Transformation Cornwall – does Cornwall need transforming?
Transformation Cornwall…Why would anyone want to transform Cornwall? It’s beautiful isn’t it? With its gorgeous coastlines, picturesque villages and amusing characters – just like in the TV programmes. Sadly, its beauty is only part of the picture. What the cameras and Sunday supplements don’t show is a county crying for its impoverished.
Cornwall is officially the second poorest county in Europe, with some areas taking poll poverty position. It’s a county of contrasts where the super-wealthy and the poorest live parallel lives. Our Foodbanks are busy, our homeless shelters are full and our vulnerable are exactly that.
“It can feel like there’s not much to smile about,” says Jane Yeomans, Project Manager of Transformation Cornwall, “But when you look a little closer, there’s an awful lot of positive, practical work being done around social action and anti-poverty work.”
Faith-based social action
Transformation Cornwall works by seeking out faith-based social action and lending a hand. You could ask, if there is so much need out there, why limit it to faith-based action? “It isn’t limiting, it broadens our reach and, actually, it’s quite hard to find social action that doesn’t include some sort of faith element,” says Jane. “Whether it’s the building, the initiative or the people involved, we connect with faith in its broadest terms to reach the maximum amount of people.”
The definition of faith for Transformation Cornwall includes all faiths but is not congregation based. But, as Jane points out, research suggests that when people do get involved in social action, congregations are strengthened and grow. A great fringe benefit to Jesus’ command to love our neighbours.
Transformation Cornwall’s support is triggered by faith, but that in no way diminishes the main driver of social action and anti-poverty work. “Faith partners are such strong partners who really want to help and there are a lot of groups out there, outside of a faith network, who really need support. We can broker those relationships,” says Jane. On a very practical level that can mean that a church might have a number of under-used buildings or spaces that could be exactly what a group needs. Because of its roots in both camps, as it were, Transformation Cornwall can bring those people together.
This strengthening of links between faith and mainstream organisations is just one of three strands of Transformation Cornwall’s work. The others being Meet the Funders and one-to-one project support.
Meet the Funders
Meet the Funders has been going since 2010 and is, essentially, exactly as it describes. An opportunity for people looking to develop a community project with the those who could potentially fund it. Free to access, it focuses around a one-day conference (in Bodmin on March 7th, 20190), plus some smaller follow-up workshops, where major funders, including national and local, meet individuals seeking funding for their projects. It might sound as if it’s all about the money but, as Jane explains, it’s so much more than that.
“People tell us that they get far more than just advice on potential funding at Meet the Funders. They gain confidence, contacts and knowledge – not just about what funders are looking for, but what it’s like for others going through similar processes.”
Jane explains the value of sitting with people, having the chance not just to ask questions but to really listen to people’s needs and get to the heart of what they’re trying to do.
“When you get the chance to hear what steps they’ve taken to get there and what needs to be done to move forward, you find, very often, that it isn’t always finance that stops a project flourishing. It could be an issue around governance, constitution, budget or banking. Or something as practical as securing a building or as nuanced as how to engage the community or talk to others about their project. We see Transformation Cornwall’s role as equipping people to be finance and project ready to ensure the work is sustainable for the long-term.”
The third strand for Transformation Cornwall is the one-to-one work. “With trustees approval we can work with specific projects, like the community based Oasis Centre or the new 10/10 project at All Saints Highertown.” Working in this way, they can help with things like recruitment, grant funding bids, policy-making, governance or as a referee. But, as Jane explains, they don’t ‘do’ things for people.
“We want people to feel confident, stronger and to progress but ideally, they won’t even know we are there! I would be ok with not even being thanked – that’s the way our organisation works. It isn’t about us, it’s about empowering others.”
Jane explains that Transformation Cornwall doesn’t take work on as such, they don’t have the capacity or the knowledge on the ground. “We’re not the experts in a community. We recognise that someone in Bude, for example, who wants to set up a food project is the expert and the perfect person to carry that forward. We believe in the actions of all people to develop and support their communities.”
Transformation Cornwall defying expectations
One of the outcomes of their work that Jane is proud of is their ability to wow. “We really over deliver and deliver something unique. People will often trust us because we come from a faith perspective but the perception of some is that, although willing, we could only offer something mediocre, possibly in a musty old hall. I love it that we deliver professionally, we nurture, value and work as that we’re professionals who know how to work in a professional environment. We don’t deliver in musty halls – rather we support communities to transform them! It’s great to challenge perceptions and that comes from believing in every individual.”
I love it that we deliver professionally, we nurture, value and work as that we’re professionals who know how to work in a professional environment.
Transformation Cornwall is supported by, amongst others, the Church Urban Fund, Truro Diocese and Cornwall Methodist District. With the mission of our diocese to grow God’s Kingdom, the questions are what does that look like and how does that help people? “Food for Change is a perfect example,” says Jane. “It exists to improve people’s life chances through food and is a partnership between faith and mainstream organisations. It also achieves enviable results. I think that’s because there is such a generosity there. The project works with individuals and, rather than seeing their issue or diagnosis, the perspective of faith encourages us to see their intrinsic skills, value and development potential. It’s about believing in people.”
Getting the message out there
Transformation Cornwall really wants to get the message out there that they are here, they want to enable and they want to support. “Most people are upset when they see people homeless on our streets, or read about the rise in Foodbanks, and most want to do something. That’s true of children and young people too, who can carry a lot of anxiety about fairness, need and poverty in Cornwall. Just by allowing them to contribute with, say, a box of breakfast cereal to a foodbank collection not only helps to alleviate that stress, but really can develop the process of social transformation.”
Small gestures make a big difference, especially when we all pitch in. As Jane says, “It’s so important to strengthen the truly great things going on in our communities. To encourage and celebrate all that is good about being human.” Celebrating all that is good about being human sums up Transformation Cornwall. Faith in action is exactly that, and the more of us that embrace it, the better the chances to transform our county.
“It’s so important to strengthen the truly great things going on in our communities. To encourage and celebrate all that is good about being human.”
To find out more about the work of Transformation Cornwall, including the ‘Meet the Funders’ March 7th event, or to get in touch, click here.