A partnership between Severn Wye, Llandrindod Wells Town Council and Trawsnewid Llandrindod Transition, secured Welsh Government funding that enabled the purchase of a disused town centre landmark property in Llandrindod Wells. We’ve transformed this space into a community hub, housing a range of community-led sustainability projects that are aimed at supporting the local circular economy, while meeting the needs of local families experiencing in-work poverty.
Today, under the name of The Hive, those projects include a ‘baby bank’ where people can access clothing and equipment for babies, a uniform exchange for families with school age children, and a ‘Library of Things’ which loans out a range of equipment.
The benefits to the local community are significant:
• The Hive provides a permanent, expansive home for community projects established to support families in in-work poverty, all the while demonstrating the value and impact of repairing, borrowing, and sharing.
• It includes workshop space for a Repair Café, promoting the environmental and circular economy benefits of maintaining and restoring goods that might otherwise go to landfill or to waste, while developing valuable technical skills for visitors and volunteers alike.
• Alongside the Library of Things, the unit provides enough space for a ‘local to home’ co-working IT space, state-of-the-art 3D printing facilities for community use, an IT lending scheme to support families home-schooling without sufficient devices, and local IT skills training sessions to reduce digital exclusion in Llandrindod Wells.
• By investing in a zero-carbon e-cargo bike, the Severn Wye team can deliver loaned or donated goods to and from families without access to a vehicle, while demonstrating the viability of low-carbon transport options in even the most rural settings.
• The unit is a highly visible three-story Victorian property located at the end of Middleton Street, the main shopping street in Llandrindod Wells. Establishing a key community hub in such a prominent location supports the recovery of the high street.
• Some of the spaces within the Hive are being let out at reasonable rates for local sole traders, start-ups, and small businesses to run sessions in a central location. As well as contributing to the sustainability of the venture, it also offers a low-risk route for smaller enterprises to establish themselves and thus contribute to the local economy.
From the very start, we took an innovative approach in management terms, meaning that all key decisions, priorities, and initiatives have been formed in consultation with the families the project seeks to benefit.
Going forward, as the climate action agenda gathers pace, Severn Wye’s credentials as a sustainability charity will enable the Hive to develop into a broader climate action hub – providing training, demonstrations, and local action on climate.
Having good leadership is crucial. The thinking behind the National Lottery Community Fund is that people should be in the lead, and this is very important. If you’re going to work with a community, talk to them and find out what they want and need. When we were starting out, we went to all sorts of clubs and events that attracted families – everything from mother and toddler groups and play groups to family events in the summer holidays, and even arranging to meet young carers at the pub. It’s important to be humble and open-minded when you’re doing research. The last thing you should do is waltz in and tell people what they need. It’s important to listen and act on what you’re told.
When it comes to funding, a good place to start is the National Lottery Community Fund, which has money available to help good projects, plus your local County Voluntary Council (CVC), which is the umbrella infrastructure organisation for the third sector. We also secured funding from the Welsh Government Circular Economy Fund.
If you’re looking for a venue, it’s a good idea to think big so that you can offer multiple services or rent out space. We currently give space to several different organisations including Credit Union and Careers Wales. This helps us keep afloat and makes us a ‘one stop shop’ for community support.
Sustainability is the next thing. You have to be able to keep going when the initial funding runs out. There’s no point in having a fabulous project which can’t sustain after the initial three-year tranche of funding runs out. It’s important to think about sustainability at an early stage of the project. You’ve got to have it in your business plan and your initial funding application.
Network – the more people you talk to, the more likely you are to benefit from what they do. There can be a danger in the third sector to keep everything ‘hush hush’ until you’ve got the money, but that’s not going to help you. Most funders like to see partnership working. This sort of approach also shows that you aren’t arrogant and don’t pretend to have all the answers. Different people and different organisations will help you bring different things to the table. A good example of how a library of things works is at Benthyg in Cardiff.
Things take longer than you imagine and will probably take more resources than you realise too. It’s important to be prepared for this from the outset. We had anticipated needing one co-ordinator working three days a week, and currently we have two working full time, and even that doesn’t always feel enough.