When my family and I moved from London to Portsmouth, I approached Portsmouth City Council to volunteer my services because I’d never worked in the public sector before, and wanted to do something challenging and learn something new.
I met Louise Wilders, Director of Communications for Portsmouth City Council who was working on bringing together the statutory sector (Portsmouth City Council, CCG, NHS and Public Health) together with the Voluntary and Community sector (which are charities, faith groups and community groups who support people in Portsmouth). Due to funding cuts, trust between the public sector and the voluntary and community sector (VCS) had broken down, and organisations were competing with each other for resources and projects rather than working together.
We ran a workshop bringing together all of the different voluntary and community sector groups with the council and health services, and created a vision together of a positive future for people in Portsmouth. Quite quickly we all realised wanted the same thing – to improve people’s lives, to share information, expertise and contacts, and to continue strengthening the already fantastic network of big and small voluntary and community organisations in the city.
As a result of this work and the projects we have subsequently run, Project Bridge is now helping people work together rather than competing with each other, helping us not to duplicate work, and using existing funding more efficiently. The VCS are better supported, the public sector uses budgets more efficiently (and even saves money in some cases), local networks are strengthened, and most importantly the people of Portsmouth get better services to meet their needs.
Two years later we’ve worked on about 15 projects bringing together diverse groups around topics such as childhood obesity, children at risk of sexual and criminal exploitation, rough sleeping, bringing people home from hospital, volunteering, social enterprises, reunification and supporting disabilities.
As a result of our work we have significantly reduced the numbers of rough sleepers in Portsmouth, and set up a new centre of volunteering and services in the city called The Hive. We have created a true cross-party, collaborative, culture change methodology that we are sharing with local governments nation-wide at the LGA Conference this week.
It’s been an incredibly personally rewarding project to work on, and we are presenting the methodology at the Local Government Conference this week, and calling for applicants from other areas to get a free Project Bridge on a topic of their choice.
Would you like to be involved in Project Bridge? We are calling for applicants to join our first Project Bridge training on 20th August, learn the methodology and get mentoring and the contacts to run a Project Bridge in your area.