New Year and New Blog for Groundwork Oldham & Rochdale

By Vicki Devonport, Executive Director

I’ve just joined Groundwork in December and taken up the role of Executive Director following the retirement of the outgoing ED, Cliff Ellison at Christmas. I hope that I can bring a range of experience and learning to the role and that Groundwork Oldham & Rochdale will continue to grow and develop further its great reputation for delivering services at a local level and making a difference to people lives.

I was born in Nelson, in the Pendle area of North East Lancashire and educated at Edge End High School, Nelson and Colne College and then the University of Durham. I then trained as a teacher at St Martin’s Lancaster and have spent twenty years working in schools across Pendle, Blackburn with Darwen and Greater Manchester, including four years as head of a school in Blackburn. In 2004, I left teaching to become the Chief Executive of New Heart for Heywood New Deal for Communities (NDC) Partnership. Since the end of the NDC Programme in March 2011, I have been heading up a Community Trust in Blacon, Chester, which was focused on delivering local services to local people. I live in Blacko with my husband Harry, about a mile from the foot of Pendle Hill and I enjoy walking, cooking and watching the Clarets in my spare time.

This is my first blog of 2013 and I (along with others at the Trust) will be blogging here on a regular basis about a range of things including the economic climate and how it affects organisations like Groundwork, news of the achievements of our projects and what we are learning about how to best work at a local level with local people and community groups.

The year ahead looks bright and busy for Groundwork Oldham & Rochdale. This is a year of celebration for us as in October 2013 we reach Groundwork’s 30th Anniversary. But we’re not waiting until October to celebrate; we launched a year of celebration in October 2012 and every month we have planned different celebration events which focus on the many different aspects of the programmes we are delivering. Find out more about our recent events to celebrate the Prince’s Trust Team programme and our VPA programme. Watch out for the next events either on our website or in the local press.

We hear lots of discussion about the role of the ‘third sector’ in delivering local services. But is it a reality or just rhetoric?  We are currently developing across our organisation our new business plan and growth strategy for 2013-14 and beyond. We will be looking at the different types of commissioning emerging across our operational areas. There is clear push for 3rd sector organisations to be delivering local services and I believe that there are some things that 3rd sector organisations are best placed to deliver. We’ll be talking to colleagues in our local authorities and other public sector organisations to see if we can work together to provide regular access to specialist skills and services. We are in a good position to offer many of these services across our patch, by offering a ‘when and where’ service that will ensure access and quality when needed without having to sustain the full cost themselves. Furthermore, commissioners know that any profit our Trust makes is re-invested in the communities for which they are responsible.

We certainly appreciate the need to look at doing things differently and move away from the traditional charity culture with its over reliance on public funding and grants. We are moving more to a social enterprise approach and developing a more commercially viable structure which enables the Trust to develop services aimed at the private sector. There are a number of key government initiatives emerging which I think will provide opportunities for us now and in the future, including for example the Green Deal, the local commissioning of health and wellbeing services as well as our continuing delivery of the Work Programme.

As we start this new year, the recent news of councils needing to review once more their spending on local services brings much food for thought on how we work together to continue to make a difference to local people and local communities within a context of  reduced funding for services. Groundwork can continue to play its vital part in ‘Changing Places, Changing Lives’.

Let’s make 2013 a year to remember!

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