Building Resilience through Networks and Collaboration

In November, the Empowering Communities Partnership hosted the annual Norfolk VCSE Conference on the theme of Building Resilience through Networks and Collaboration. It was an opportunity to come together as a community of VCSE organisations, to connect, learn and reflect. If you were unable to join us, you can catch up here. You can also read a summary about what happened over the three days below


Day 1: Advocacy and Influence

This year the VCSE Conference consisted of online sessions and our first hybrid session, delivered at The Space in Norwich. The theme of the Conference was Building Resilience through Networks and Collaboration and was an opportunity to come together as a community of VCSE organisations, to connect, learn and reflect.

We kicked off on Monday with a session hosted by the Norfolk Leaders Voice Network, which addressed advocacy and influence, an issue previously identified by the network as a priority. We were joined by Emily Balsdon, Director at Norfolk Community Advice Network (NCAN). She reflected on their successful campaign to raise awareness of the unfolding cost-of-living emergency and unprecedented demand on advice services. She shared some ‘top-tips’ and learning from their campaign, which boldly declared the cost-of-living crisis an emergency, The local media and Norfolk’s Members of Parliament (MP)s had picked this up and reinforced the message. NCAN are currently planning a meeting at Westminster with Norfolk MPs, to further press this issue. You can see Emily’s slides here.


Day 2: Workforce Wellbeing and Resilience

The second day of the Conference focused on workforce wellbeing and resilience.  Kevin Daniels, a professor of Organizational Behaviour at Norwich Business School at UEA led the first part of session. He talked about why a strategic approach to workplace wellbeing is important, and shared research and resources, much of which is freely available. You can see Kevin’s slides here. Kevin’s presentation was followed by a presentation by Nicola McCall, of Voluntary Norfolk’s CBR Business Solutions trading arm. Nicola gave some practical tips about managing wellbeing and inclusion at work. You can see her presentation here.

Further to a Q&A we were joined by Rebecca White, Director at Your Own Place, an award winning local social enterprise, which works to end homelessness, she talked about inclusive recruitment practices and the importance of lived experienced and being values led. You can see Rebecca’s presentation here (slides can be found here).


Day 3: Importance of Networks and Collaboration

On day 3 we held our first in-person Conference session, since before the Pandemic, it was great to come together and take time out with peers. Local leaders of some of Norfolk’s different VCSE Networks and Forums joined us for the various sessions.

The Assembly

Firstly, we heard from Emma Ratzer (Chair of Norfolk and Waveney VCSE Health and Social Care Assembly). Emma gave an update on the Assembly, and her role as the VCSE representative on the ICB, and the strategic influence that she can bring on behalf of the N&W VCSE sector. The Assembly leads on strategic engagement with the sector for the ICS and works closely with VCSE infrastructure organisations. See more about it here. Emma also confirmed that the five new Place Network Leads, are all now appointed, each tasked with representing VCSE place-based organisations’ views for their ‘patch’. For more information, contact Emma directly here.

Green Care Network

Secondly, we heard from Nigel Boldero, Convenor of the Norfolk Green Care Network. Nigel talked about the vision for the network. He explained how connecting with nature, understanding it better and caring for the environment promote health and wellbeing benefits. Nigel shared reflections on the power of the network, in terms of strategic influence. He also showed how through the platform of his network he’s facilitated new projects, campaigns and brokered funding. You can see Nigel’s slides here.

Community Building

After a Q&A we were joined by our next two speakers, firstly we heard from Natalie Jode, Executive Director, of Creative Arts East, who talked about the power of networks for connecting within rural communities and reflected on some of the qualities of resilient networks and the importance of shared values. Next we were joined by Sam Edwards Founder & Managing Director, Yawn Marketing, who talked about the ‘accidental’ benefits of networks to his business model, and the importance of community.

The final speakers were from Lloyds Bank Foundation. We heard from Dan Hastings, Project Manager at DIAL Great Yarmouth and local implementation lead for Lloyd’s work in Yarmouth. We also heard from Clarissa Stoneman (Development Associate), who is on secondment to Lloyds from the VCSE sector. Lloyds have made a ten-year commitment to Great Yarmouth as part of their place-based strategy work. They are currently supporting the Homeless Alliance, which has grown out of locally led work in 2020 during the first lockdown, where VCSE came together to work collaboratively with system partners to tackle homelessness in the Borough. You can find their slides here.

The session was a Hybrid session, and a recording is available here. Please accept our apologies that the quality of the recording is poor in places. This was our first large partnership hybrid event; we will seek to do better!!

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