Pick of the Month – February 2024

1 February 2024 | By Lucy Pratt

There is no doubt that we are currently living in challenging times – stabilising post-pandemic as we grapple with cost-of-living crisis is tough. February's Picks are working tirelessly to support various community groups, providing arts engagement, essential provisions, care services and general advocacy. We're inspired by their work!

Social Entrepreneur of the Month – Liz Dennis and Libby Price, The Filo Project

Liz Dennis and Libby Price are the Co-founders and Directors of The Filo Project, an enriching daycare service for people living with dementia and the challenges of older age. Based in Devon, Somerset, North Somerset, Cornwall, and East Lancashire, the Project employs an innovative host-based model. Each host has a small group of clients whom they take to their home for the day, with groups deliberately small and consistent to promote friendship and socialising. The day’s activities are tailored to the needs and interests of the group and the programme has proved to have a hugely positive impact on the lives of its clients, with many seeing positive changes in their symptoms and wellbeing as a result. The Project also runs the Filo Family Support Service, which provides advice and support to those dealing with a relative’s or loved one’s dementia.

 

Liz and Libby started by talking to us about the origins of The Filo Project:

“We first met when I (Liz) was working on a PhD focussing on the role of music in the everyday lives of people with dementia and Libby was working in a dementia daycare. Libby hosted small groups of clients in her own home and I attended the sessions for six months as part of my ongoing research. Experiencing Libby’s unique style and sharing a belief that much can be achieved for people living with dementia when support and care is meaningful and relationship-centred, we developed and started The Filo Project.”

 

However, starting the Project was not without its challenges:

“The biggest challenge we had was engaging with the statutory sector, who tend to be overly cautious to new ideas and are slow to change, even though social enterprises provide many of the solutions to challenges in our communities.”

 

Despite these initial obstacles, the Project is now thriving and has expanded into different parts of the UK. Liz and Libby reflected on their achievements:

“Our favourite part of the business has been seeing the positive impact it has on clients and their families. We started with 2 groups and now run across 4 counties with over 100 groups. We are proud to have supported 3000 clients since our inception.”

 

The conversation finished with some advice for aspiring social entrepreneurs:

“We would advise any aspiring social entrepreneurs to connect with established social entrepreneurs who will have already experienced the challenges, as well as the highs and lows, of starting a new business.”

 

To keep in the loop with The Filo Project, follow the organisation on Twitter.

 

Trustee of the Month – Hassan Hassanpour, Boaz Trust 

Based in Manchester, the Boaz Trust provides aid to asylum seekers and refugees. Founded in 2004, the trust offers support with housing, food, legal support and advocacy, to help individuals and families navigate the asylum process. The charity’s name is taken from the Bible and Book of Ruth, where a man named Boaz welcomes Ruth, who is a foreigner in the land, and shows her kindness. The Trust’s organisational values are centred within this story and the Christian faith.  

 

Hassan began by reflecting on his role as a Trustee at Boaz Trust:

“I was inspired to become a Trustee by the vision and commitment of the trust’s founder, Dave Smith. His, and the Trust’s, mission to support destitute individuals claiming asylum deeply resonated with my own values of compassion and justice and, since joining, I have found my role in the organisation deeply fulfilling. Our commitment to welcoming and supporting people, irrespective of background or circumstance, aligns perfectly with Christian teaching and it is hugely rewarding and humbling to see the transformative impact our organisation can have. Collaborating with the exceptional team, driven by a shared vision, has also been a source of immense satisfaction and purpose.”

 

Hassan also discussed some of the challenges of his role:

“The role is not without its challenges. The asylum system is difficult, complicated and unjust, and we are constantly addressing a wide range of issues faced by refugees and asylum seekers. On top of that, every individual we work with has diverse and unique needs that have to be considered and respected. However, although it is an often-complex role, it is precisely these challenges that energise us and fuel our relentless pursuit of justice and commitment to meaningful change.”

 

To end, Hassan offered advice for anyone interested in becoming a trustee:

“Working at Boaz Trust has been a humbling, yet rewarding experience, and I wholeheartedly encourage others to engage in roles that align with their values. For me, it has been an opportunity for personal growth, as well as a chance to contribute to a cause I am passionate about.”

 

Stay updated with Boaz Trust’s work on Twitter

 

Charity Leader of the Month – Sarah Wilson, Necessities UK

 

Sarah Wilson is the Managing Director at Necessities UK, a charity providing the local community in Thurrock with the basic necessities of life, such as consumable goods and hygiene products. Throughout her career, Sarah has gravitated towards client and public-orientated roles, with experience in local authorities, education, charity and consultancy. 

 

Could you tell us a little bit about your work and what your mission is?

“I am passionate about food and people. I have combined my love of the two to help people who are the most vulnerable in my community to maintain dignity and receive emergency relief. Necessities UK, was very much a thought in the back of mind I had years ago after volunteering in a food bank. It is a food and hygiene bank based in Thurrock that provides the community with life's necessities. 

Faith drives our mission (hence why our logo is a fish and loaf of bread) and our Christian values of community, love, and giving are what has helped us to give generously within the community, love the people who come through our door and be reminded of what God can do with the little you have.”

 

How did you get to where you are today and what does your role involve?

“I had a lot of help and support from my family, friends, colleagues and volunteers. Their advice and guidance is so valuable to me. I have previously supported the work of small charities in England and worked for the Small Charities Coalition before, helping thousands of small charities across England have their voices heard.

At the end of the government's social distancing measures, it was clear that the most vulnerable in our community would be at risk due to many support schemes ending. We quickly made sure to get ahead to prevent people falling into cycles of poverty and need. 

Today, my role allows me to wear quite a few hats in a day, from managing director, social content person, delivery driver, fundraiser, guest speaker and partnerships manager. I get to manage the charity, interact with service users and ensure that our operations run smoothly.”

 

What advice would you give to prospective leaders?

“Don't be afraid to ask questions, factor in rest to your schedules and get a mentor!”

 

What is something you are passionate about seeing change in your sector?

“Something that I am particularly keen on seeing in the charity sector is more diversity of people of different ages and backgrounds becoming involved in causes they are passionate about. We have had young people show a real interest in our service and the ideas and support that they have provided has been phenomenal. 

Very often, we have one-day volunteers come and help out at our organisation. They are always very happy to be involved in helping the community because, as local residents, they feedback to the community and help ensure that the community is strengthened. 

We cannot continue to challenge issues in the same way and expect a change.”

 

Keep up to date with Necessities UK on Twitter.

 

Fellow of the Month – Sarah Sharp, The Montgomery Theatre and Arts Centre

 

Sarah is an experienced theatre and arts leader who is passionate about enabling access to the theatre industry for both artists and audiences. Sarah has worked in a variety of organisations from small DIY venues such as Theatre Deli Sheffield, to larger national portfolio organisations such as Sheffield Theatres and HOME Arts Centre. In her current role as Director of The Montgomery Theatre and Arts Centre, Sarah has fundraised for a major capital redevelopment project which began in the summer of 2023.

Could you tell us a little bit about your work at the moment, how you got to your current position and what the role involves?

“Out of university, I was lucky enough to work for various theatre companies which is how I got involved with Theatre Deli just as they were setting up in Sheffield. I ended up doing a bit of everything over the next few years, from marketing and programming to venue management and artist development. After that role I went into talent development, producing for HOME arts centre and then Sheffield Theatres. 

When the Montgomery Director job came up in 2021, I was interested in it due to my first experience at Theatre Deli and wanting to have a chance to explore a range of challenges that face smaller organisations. It has been a challenging time building the organisation back up after a prolonged closure period, but it has taught me so much about working in heritage arts buildings.”

 

Sarah outlined the key future opportunities for the Montgomery:

“The Montgomery can be quite responsive to the challenges that families are facing right now. Access to creativity is a basic human right and we want to ensure that no child or young person misses out on that due to the cost of living crisis. 

We have been responsive in adapting our programmes to be as accessible as they can be during the tough time in the context of the UK right now. I also think we have a brilliant opportunity to make our building accessible for the first time in its 137-year history, that is a huge challenge but one that is important to becoming Yorkshire’s leading arts centre for children and young people.”

 

Thinking about the year ahead, what are you looking forward to as part of the Fellowship Programme? 

“I’m looking forward to spending some time with peers and thinking of the bigger questions and challenges that the arts sector is facing at the moment in terms of fundraising and income generation. 

I think residential opportunities are always brilliant for getting away from the daily running of an organisation and allowing a bit of time to reflect and learn. I’m also looking forward to being in a cohort of people who are all on the same learning experience too, as I think a huge benefit will be learning from each other and having a network to talk to.”

 

Finally, what is something you are passionate about seeing change in the sector?

“I’m passionate about changing who has access to careers and involvement in the arts sector, more systemic change is needed for that to truly happen. For a more equitable and inclusive industry, there is still a lot of change to do, but I believe that starting with opening up access to the arts to children and young people is an essential first step to changing the sector. 

If we can encourage and support creativity in children and young people, we will be able to make radical changes in how the sector operates.”

 

Learn more about Sarah’s work at The Montgomery on Twitter.

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