Three things that make the Somerset voluntary and community sector special

September 21, 2023


By Matt Chittock, Communications Executive

This year I’ve been working with Somerset Community Foundation’s indefatigable Marketing Manager Sue Wheeler to help capture stories and share the positive impact that the groups we fund make every day.

It’s been eye-opening in many ways. For the last few months I’ve been deeply moved by hearing how proud but struggling older people benefited from our Surviving Winter grants. And I’ve also marvelled at the dizzying diversity of the work we fuel, from supporting disadvantaged young people through education to helping people with head injuries live independently.

Yet my main takeaway is that the people and organisations in Somerset are doing something very special every day. Here’s how:

  1. Taking grassroots action

When Somerset people see a need close to home they organise and inspire their community to take action. Take Wivey Cares – who employ local people to care for older people at home in their community. Or Taunton Pride, who despite the coronavirus pandemic, came together to celebrate and motivate the LGBTQ+ community. It’s incredible to hear how our grants help put these ideas into action. That’s what makes the work we fund so special – it’s change done by the community, with the community and for the community.

  1. Creating hyper-local impact
Picture of Matt Chittock in a navy t-shirt, against a white backdrop, smiling, looking away.

Matt Chittock, Communications Executive at SCF

The Somerset voluntary and community sector features organisations of all sizes. What connects them all, big or small, is their expertise in effecting change at a hyper-local level. They know the region’s challenges, and can see how to address them.

Some of our grants support massive multi-year charity projects that touch thousands of beneficiaries. They’re incredibly necessary to move the dial on challenges facing the county. Other grants benefit a single person – and have the potential to change their lives forever.

What connects them is their focus on hyper-local challenges. They understand the territory, they know the people (they are the people) and can work to find and create solutions.

  1. Sharing local stories

Everyone loves stats; they’re great when it comes to showcasing granular impact.

But the real secret weapon of Somerset’s voluntary and community sector is the stories they can tell that bring to life the change they make every day. These stories come from how close the groups are to the communities and people they serve, and the trust they’re able to build because of that.

Through our Somerset Stories content, through which we recently celebrated 20 years of our work, I’ve been privileged to hear many of these stories first-hand. I’ve heard about the passion for community spaces that fuels Millennium Wood, and the mental health support through which The Space saves lives (see our forthcoming annual report next month for more).

These stories go beyond the stats to reveal how our grants change lives every day through your hard work. I always love hearing them.

Since 2002 Somerset Community Foundation has awarded over £25 million to thousands of local charities. In my role, it’s a real privilege to speak to some of the people who are busy harnessing that funding to transform where they live.

Thanks so much to everyone who has spent time with me on the phone. And if I haven’t spoken to you yet, I hope I get to very soon.

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