What we believe: The value of community activity
At our core are three beliefs.
Firstly, the belief that stronger communities make a real difference to the people who live in them: people in these communities are healthier, experience less crime, have a more welcoming physical environment, have more opportunities to express themselves and are more economically active. In short they have the chance to live fuller lives.
Secondly, that strong communities are best built by the activity of the members of the community. They know best what is required and what will work. They bring a passion and commitment that cannot be matched by top down services provided by the statutory or private sectors.
These two interconnected beliefs motivate our concentration on the needs of small groups, and our approach to working with them: our staff are aware at all times of the need for our expertise to be a resource that is on tap for the groups we work with, to use as they need it, not something that distorts or overrides their own aims and decisions.
Our third belief is based on the fact that certain communities are excluded and marginalised in society. People in these communities face additional barriers to organising. They may be geographically more isolated, for example, or have no members with spare money to pay for room bookings or equipment up front. They may not have English as a first language, or be less confident about reading and writing, and are then at a disadvantage when raising funds and publicising their groups. More generally they may feel more remote from centres of power and less entitled to access facilities or take part in discussions about their area.
We believe it is important for us to try to give particular attention to groups facing these barriers. In Brighton today this means groups in areas of social housing, black and minority ethnic groups and groups of disabled people. We therefore provide additional services to these groups and our management committee is elected from and by them.
The value of practical support
We aim to be a place where community groups can find practical solutions for their shared problems, and therefore make smoother progress towards achieving their own aims.
Much has changed over the years – at the Centre, in Brighton & Hove, and in society as a whole – but this core aim is still what motivates us. We believe in:
- providing practical help for specific problems
- being led by the needs of our user groups
- supporting people who are working to transform their own communities
- concentrating our efforts to provide support for grassroots volunteers, not paid professionals
We provide practical support because that is what groups need. The thousands of uses by the hundreds of groups testify to the importance of good equipment, up to date information, and relevant advice to the work of groups in the town.
We are led by our user groups as it is the only way we can be sure that we do provide what groups need. As times change so do the needs of groups and so, therefore, do their demands on the Resource Centre. We can only adapt usefully because we are constantly in contact with our users and, crucially, because our management committee is elected from our priority groups.
We support people who are working in their own communities because it is clear that those people are more effective than outsiders. Local contacts, knowledge and insight are central tools in effective action.
We concentrate on grassroots volunteers because they are closer to the problems they are trying to solve, and to the people they are working with.
The value of equipment, of information and of advice
We focus on providing equipment, information and advice because our users, and our years of experience, tell us these are the tools groups need to do their work.
Our users are enabled to:
- raise money for their group, using our range of fair stalls, and our information about how and where to raise money.
- run more successful meetings and events using our range of equipment, and our information on planning meetings and organising events.
- communicate with their members and the public using our community print room and our information on publicity and using the media.
- build a good organisational structure using our information on legal structures and constitutions, on the roles of officers, and on policies and procedures such as equal opportunities and on monitoring and evaluation.
- manage their finances effectively, using our information sheets on budgeting, book-keeping and bank accounts, our downloadable accounts systems, and further detailed information in our reference library.
- share equipment and pass on knowledge between many different groups, using the Centre as a central storage and reference point.
We can also offer groups brief advice on all of these areas, through our front desk ‘advice on demand’ service. For our priority users – groups in areas of social housing, black and minority ethnic groups and those composed of disabled people – we can offer more extensive training and advice and a flexible consultancy service designed to offer one-to-one support in any area.
The value of efficiency, consistency and experience
We understand that volunteers in community groups have limited time, and need their problems sorted out as quickly and smoothly as possible. We therefore work hard to make sure that our services are as efficient as we can make them.
We also know that groups need us to be reliable: we need to be available when we say we will be and to have the support they need.
We respond to these needs by:
- keeping charges low
- ensuring our information is regularly updated
- maintaining a good stock of equipment
- running efficient booking systems
- offering flexible appointments for our additional support sessions
Finally, we understand that the needs of small groups are different from the needs of larger organisations. We have worked with small groups for more than 30 years and our staff have a wealth of experience in dealing with their issues. This puts us in a unique position to put our beliefs into practice.
Our value to the city
It’s easy to forget, living here, just how unusual Brighton and Hove is in terms of the quantity and variety of support available in the city. We are approached every week by groups from around the country asking where they can get equipment like ours, or if there is a local branch of the Resource Centre in their area. Our website is used by groups and organisations around the country and internationally. The reality is, however, that nowhere else in the country provides the mix of support that we do, and that in very few places is the kind of equipment we provide available to groups.
We’re proud to be part of what makes Brighton and Hove different. Together with other support organisations, many of them unique in their own ways, we are working to create a rich and vibrant support landscape, which nurtures the hundreds of diverse groups whose activity is a big part of what makes the city such a special place.
Last updated August 2015