Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Have you got ideas to improve your local community?

There are so many things that could be improved in our communities. I hear people every day saying what the Council 'should be doing'... or coming up with ideas for other people to implement. There is definitely no shortage of things that need doing... and it would seem no shortage of solutions either.

Mostly though the ideas never get realised and the problems persist. We just get used to it being not right and put up with it. Why is that?

There are quite a few reasons why these challenges are not tackled.

  1. People come up with ideas but there is no mechanism to convert the idea. No mechanism to share it, connect with others who might share the passion, and then go on to implement the ideas.
  2. It all seems so difficult. I'm only one person, what can I do alone? Who is going to help me?
  3. We focus on the reasons why things can't be done, not innovating solutions and alternatives with the resources that we do have.

Basically we abdicate our power to those that 'ought to be taking care of things'. Very often this is the council. Just imagine for a moment being in the council. One of the people charged with improving things locally. These people are trying to come up with solutions for our communities all the time but really what chance do they have?

  • Distrusted as those in suits from the 'other side' by many
  • Guessing what the problems are very often, as their knowledge and connections are limited
  • Unconnected from the people effected and unaided by those who know what is needed i.e. those on the ground in the community.
  • Limited and decreasing finances to provide anywhere near what is really needed, only desperate undertakings being considered seriously.

What if?

We began to get ourselves organised. Got together as a community on a regular basis and started to form project groups to take on some of the grass roots projects that could make a huge difference in some peoples lives.

What if we started to invite those from the Council along to actually hear from the horses mouth what the problems are so they were able to ascertain what resources they might have to assist us in tackling the issues.

What if we began to take responsibility back... and began to take action? ... we could... we can actually...

Link4Coffee with Intent

Starting at  +The Kitchen Croxley on Wednesday 1st February from 5:30pm we are hosting the first of the bi-weekly community action events; Link4Coffee with Intent. A chance to get together with others in the local community who want to start to improve our community and make a contribution. Why not you? Short notice I know... but here is the link for tomorrow if you would like to come along.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Town Business Creative gets off to an interesting start in Watford

On Thursday evening last week at The Fresh Shop we turned our regular Link4Business event into our 2017 version. Call it Link4Business-i maybe, where the 'i' stands for Innovation.

So what is the Town Business Creative?

Well to keep it simple the purpose is to encourage innovation and creativity in our local business community. The Intent is that if we have a flourishing local business environment then this will assist our local communities too.

Step 1 - Bring local businesses together
Local events where we come together to pool our resources and talents. Collectively we are an entrepreneurial lot. We are resourceful, we know how to come up with solutions and then take action. We do this in our own businesses.

Step 2 - Collectively Innovate and Create
There is something about being in a group of people who are firing off ideas, innovating and creating sparring off each other. We can only innovate ourselves within the boundaries of our own understanding. When we are in a group then we can expand each others thinking well beyond the limits of our own experience.

Step 3 - Develop Projects and Take Action
Talking and discussing is great but making a difference requires taking action. From these events those who are interested to take action can form projects and then start to create using the ideas and innovations from the group.

Step 4 - Tangible evidence of improved business
With projects being developed, actions being taken and results being experienced we will start to see the impact of our collective energy in the the local business community. We want to evoke a strong #BuyLocal ethic in our communities and support for all local businesses.

How does it work?

Each month a host is selected from the group to chair the group. This month it was myself and the topic we were innovating for was a Local Business Newsletter that goes out bi-weekly. Lots of ideas and suggestions were tabled. Now a project will be formed and a small team to deliver the Newsletter. A website will be created to enable us to easily collect stories and to showcase the previous newsletters. People will be able to easily subscribe via the website for the newsletter too.

The Newsletter website will feature as one of the projects that has been initiated though the SW Herts Community Hub (Operated by IPSL), Town Business Creatives and the Link4Growth SWHerts District.

More information

For more information about the Town Business Creatives about how you can get involved or perhaps how you can join us then tweet us on: L4GSWHerts or email:  southwesthertsDL@link4growth.biz ... or comment on this post and we'll get back in touch as soon as we can.

Colour and Connect a new community group for SW Herts

There has been a lot of talk about colouring and specifically colouring-in sessions on my periphery for a while. +Reason Coffee Shop & Bookstore had some colouring sessions going on and I had heard of others too.

It seems that colouring actually has some significant benefits. It is relaxing... it is meditative and it is social too when undertaken in groups, and... anyone can do it so very inclusive (any age too!)... can also double up as a kind of self help support group function too. As we focus on what is a fairly simple task, using a colouring pencil to fill in shapes on a piece of board or paper we naturally begin to quieten the mind. The simple task allows the brain time to focus and yet rest at the same time.

So what is this new group?

Well it is Colour & Connect click the link to go over there and take a look. The first event will be hosted at +The Kitchen Croxley on Friday 10th February at 12:30-2:30 pm your hosts will be Nicky and Linda.

Through conversation, connection and discussion other events, times, venues and dates will be organised to accommodate different diary requirements. It would be fabulous if others in the area begun groups around their neighbourhood's too. It is expected that the Kitchen in Croxley will be a firm regular on this 2nd Friday of the month, so please do add this to your diary.

Do also have a look around the Website. Originally put together one evening in a pub in less than 2 hours and significantly enhanced by Nicky since then... Free to create, host and maintain... and mobile friendly a must for any local project or group looking to share what they are doing... 

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Do you need help in your business?

Once a month currently (but it goes on naturally at other events informally) Link4Growth hosts a L4GHelp event.

What is Link4Help? Well quite simply it is a 2 hour opportunity for anyone out there in the community to come along and get help for their business, charity, community group... This help could come in the form of ideas, advice, guidance, signposting, connections, or it might be showing how to do something on the computer... on social media... how to do something on a smart device, tablets... apps... pretty much anything!

The event is held at the Kitchen in Croxley green... always on the last Friday of the month.. the next one will be February 24th from 12pm till 2pm. Use this link to book in and come along... it's free to attend.

+Chris Ogle explains further in his recent blog post... Coffee & Cake Training

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Three Rivers Business Forum

This morning I attended the Three Rivers Business forum at +West Herts College. Thanks to Renato Messere for the invitation.

I was more fortunate than most the college is a short 200 metre walk for me, for others a 3 hour rush hour (excuse the pun) expedition through cold, foggy, roadwork ridden traffic.

For those wondering just what the big hole is outside the Watford Registry Office it was a gas leak. Now fixed and the work starts filling the hole in. I stopped to enquire this morning, the gang there at the moment are 'allowed' to fill the hole to about 12 inches from the top, then the tarmac team must come along and complete the task... I just hope it gets done today... lots of frustration out there.

The Agenda for the meeting today is here... the primary goals were to outline the skills situation in Hertfordshire, take a look at an online free service that helps businesses navigate the education framework and an update on what is happening with apprenticeships.

The Skills overview presentation contained a lot of statistics but I'm unsure how these figures can really translate into meaningful actions on the ground... more of a yardstick of interest I feel. Please do take a look at the Skillsmaker site... the document on the right has the web address... do let me know what you think...

Lastly Louise Thurston from West Herts College gave us an overview of how the apprenticeships will look going forward.

Basically there is a levy coming in which will be obligatory for companies with more than a £3 million wage bill. This money is to be used for funding apprenticeships. Companies of all sizes are able to tap into the apprenticeship schemes the training costs of which will be mostly born by the government.

The idea is that for many roles in society that still require a large element of training, this can be provided on the job, in work, and that the tab isn't picked up by the student. The student in many cases is also through this new scheme able to pick up a qualification equivalent to GCSE, A Level, Undergraduate, Batchelor or Masters degree... without the fees.

Companies have to take on an Apprentice for a minimum of a year + 1 day but the idea of the scheme is to provide companies with an employee who is getting to a certain extent vocation related specific training which hopefully leads on to longer term employment.

I can't help feeling though that we're missing the whole point. The entire rhetoric is about what employers want and how they want the students to fit into their world. Nowhere did I hear what do the students want to do? ... The trouble we have with many business owners is that they don't know what they don't know... unless they re-commence innovation and creation they will lose their businesses to more agile operators who have either embraced technology or innovated new solutions, or both, in any event the game is up... change is upon us.

Business owners need to innovate, young people need to be encouraged to re-energise their creativity and problem solving skills, in other words... encouraged to find their own way. This morning I heard about what is being done to make it easy for young people... being sent bus timetables... alternatives if that bus doesn't show... other options... all designed to take away their need to be responsible.

I can't help feeling we are contributing to making our young people helpless, and dependent. We don't need to do this. What we could be doing is inspiring them to discover what works for them. Discover what makes them get out of bed in the morning... find the bus... show up... no matter how easy you make something if they don't want to do it, or the proposition is not exciting then we're wasting everyone's time.

Of course this isn't something that can be changed instantly nor would it be applicable to all, but there is a real need to begin the process of innovating and creating our future. For this to happen we need to look to the young people. There are alternatives ways to do things if we get our thinking caps on. Providing the space to 'create', rather than just blindly follow (without questioning) what has gone before ought to be high on our priority list.

Everyone in the room today was there with the intention to help and provide a good future for the young of today. We do need to start questioning what we're doing in my opinion... maybe we need to trust our young and start asking them to tell us what they want to do... ?

Saturday, 21 January 2017

New mobile friendly website for local knitting group

Photo Lynne's Sewing Box - Watford Market
Lynne's Sewing Box - Watford Market
The "Stitch in Time" knitting group have been meeting now for some 2-3 years. Initially they met in +The LP Cafe right at the top of #Watford Parade... nowadays they are at +Reason Coffee Shop & Bookstore and also the Stanborough centre in Garston.

The founder +Jenny Young a local seamstress from Leavesden started the group originally with intentions of maybe teaching knitting and crocheting possibly then following up with running classes and sharing her knowledge but over the years it has actually turned into more of a community support group.

Meeting twice a week the group is looking to expand and as a community project, the local +Link4Growth SW Herts technical team jumped in to put together a simple mobile friendly website to assist with the group's promotion. Visit the Stitch in Time website here

One of the challenges for all small groups is finding ways to spread their message about what they do so that more people can find them. Websites are ideal because if you have the internet you can just visit the site if you get sent the link. Social Media platforms require people to have accounts... be connected and then know how to use the platforms... emailing or texting even a web address is far simpler and today the most ubiquitous technology.

Photo Lynne's Sewing Box - Watford Market
Lynne's Sewing Box - Watford Market
This South West Herts Community Communications and Media Hub has been set up to spread the word about people like Jenny and anyone doing great things in the community such as 'Stitch in Time'. 

Do you know any local projects that could do with more 'Airtime'? ... perhaps a website, maybe a video, an article about what they are doing...  if so please do email  southwesthertsDL@link4growth.biz  or  complete the form on the Contact Us page ... or just tweet us on @L4GSWHerts

Friday, 20 January 2017

Could you spare a minute a week to improve our communities?

Are you using Facebook? ... are you a member of any groups? ... if you have answered YES to both these questions then let's try the 3rd... would you like to use your talents to improve our local SW Herts community?

Ok... if you are still reading... thank you! ... below are 4 Facebook Groups. Each of them has a specific function which is shown. If we can start to bring together our collective knowledge we can start to share all the good work going on in the community, engage more people and enable more to happen locally.

If you feel that you could help in any of the four groups then please do click the links and ask to join in... if you would like further information about what to post the Groups description will explain in more detail.

N.B. We are not trying to sell anything to any of these contacts... only help them do more of what they are already doing! 

Little Reddings, Bushey

1. Community Info (General)

If you know of local groups doing good things, and / or you are well connected locally then please do join this group as you can help these people no end.

This group is to post the names ONLY of local community groups who are doing great things in our community. Charities, social groups, community organisations, any group that is here to serve the community. Please do not enter events, or other notices... all we need is the name of the group.

What would be great is contact name, phone, email, website, facebook pages... anything that would make it easy to make contact them. We will be asking people if they would like to be added to our SW Herts Community monthly newsletter.

2. Business Info (General)

If you are a local business and often meet other local businesses then you can help them really quickly by joining this group. 

The Local Town Business Creative is all about developing and growing our local economy but in order to do that we need to know who the local businesses are. Collectively we know them all, so this group enables us to build up a list of people to talk too. 

What would be great is contact name, phone, email, website, facebook pages... anything that would make it easy to make contact them.. We will be asking people if they would like to be added to the SW Herts Business Creative monthly newsletter.

Watford Homeless Proejct

3. Improving our Community (innovation, community in action)

Do you know anyone doing great work in the community... just doing it... then join this group please!

There are some amazing people out there starting great community projects. Often these are initiatives by one person who just wants to do some good out there... not join a charity, not get involved with the voluntary sector (and all the rules) ... just come up with an idea... flesh it out... and DO IT!

One such example is Ruth Lee with the Watford Homeless Project. Very simple... but with support from the community communications hub, +Reason Coffee Shop & Bookstore and +Link4Growth it now has it's own mini website! (Free)

What would be great is contact name, phone, email, website, facebook pages... anything that would make it easy to make contact them.. They will of course be invited to go on the newsletter for the community, but more than that, feature in it... and if they haven't got a website then we'll be talking to them about one of those possibly for free too!

4. SW Herts Business Creatives

It is an interesting time to be in business. It's probably now easier than ever to start a business, but more complex than ever to run one. None of us can do everything so more than ever running our business is a team effort!

None of us know everything either. There is a way to make every type of business a success somehow... so if you are struggling it is probably because you haven't discovered the solution as yet and you have had only the one brain 'on the job'. What if you had 10, 20 or 50 brains coming up with 'out of the box' ideas that might just get things moving.

This is the purpose of the SW Herts Business Creatives, to improve ourselves, our businesses and the local economy. If you think this appeals... JOIN THIS GROUP... but remember... this ISN'T SELLING, NO PROMOTIONS... it's about THINKING! 

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Help for the Homeless in Watford

Produced by CB Graphics (Watford)
The independent support for local Homeless people is on the rise with local people just getting on and taking action. Ruth Lee and +Neal Emery have been leading the way.

Ruth started up a project that she first heard about in America, over there it is called the Little Pantry, here in the UK the Little Larder. The first instance is outside the +Reason Coffee Shop & Bookstore in #Watford parade, but there are already other local sites being identified and also further afield in other parts of England.

Ruth has now set up a mini website to share what is happening and invite other people to join in Watford Homeless please do take a look. 

At Reason Coffee Shop and BookStore Neal has begun a Pay-it-Forward club for the homeless as a local monthly subscription. This can also be accessed through the site about... 

These are great initiatives and there are thousands like them. We can all make a contribution to society we don't need organisations... permission or somebody telling us what to do. All we need is to spot a need, perhaps get together with a few other people and TAKE ACTION. These Google mini websites are all free and easy to produce... if you have a project there really is now no excuse why you can't get something together at no cost and begin sharing the good work you are doing.

#Link4Growth in SW Herts is passionate to raise the profile of local Projects in the area... if you are involved in something then please do come along to one of our many events in the area... and let's get CRACKING! ... they are FREE to attend and there is loads of knowledge you can tap into from practical on the ground support through to technology... if it is going to be it is up to WE!

To get your project driving forward hook up with us at 'Innovation-People-Skills-Link4Growth' ... this community platform is here to help your project become visible... think community communications and media hub... even better news is... you can post directly... when you want....

email : southwesthertsDL@link4growth.biz ... or visit the Contact Us page and drop us some info about your project.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Hertsmere change of boundaries

Picture courtesy of the Watford Observer
I wouldn't normally post a link to Hertsmere as this is the community communications hub for South West Herts, however these boundary changes effect some of the wards in our district.

Talking with Eric Bishop the recently retired Mayor of Three Rivers Council, Carpenders Park is up for a reshuffle into Hertsmere. This would mean that if people wanted to see their MP they would no longer be able to easily access surgeries and consultations as they probably would have to get over to Potters Bar to do so.

More details can be found via the +Watford Observer website... here is the link to the actual post where you can find out more information and how you can voice you views and get involved in the process.

Link to the article on the changes to the Hertsmere Boundaries via the Watford Observer

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Town Business Creative Kicks off Monday 16th Jan 2017

At last... The Town Business Creative for Rickmansworth (and areas in close proximity) kicks off tomorrow evening 6:30pm at Basing House... So what is a Town Business Creative event?

"The Town Business Creative is an initiative to bring together entrepreneurs and businesses owners in the town to innovate and Create. By innovating and creating for ourselves we will also inspire others to think outside the box too, to consider alternative ideas and solutions to the challenges we each face. When we 'collaborate with intent' to improve our own businesses, we will in turn improve the local business economy."

Many of us are conditioned to try and find solutions to our challenges from within the box... what about daring to look beyond the 'traditional', 'the way it's always been done' ... what we know... what about experimenting and new ideas... new thinking? ... that's the town business creatives...

Actually if you would like to be amongst a group of mavericks, people who don't want to follow but perhaps take a chance... lead... innovate... and take a bit of a risk... then maybe Link4Business in SW Herts is for you...

NB: This isn't for those who want to just tell others what they do... or sell to others. This is for people who want to 'open the box', 'share ideas' and 'dare to think'. 

Facebook Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/225109731275388/
Eventbrite Link here

1st Time visitors use the code : 1stVisit  ... to reduce the cost to zero

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Taking Action with Sandy Belloni in Oxhey Park

Catching river pollution - implemented by Sandy
Not one for sitting around talking, Oxhey should be very grateful for Sandy Belloni. Sandy is very active on many community projects in the Oxhey area but I for one hadn't even heard of him... Not uncommon and one of the things this community communications hub is about... enabling us to see who is doing good work and recognising them for it.

+sandy belloni has 3 main projects. He works tirelessly to keep Oxhey Park a safe, pleasant and clean place for us all to enjoy... he is part of the management team of the Paddock Woods allotment group and he is very active in helping to manage and take care of the rivers and waterways right down to Slough from St. Albans.

After Sandy has worked his magic
Sandy works with many local volunteers including young people who are finding it difficult in this stressful society. Outdoors and working as a team Sandy has managed to bring together project teams that are providing a real example to us all of what is possible... if we get together and take action.

A few days back Sandy posted into the FB Group Friends of Oxhey Park, some updates...

"Cleared the boom, plan to do some more litter picking tomorrow on the North side. I trapped some crayfish requested by West Herts College catering department (I have an EA licence) , also I've got to go and return 5 rugby balls collected from the boom at some time!"

"Brought Crayfish into West Herts College. Then collected 11 bags of litter from the Colne's North Side from the Viaduct to the cycle bridge including approximately 350 plastic bottles. I've included pictures of the boom cleared and the new railings."

Sandy mentioned to me when we spoke that he is always looking for volunteers... people who would like to get involved in a whole variety of different group activities... from picking up leaves in the autumn... helping with rubbish gathering, to building new paths and steps. There is always something that needs doing.

Do connect with Sandy on Facebook or on here... or nip over to the contact us page and drop us a note and we'll get you connected.

More details over in the Oxhey Community here.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

New for 2017...Retweeting your tweets...

New Year, New ideas... let us get creative and innovative!

Many of you may already know that Link4Growth is SW Herts has its own Twitter account, the twitter name is @ L4GSWHerts. So we're going to create a list of people that support community building in SW Herts this will be a list accessible via the twitter account... anyone who is a subscriber to +Link4Growth can be added to the list.

Whenever you tweet if you feel it's appropriate just add the tag #L4GSWHerts to your tweet and we will support your post with a like and/or retweet. We will use discretion on retweeting, blatant adverts for your business should be used conservatively.

Why are we doing this? ... well there are a lot of people out there doing great community work... if we can start to collaborate and share what is happening with a bit of organisation (not much), more people will know what is going on... more people will engage and community activity increases. Everyone wins!!

Question 1. So how do you subscribe to Link4Growth?
You can do this for £3 per month via the Link4Growth main website just follow this link

Question 2. How do I ask to be in the L4GSWHerts list?
Well if you are an existing Link4Growth subscriber, just copy the text below into a tweet and post...

Please add me to the SW Herts Community supporter list @L4GSWHerts 

If you are not an existing subscriber and would like to participate with us in community building please do subscribe first (question 1 above) and then follow that up with step 2 (question 2).

To see the list and tweets... then follow this link

We also have lots of events happening in the area for people to get together and start to connect up the dots... Being signposted and picking up local information can really make a difference so please do come and join us... events are listed here.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Welcome to 2017!

If you thought last year was bad, change
A very happy New Year to you and your families from all those supporting the growth of local community in SW Herts.

I hope you have had a chance to reflect on what for many has been a difficult 2016, myself included... apart from anything else my mother spent 18 weeks in hospital which presented its own set of challenges.

Whatever you thought of 2016... the worst ever, the beginning of the end... a slow slide into the abyss or perhaps... people finally saying hang on we don't want to continue down this path, and a chance to actually maybe begin the process of rebuilding society from the grass roots up... the choice is yours.

I like to think we have turned a corner, that optimism coupled with a strong desire to actually get involved in local projects and make a real difference is where it is at? Enough of division and politics... enough of posturing and the constant chase for more of everything. Perhaps we might have a real opportunity here to start creating what we do want... focusing on how we can work together, collaborate, innovate and build something that hitherto has not been forthcoming... as the saying goes (slightly amended) ... "if it is going to be then it is up to WE"

Let's be a light this year
So a quick update for you... I have been away for an extended break. I did need it and it gave me the space to rest (that was essential), think (that was essential), plan (that was essential) and now start to put into place the plans for community building in SW Herts applying the Link4Growth services.

There are so many people doing great work already in our community we just don't know about it. So in 2017, let's celebrate all the good stuff that is already going on and fill it up with an amazing number of new ideas too.

One of the major changes to 2017 is going to be introduce as part of our Coffee and Drinks events Innovation. If we are going to improve what goes on around us then we are likely to have to utilise the resources we have in different ways to come up with alternatives (lots of them) ... so let's come together and discuss what challenges we have and how we might do things better... or if you have a great idea, how can we get it up and running fast... engage more people... and start delivering real results.

Link4Business will have its format changed to be far more innovative so we as business people can develop our capacity for working together, collaborating on projects, and helping all local independent businesses to succeed... this is going to be absolutely awesome! What could we do if all us entrepreneurs worked on things together instead of thinking we have to compete all the time?

I believe that 2017 is going to be a year where the community begins to take responsibility for itself... if you share that view then please do get in touch contact us either via email: southwesthertsDL@link4growth.biz or alternatively head over to the Contact Us page and drop us a note there... we really can create what we want... first though we have to believe it... let's believe!!

I will be +Reason Coffee Shop & Bookstore on Monday 9th Jan... if you would like to catch up with all the changes as +Link4Growth move towards an association then please join us from 10:00am