Monday, 19 December 2016

New Oxhey Community ready to roll

Following a conversation with +sandy belloni who is doing excellent work in the District it was agreed that Oxhey and Oxhey Village would really benefit from its own Community on the Communications Hub.

Sandy has three huge projects on the go, which include, Oxhey Park, The Paddock Wood allotments (of which he is chair of the association) and also Watford in the Water (conservation of the River Colne and lots more besides).

The Oxhey Community will enable all the posts that are in the separate Facebook Groups to be housed in one community on the communications hub. This will enable visitors to narrow down selection to any of the individual interest areas and / or to see what is happening in any of them. Bringing all three into one area will simplify viewing but also enable cross fertilisation of interest into the other areas.

Oxhey and Oxhey village will also share a calendar with Bushey. This means that all the activities for local community events can be located in a single calendar. The calendar can be updated by multiple people which means that it should be possible with a group of use to ensure that all local events can be found in one place. It's always a challenge to get everything in one place... but if we work together we can now do this via the community hub... plus all the other areas of SW Herts have their own calendars too... making it easy to see what is going on around us as well.

The community can be accessed via this link : Oxhey Community ... or you can find the link over on the right hand side under the Community section...

If you would like to participate in the community and begin to post / comment along with Sandy (everyone is welcome to do this and it isn't difficult) ... then please do ask to join. If you haven't yet created a Google account the follow this link to get one set up. Google accounts are simple to set up and free to use.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

WalkTimeTV with Chris and guest David Sawyer

+David Sawyer  and Chris Ogle take to the streets in another episode of #WalktimeTV with Chris. Today Chris is in Southwold Road talking to David who has lived in this street for 35+ years.

Southwold Road is a road in North Watford which runs between Bushey Mill Lane and Windsor Road which ultimately rejoins St. Albans Road.

Many of the houses in this area were built for the rising number of railway workers and the housing stock is terraced 2 or 3 bedroom properties. Interestingly many of these houses weren't built with a bathroom. The population density meant that schools were needed and these both feature in the conversation.

This is part of a whole series of getting to know our local streets and their history. If you have lived in an area for a long time or you know someone with a strong history of an area then please do let us know... we would love to talk to them...

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Are you interested in Health? Food? Spreading the word?

This South West Herts Community Communications Hub has been created to cover all aspects of community. But one of the most important services is to connect people who are interested in similar things. One of those things is Health.

Now Health is an enormous topic and covers everything from different eating styles, Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten Free through to mental health such as loneliness or self harm, exercising (how to do it) or even just an explanation of basic food and how to cook it.

Are you involved in any aspect of health? 

... if so would you be interested in being part of the SW Herts initiative to grow a Health Support System. This is something that we 'the people' put together as a community driven initiative to start supporting and nurturing each other with respect to Health.

Before we start let's make absolutely clear this is not about replacing or doing anything the NHS is doing. This is about all the gaps in the services that are no longer provided. Nutritional guidance, Mental health support, signposting, even just looking out for the older generation making sure they are ok.

There is so much that needs doing... and there is so much expertise out there in the community. I know at least 6 ex-mental health workers who no longer believed in what they were being asked to do, and who knew that there were better ways other than drugs to help patients. Sadly no longer able to share their skills and knowledge.

The NHS needs us to support it, or it will be private all the way

If we the people do not step in to provide community based support for our neighbours then the inevitable will happen... it will be commercialised and the have's and have not's resurgent once more. How we can support our health service? provide the bits ourselves it can no longer sustain? ... real care from the community? 

First we need to start bringing people together

Collectively we know that there are a lot of challenges out there in our community, we probably can all think of someone in our own street?  To find alternative ways to meet the needs of our community one way is to get together, talk, have conversations, innovate and create.

Then together we can begin to take action...

If we collectively discuss some of the things that are not working in our community in relation to health but actually, any aspect. And we start to get creative about alternative ways we could use our resources. We might just surprise ourselves. We might find we are more innovative and creative than we ever thought possible and just maybe we could find things that not only we could do but others in other towns can replicate too. 

Email us on :
Message on : Contact Us Form ... please mention Health

Monday, 5 December 2016

Watford BID thoughts and what about our small business?

I first learned about Watford BID (Business Improvement District) some 18 months back or more when plans were underway and the businesses in the town were being courted for their participation. So I was interested to see Issue No.2 of the BID News this week.

What is the Watford BID? In short the businesses in the town (inside the ring road) contribute based upon the floorspace they occupy a sum of money which goes into the Limited Company's bank account. This money is then used to benefit the town centre, market, promote, decorate, improve, whatever it is that is felt will have the most impact and deliver the best return for the money.

Now we are talking millions of pounds here over the duration of the BID term which is 5 years I believe and there have been new roles created to deliver the plans of the BID. Who is actually driving the BID project now and where are the checks and balances?

The board of directors makes an interesting read. I have often said that there are two major groups that run a town. Whether we agree with it or not, at the moment they hold the cards. These two groups are, the council (civil servants, clue is in the name) and the big businesses in the town. When you look down the list of people that are directly involved in the operation of the BID almost to the exception every single one of them is either involved in the council (or in an institution funded / heavily supported by the council) or one of the big businesses in the town. Big Retail. Banks, Entertainment and Leisure. It's looking a lot like a closed shop for those in the club again.

Apart from Situls Gift Shop there is no one on this board who runs a local small business. Many will argue, well, they are putting most into the pot so they should have the biggest say in what happens. Maybe this is true, however when they needed votes to get the BID approved small local businesses were included then.

The council of course saw this as a way of raising additional funds to do things in the high street without it costing the council... Bigger businesses now have a much greater say over what happens in the high street and the ability to sway decisions in their favour as they are in the BID team along with the council. For example our town has a Market Charter and it is a disgrace how this has been handled, no mention of it, nor representation on the BID board, and yet this is part of the town's Charter!

It's all more of the same is what I am saying. The Council and Big businesses tightening their noose around what happens in the town. What starts out as a soft encouraging sell has reverted back to old practices, with the smiling face of we're doing this for ALL the businesses in Watford. Sorry, but some flowers in the high street (which we had before by the way), a few extra Christmas Decorations and a Radio 1 DJ to turn on the lights isn't enough... good for Intu, great for John Lewis and other big organisations... Little showcasing however of the small local curio shops or independent businesses. Let me just say I am not against the ideology of the BID 'concept' I just think that this has been hijacked once more and many of the smaller businesses either signed up by default (no bids were essentially counted as YES votes) or believed they might actually be better represented. For many this is just another Tax.

Where do we go from here? 

... for the Small Businesses of Watford and for that matter the whole of SW Herts? After all, without the success of these small independent businesses there would be a lot less people using the Intu centre and the other major chains. Well we know exactly where not to go for help and support...

The business world is changing (again) and looking at politics so are many other things. Over the coming 10 years we as business owners are going to have to be even more agile, adaptable and flexible. We are going to need space to have conversations, innovate and be creative. We will undoubtedly discover new connections, new ideas, new business partners and new collaborations. Each of us will need to 'find our own way' but through a business community we can feel supported and nurtured. It might not feel like it at the moment, but we don't have to face this all alone...

It is up to us... so let's build something new and innovative, there's an idea...

The time for waiting and expecting others to deliver for us is coming to a close. Going forward it is up to us, we're going to have to take responsibility.... Next year we will begin an initiative to bring together Local Independent Businesses to innovate and create along with our communities... there is a lot to do out there but there are also a lot of us... N.B. This is an independent initiative nothing to do with the BID or Council.

If you would like to find out more : Contact Us

One date for this week... come and find out how we can start to innovate and create the future together... everyone welcome whether in business or not...

5:30-7:00pm Wednesday 7th Dec, The Kitchen Croxley+The Kitchen Croxley, 198 Watford Road

We will be sharing two further dates in a week or so for your diary in January 2017...

Sunday, 4 December 2016

The beginning of #WalkTimeTV with Chris

As one door close another opens. A couple of weeks ago we decided to bring the final curtain down on the weekly TV show. We learned a huge amount doing that show and it was great to connect with all the different sources of information available in the area... we all learnt a huge amount. But those days have drawn to a close...

Hello #WalkTimeTV with Chris

So what is WalkTimeTV... quite simply I am going to be walking along streets in our SW Herts District with a local person who knows the history of the street... has lived there for some time and they are going to tell us some stories about the street while we walk along.

I will be using #GoogleGlass to record the conversation whilst we walk and therefore you will be able to see what I see as we chat. Each walk will be less than 10 minutes, so nothing too onerous... 

So who, what are we looking for? ... anyone who has a great knowledge of their street... please get in touch... This is nothing serious it is a great opportunity for us all to learn more about the area in an informal and interesting way... if we don't get this information out of people's heads we will lose it... so this is a really important piece of history making too! ... 

Email :
Use the Contact us Form : Mention #WalkTimeTV 

Let us bring the history of the area to life... and you can help us!

How can we encourage and be active in #BuyLocal 2017?

Saturday 3rd December 2016 was Small Business Saturday. Maybe I have been a little less interactive on social media but I have heard less this year about this than in previous years. Of course anything to encourage local people to consider buying from those close to home is a great initiative and I give my full support. It is however just one day... this can't and won't change habits... and is soon forgotten for another year. It might provide a bit of extra business for a single day, but in reality... nothing changes.

If the outcomes are going to improve for our struggling local businesses then we are going to have to take this a whole lot more seriously... and it needs to be part of a much greater initiative of rebuilding our communities (which include those local entrepreneurs too). Here is a recent blog post from +linda anderson of +The Kitchen Croxley talking about the challenges of poor quality and much lower prices of the supermarkets, and another... The Dark Side, clearly laying out issues for small independent businesses, many of which are foisted upon us by government and policy makers. The big question is... "how can we find alternative ways to encourage people to utilise our services other than just low prices?"

Why should we buy from local businesses?

With the total convenience of Supermarkets and the erosion of the convenience stores and local parades that once serviced the communities it is hard to see how there could be a resurgence of the bygone days. Indeed with the size of populations it's ludicrous to conceive that these local stores could handle as much as 10% of the demand that we have nowadays.

But there are many things that lend themselves to local supply. Dairy, local meat and eggs, fruit, vegetables, bread, cakes... arts / crafts and services that rely on local people serving other local people. Convenience stores for those that don't have cars; where bus journeys are not possible, a forgotten item, or where something has just run out. And let's not forget... these shops are a chance to meet and talk with other people who live around us... the hub of our communities.

How can these local businesses help themselves (and us) ?

There are some fantastic initiatives out there already for small businesses. Networking events, business development groups and a whole raft of training and education. Actually for things to get better... we the business owners must get better too. Our proposition and value add to the community has to be so overwhelming and powerful that it is a 'no brainer' decision.

For local businesses there are two things that can be checked out right away.

  1. An audit of what marketing you currently do and where you might need to up your game 
  2. Making sure that all the free local services and opportunities to promote your business are being taken advantage of. 

Most local businesses need help with the above, but it's often a challenge to get impartial advice with no conflict of interest... At a local Link4Growth event you might get ideas and guidance but it will come with a guarantee of 'freedom from the pressure of expectation from others'. Quite simply you'll get impartial guidance from people and the opportunity 'to find your own way...'

How can you help? How can you be part of the discussion?

In 2017 we are going to start an initiative to innovate in the area of #BuyLocal. So there are two dates where we have already put aside 90 minutes on each occasion to begin the process. These events are to invite local business owners to begin positively innovating and finding alternative ways to handle the challenges we are all experiencing so they can be worked around... 'find their own way that works for them'... this is a different approach... and the dates are...

Date 1 : Monday 16th January, Basing House, Rickmansworth. 18:30-20:00
Date 2 : Thursday 26th January, Fresh Shop, Market Street, Watford. 18:30-20:00

Please follow the links above... if it is a first time visit to Link4Business use the promotion code '1stVisit'.

Some initiatives have already gotten underway...

SW Herts Community Communications Hub
We've already got the SW Herts Community Communications Hub in place. This is where we can all join in and share the 97% of good news that's out there in the community. It doesn't cost anything and we can all make use of it. Within this is a FREE business Noticeboard... anyone running a business can create their own Brand Page, register it... and then post notices about their brand. Come to Croxley on Wednesday 7th December 5:30-7:00pm if you would like to know more about this...

It's all about the [Your Business services] video series
A fledgling idea but a series of videos about anyone's local business to share with people different aspects about what makes using their local business unique and how you add real value to the local community. Spreading the message far and wide about our local businesses and the message of #BuyLocal.

The Business Development Network initiative
We are all very passionate about our own local businesses... but we are one small fish in an ocean... and there are many much bigger fish out there who can swallow us up easily. Alone it is tough, but by working together... by raising our game and by being innovative, agile, flexible and adaptable we can do this... and at the same time we might surprise ourselves and change a world.


I wrote a blog post on my own blog a couple of days back about the fact that Business Networking might have run its course... I do believe businesses ought to Network together and beyond... but perhaps what we need now is an evolving approach that creates an environment for businesses to innovate, come up with ideas, collaborate and 'find their own way' which works for them to achieve their goals... now that I personally believe would be worth attending!

Thursday, 1 December 2016

December news from SW Herts Link4Growth Team

Cake pic. courtesy of Kitchen Croxley
December is always a short month... and in the rush up to Christmas which starts in earnest today... Advent counts the days eagerly away to the big day..

There is lots going on in Link4Growth in December... but there is lots more going on in and around the district too... please do check out the Watford calendar... you'll find it in the newsletter too...

And why not get involved in the reverse advent calendar... it's not too late to start now!

Read the SW Herts December Newsletter here