Reflecting on Skills 4 Social Purpose

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13 March, 2023

In July of 2022, we launched Skills 4 Social Purpose, a seven-month programme supporting women from priority groups to bring their skills, knowledge and experience to the VCSE sector, funded by West of England Combined Authority's Community Support Fund. 

Participants completed workshops, study and placements aimed at:

  • Articulating their lived experience and values
  • Researching and applying for roles in the VCSE sector
  • How the VCSE sector works
  • Starting their own organisation
  • Principles for maintaining wellbeing and self-care
  • Action-planning for the future

The cohort was supported to visit seven community venues, network with three sector leaders and partake in Q&A's with women in the sector. 

Now complete, we are thrilled to report that the programme was an overwhelming success:

  • 100% of women completing the programme fed back that their confidence had improved as a result of it.
  • 100% of women involved made some steps towards employment, education, training and/or volunteering.
  • 85% of participants began something new as a result of, and before the end of, the programme – including volunteering, work and starting up their own projects.
  • In addition one woman is in the process of applying for a university course and a further woman is doing an access to higher education course.
  • Participants began volunteering at Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support (SARAS), National Association for the Children of Alcoholics (NACOA), Age UK, Refugee Women of Bristol and Voscur, amongst others.
  • 32 digital badges were issued to participants. Badges covered volunteering, peer support and navigating the sector and 6 participants were issued with an ‘extra mile award’ by Voscur, to recognise that they stepped forward to support others on the programme.

One of our participants, for these purposes named S, was kind enough to share their experience: S described herself as a disabled carer, with very low self-esteem. She joined the Skills for Social Purpose Programme off the back of a divorce and having recently moved to a new area, hoping to reflect on what she wanted from a new chapter, including potentially returning to work. 

"When I applied for a place on the Skills for Social Purpose programme I wasn’t sure how I would fit it into my life. My day-to-day life felt simultaneously full and empty, and bleak. Decades of domestic violence had worn me down. I had finally managed to divorce but I had been left with an anxiety disorder, the aftermath of financial abuse and sole responsibility for four children, including my unwell youngest daughter whose carer I am.  

During Covid downward mobility hit me and my daughter hard. We moved house, downsizing in the pandemic – we moved to a less good house, in a less good neighbourhood with a less good local facilities. My daughter's mental health, which was already poor, deteriorated further. 

Participating in Skills for Social Purpose has enabled me to feel part of a safe, purposeful group. Meeting other women who like me had an interest in working in the voluntary sector, who like me, faced barriers, was captivating. Sharing food together, which we did whenever we met face to face, brought us closer together and we formed a group that has gone on to support each other. 

In October 2022 I applied for a place on my local area, and new neighbourhood’s, Community Resilience Fund deliberation panel, an opportunity I heard about through Skills for Social Purpose after the project coordinator contacted me to say she felt I’d be an asset to the panel. I was delighted to be accepted. For the first time I am beginning to feel at home in my new neighbourhood.  

I am now actively searching for a part-time role in Bristol’s Voluntary sector. Watch this space! 

If I had to sum up the programme in 3 words I would say learning, community and future."