each week, so that any problems or mistaken turns of direction can be corrected.
3. Keep the project low tech, especially with textiles. We purposefully have no sewing machines and no expensive equipment so that the project can be run as economically as possible, with funds going to people rather than equipment. Another problem with sewing machines is that they are unsociable: only one person can use them at a time and they stop conversation.
4. If workers, participants, and volunteers cannot do part of their job or their work, adapt the project to suit their abilities and knowledge.
5. Don't put on celebrations in the last week of the project as it gives no time to collect reactions and inquiries resulting from the exhibitions - which are traditionally occasions when new work comes in and needs attention to answer requests for work in order that a query may turn into a concrete offer of work.
6. Let older people go at their own pace - don't cram new lessons into too short a time. We found that older people often didn't look as though they were paying any attention to tutors, yet they learnt. A feeling of ‘don't teach your grandmother to suck eggs’. Rather, create an environment where they can pick things up – this seems to be a more effective form of teaching and increases their sense of worth in that they have taught themselves.
7. Leave plenty of time for preparing for exhibitions and don't be too ambitious about content - make sure you can finish what you promise to finish without putting too much pressure on people. Be realistic about how long things take for participants and remember that older people especially will take time off for ill health and hospital appointments (on this project we had three hip operations and one knee operation in two terms - quite disruptive)
8. Spend time designing good publicity and PR materials - funders like things that are easy to look at and that can be sent at low cost in the post - so a very effective way of attracting new funding and partners.
9. Be generous in time given to supervision of workers and volunteers and if possible employ people for more than one day a week - much more is learnt in the lifetime of the project, and it reduces the workload of tutors and project coordinator and enables the work of project to expand.
10. Undertake projects for which there is enthusiasm. Find out what people really want to do. Make sure that the techniques are within reach and do not cost more than the project can afford.
11. Spend time making partnerships with a range of community and cultural organisations and find which partners you would enjoy to work with and that are proactive - avoid carrying partners who expect you to do most of the work.
12. ENJOY the project and aim to make it enjoyable for all participants. No one has to make textiles or works of art and these projects only have meaning if they make people's lives richer and happier!