Knitting Neighbourhood Networks at the Share Shack 

It’s a blustery Spring Thursday morning at the Share Shack on St Vincent Street in Ladywood. Today, instead of local people browsing items to loan, playing ping pong or learning or sharing skills; the room is full of community partners who are here to get to know one another and explore ways they can amplify their collective impact.  

Ladywood has a long history of community organisations working together. Community groups which have weathered many seasons in Ladywood hold important knowledge of the area and its history. More importantly, over the years, community partners have cultivated extensive connections with each other and members of the community. When Sophie, a Community Network Support Officer from Birmingham City Council first started working in the neighbourhood she was bowled over by how much “positive work, community groups, activities and centres” there was in the area. With so much going on the challenge for partners is keeping up to date with what’s on offer. Sophie reached out to Christina from the Share Shack to convene local partners over tea and biscuits. 

With increasing pressures on services it is now more important than ever for community partners to take the time and care to cultivate good, warm, communicative relationships with each other. Over time, if the social side of partnerships are neglected, it can affect how well community organisations work together. As Adam from Summerfield Church observed, if everyone is just concentrating on their own little patch, then they might not notice others providing nearly identical services.  

Many of the people who walk into the Share Shack face multiple barriers to leading healthy, happy lives. Lorrie who works as a Welfare Benefits Advisor for Karis observed, when partners don’t communicate well there’s an impact on community members who end up “knocking on all the doors going round from pillar to post, getting frustrated.” 

Although many of the community partners knew of each other, Sophie hoped this informal meet up would give community partners to reconnect and share good news. Over the morning, everyone agreed “Ladywood is rich in kindness, creativity, community spirit and neighbourliness.” Sophie hopes this first event will encourage partners to join up the dots between their work. In fact, by the end of this event a new benefits drop-in session had already been arranged.  

No matter how well you know an area, there’s always something you don’t know. Partners heard of new services and spaces that were available to the community. Yasmin from Birmingham Community Trust said, “Places like these are really important for community together. Not every area has one.” Bringing support services into community spaces enables people to develop their interests and strengths as well as tackle challenges.  

As partners connected, they emphasised the importance of trust. When people trust you, they can then pass that trust on, whether through a phone call to a friend or a personal recommendation. For many partners who had not visited the Share Shack, seeing the space for the first time gave them ideas for how they could encourage others to try it out.  Katherine from Karis said it is useful to know the people and places you are signposting others to: “I think the drop in space is great. You know, you can tell people you can come in and just browse the games and it’s easy.”  

Community is created by knitting networks. The Share Shack is a community-led initiative, which is shaped by the skills and interests of the community members who use it. If Katherine, Adam, Sophie, Lorrie and all the other neighbourhood partners introduced just one person to the Share Shack, each of those people might make use of the Share Shack in as many different ways. One person might learn to sew, another might borrow a drill, the third might try some chair yoga, the fourth might join in the Time to Talk session.  Then those four people might bring a friend or two. Who knows what new ideas might come out of all these different people sharing the Share Shack. 

This was the first networking event at Ladywood Share Shack. If you would like to keep up to date with opportunities and future events, contact Christina to find out more.  

To find out more about the neighbourhood partners who attended, follow the links below:  

Bryony Lawless
Author: Bryony Lawless