Through Covid and now, throughout the cost-of-living crisis, we have seen how critical and invaluable voluntary projects, community organisations and networks have been – and continue to be – at holding us together. It is the purpose of the city-wide charity, Plymouth Octopus, or POP as it is called, to support these organisations so that they can better help everyone else. Now, the charity has been awarded almost £1m from Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to continue looking after this network of voluntary, charity and community initiatives.
There are nearly 600-member organisations of all shapes and sizes nesting under POP’s wings. Some are large and well-known, such as St Luke’s Hospice, Plymouth City Council and Shekinah, others are tiny and acting in almost complete anonymity, such as the Red Velvet Cinema which supports ‘older’ people; the Tree Project which is working with young people in Keyham and the Football Boot Bank which does what it says on the bin! Though small, their impact is significant. And it is, primarily, to continue its work with the ‘grassroots’ organisations of Plymouth, that POP has been awarded the funding. As the CEO of POP, Matt Bell, admits, therein lies the challenge:
“We believe that our list of members is just the tip of the ‘community’ iceberg in Plymouth. We know that there are so many more people and projects out there helping others that we don’t know about. Which is why we’re going to be using this money to find them so that, together, we can provide more help, to more people over a greater period of time.”
It is not the first time Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, one of the largest independent grant-making foundations in the UK, has invested in Plymouth or Plymouth Octopus. Five years ago, it awarded £1.3m to the city, via POP, to fund the innovative collaborative and cross-sector approach to decision-making that was evolving across the city. Having kept a close watch on how the grant has been spent and what impacts it has had, the Foundation has decided to commit an additional £990,000 of which nearly a third of this has been committed to ‘grassroots’ organisations. Veda Harrison, the Foundation’s Director of Creative, Confident Communities at Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, says it is money well spent:
“We have seen POP reach out and build the capacity of grassroots groups and organisations, supporting them to connect with each other as well as with decision-makers. We know that place-based and place-led change takes time and so we’re pleased to support them with a further grant to deepen and broaden the connections already made and move them towards influencing system change more purposefully.”
POP is wasting no time to find and support these smaller organisations hiding within the grassroots sector. The POP website has been restructured and staff efforts focused on finding these groups.
“We want to show people,” says Matt, “that the value of the money that is invested into these smaller projects is often significant. By seeking them out and raising them up we can show what an extraordinary job they are doing supporting other people, often without any thanks or recognition.”
After ten years of supporting the VCS in Plymouth, POP has honed its provision for its members and offers a portfolio of funding, training, ‘business’ support and capacity building along with the best networking opportunities for the sector in the city! Now it is asking for information so that it can demonstrate to others the impact of these smallest actions, often happening daily, in our communities. Contact POP on email@example.com
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For more information, please contact Caroline Blackler on 07920 741718 or email firstname.lastname@example.org