Small Groups

Gary Pargeter, volunteer LGBT representative for Community Works, identifies 10 things that small LGBT community groups do well in Brighton & Hove.

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Our LGBT communities have a wonderful and much needed tradition of self-help and empowerment. Sometimes undervalued, and often not well known outside our immediate community, there are a range of individuals, small groups and organisations that work extremely hard, usually entirely voluntarily, providing support, advice, information and services to people most in need.

Unencumbered by red-tape (hopefully!) our smaller groups make a huge impact on the health and well-being of our community. We fill the gaps in services provided by larger organisations. We work creatively with our peers; have empathy and a passion for making things better for everyone involved. Many of our small groups survive on very little funding, or no funding at all. It’s an amazing achievement to help so many people, and so often to do this on a shoestring.

The expression ‘volunteers but not amateurs’ is relevant to this caring, compassionate and committed group of people running small groups. Within our groups, people bring lived experience of the difficulties we aim to overcome, life skills, occupational knowledge and skills; and a determination to improve things for the people we support or involve. That this is most usually done without any remuneration or reward, says everything about the people involved. But the climate is tough! Funding is becoming harder to secure, and competition for even small pieces of funding is increasing. We know that our LGBT communities have distinct and important needs. Support for our groups to carry out our work is essential if we are able to survive and thrive for the future. Community Works, the umbrella organisation that provides advice and support to small groups, has identified 10 things that small groups do well. For many of us, to continue to do these well, in a difficult and uncertain climate, we need to find ways to build our capacity. Sometimes this is about funding, but also importantly about developing skills and building resources.

1. EMPOWERMENT The way our small groups are structured, operate and engage with people naturally means that individuals and communities are strengthened and empowered.

2. KNOWING COMMUNITY NEED Small groups often work with vulnerable people within the most marginalised or deprived communities. We are created and led by the people from those communities so we are well placed to advocate on their behalf and decide on projects to address a particular need.

3. CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION We have energy, momentum and enthusiasm. We are not tied to bureaucratic processes and have the freedom to be innovative.

4. RESILIENCE We adapt and change according to what people need and the resources available to us. We are self-sufficient and resilient.

5. VOLUNTEERS Groups are made up of volunteers who dedicate their time to providing free services to our communities.

6. SKILLS AND EXPERIENCE These volunteers bring a huge wealth and variety of skills and experience and are experts in knowing our communities and seeing opportunities to support and develop them.

7. PROMOTION AND COMMUNICATION Groups are good at promoting themselves and recognising when it is important to be visible in the city. On the other hand we make and maintain a dialogue within our own communities, reducing social isolation.

8. INDEPENDENCE We are able to stick to our core values and aims because we don’t have funding which can pull us away from our particular specialism and vision.

9. FUNDRAISING Small groups apply for funding from trusts and grant making bodies but can also be creative in our fundraising. We often tend to rely on community events and donations from individuals more than larger organisations.

10. ACTIVITIES Small groups are experts in our field, from running campaigns, organising social activities and community events, improving our local area to providing support and advice. There is no end to the activities that take place. Our small groups, and the people we help, benefit from the support of the wider community, and each other. Along with valuing our larger groups, the next time you’re reading community press, looking for support or services, at a community event – look for the small group and what it does. You’ll probably be amazed to see that there are so many groups providing community services for our peers, by our peers – to great effect. If you have the chance to support our small groups, please try to. We work hard and passionately to make things better for all of us. We’re every colour of the rainbow, and at the heart of our community.

 

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MORE INFO

If you’re involved in running or organising a small group, consider becoming part of the newly formed LGBT Groups Network. The network has been set up to provide support, advice and information for small LGBT groups. Our aims are to help us know each other better, provide opportunities to support each other and develop our work, and to improve sustainability.

Contact: Gary Pargeter, Community Works Volunteer LGBT Representative by :

email: gary@lgbt-groups.org

call: 07725 647455

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