BD Giving Notes #31 – ‘The lines that connect us’

We are all connected in one way or another

In this Note Liliana, a member of the Community Steering Group, writes about her visit to Plymouth Octopus Project and what she wishes to share from the visit with our community.

My 257-mile journey from historically industrial Dagenham to Britain’s Ocean City of Plymouth gave me the opportunity to let my mind wander in a way that it was craving for a long time.

When I found out that there is an opportunity through BD Giving to attend the AGM of Plymouth Octopus Project (POP) – an organisation focused on building strong grassroots organisations, charities, and social enterprises in Plymouth – I was very excited and a bit anxious. Once I jumped over the first hurdle, thanks to a family friend who offered safe and fun childcare for my twins on a school night, I was mostly very excited.

Human connection

I believe that we are all connected in one way or another and subconsciously most of us share similar desires not only to survive as a species but to learn, develop, connect, build, and innovate. All well and good, but finding a way to reach our common goals in a way that is beneficial for our environment, our health and our souls is the journey I’m interested in the most.

Working together rather than individually while protecting our individuality and even discovering our individuality along the way, seems a rather good direction to me.

For that reason, working with pioneering organisations such as BD Giving, EOED, Sew London, Early Years Cocoon and taking part in various community projects in Dagenham as a resident and on behalf of BooksByMILE and Loop Management Services, gives me hope that we are on a right path to build stronger, more resilient communities in a way that is healthy for us, our environment and our global home, planet earth.

Little steps, big steps, learning from mistakes, trying different approaches, and searching for a different point of view seem an essential part of the journey. I personally would like to spend less time making the same mistakes and more time learning from past mistakes, successes, and journeys. That is whyI find sharing experience, knowledge, and resources very valuable indeed.

Visiting Plymouth Octopus Project

When I arrived in Plymouth, Matt Bell and Stuart Jones from POP made a very friendly and welcoming introduction to their organisation and I immediately felt part of their organisational family.

Every aspect of my visit was very well organised by POP. When I arrived at Plymouth train station, I was welcomed by Stuart who is super efficient. During the short drive, I got a much better picture of the team spirit, challenges and dedication of the team involved in the Plymouth Octopus Project, as well as learning a bit about the local history. We arrived in the beautiful and functional communal space, The Plot. The space is used by several local organisations. There I met Liliane Uwiman of Jabulani. She gave me an instant vibe of a deeply connected-to-community humanitarian that I somehow knew, even though we had just met.

Soon after, we were joined by Matt Bell, CEO, Deborah Penprase and Simon Travers part of POP’s team and Laura Lines, Funding Manager Social Change Lead from Esmée Fairbairn. It was a very inspiring evening of introductions and an opportunity to share stories about our work and delicious food prepared by Jabulani.

My head was buzzing with excitement and ideas, but I mostly felt that despite the miles between us there was a clear similarity of intentions, approaches, values and needs of the community organisations and communities of Plymouth and Barking and Dagenham. A clear sign to me of the value of sharing our learning with each other.

On day 2 of my visit, I woke up tired as if my thoughts were working overtime at night, but my focus soon shifted to the day ahead.

Matt picked me up from the hotel on his way to POP’s AGM and we had a chance to continue sharing views and thoughts. The programme for the day seemed very well thought out and planned to run as a hybrid event, in person and online. I was looking forward to the holistic approach of the workshops and intrigued by the “fishbowl exercise.”
Each participant thinks of a specific moment in time, bringing a focus to those important micro-moments that help us understand what is happening.

Think of a time you worked together with a group of people from different organisations, share a specific moment or experience that made you feel excited or disappointed about this collaboration and describe the moment. Then you share this moment into the “fishbowl”, which is a space in the middle of the room which everyone sits around in a circle.

I find this idea fascinating and feel that it’s something we should be doing more of. We make subconscious decisions and use gut feelings so often in our everyday lives. Using holistic ways to draw out learning makes perfect sense to me.
The hybrid event allowed other organisations to join online and it was lovely to see another representation of Barking and Dagenham, as Ruth from BD collective joined remotely.

It can be hard to measure impact and success of a project when there are so many variables but attending POP’s AGM certainly gave me a sense of a project that has not only mapped existing connections, enabled new connections to grow, created a tight knit team that is encouraged and supported to continue its valuable community work, and also truly inspirational. Of course, there are many challenges, but what I found most encouraging is the openness in discussions about funding and conversations with funders focused on finding solutions and understanding expectations and needs.

Visiting Plymouth Octopus Project
Anyone can find a lot of useful information and learning through POP’s website, so I’ll focus on sharing my summary of learning or shall I say a “wish list” inspired by my journey:

A part of me will remain with them and cannot help but feel that this connection will only become stronger with time.

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