I’ve had a long association with Gainsborough, my children went to school there, most of my local shopping gets done there and Gainsborough Riverside Regeneration was a major part of my life for several years in the 1990s. I was therefore happy to offer Globe’s help when a conversation with ex-colleague and friend Charles Cook at the Lincolnshire Co-operative Development Agency touched on a long established local institution – Gainsborough Adventure Playground. Like many community and voluntary organisations, the Gainsborough Adventure Playground Association – to give it its full name – is feeling squeezed between reducing public sector finance, limited availability of grants and a rather dismal local economic and employment climate. The effect is that they need to ‘prove their worth’ to people other than the children and parents they work with.
The Playground, which serves areas that are still amongst the 10% most deprived in England has done most of the things you might reasonably expect of it and more; it delivers Sure Start Services, it provides a fee generating nursery; it uses its spare capacity to generate extra income by running special events for local children and providing CAB advice surgeries and similar provisions for the many parents who gravitate towards the centre. But, it still does what it set out to do back in the early 1970s, it provides a free supervised play environment where local children can drop in to experience a safe, managed, stretching and supportive play environment – something not necessarily available to all of the children in the local area.
The Playground Association wants to demonstrate to funders the views of the local and wider community, as well as the benefits (soft outcomes) to the children and parents who use the facility. I know from my own experience, managing and being a board member for a number of community organisations how difficult it is sometimes to demonstrate the value placed on the work being done and how much time it takes to maintain a funding regime. That’s where Globe was able to help, the Playground wants to survey its local community and we are very good at this survey malarkey having regularly undertaken survey and interview based research for our clients over the last five years. The initial idea was to make access to our licensed on-line survey software available to the Association but a couple of phone calls and one meeting later, having found out how far the Playground has evolved since my previous dealings with it, our Business Manager Lizzy (who has led large pan-UK and national surveys as well as smaller community research projects) volunteered her time to help re-draft a questionnaire, manage the survey, set up on-line and social media links and analyse the data. Globe’s work will be independent and delivered under our quality management process as part of our commitment to social responsibility. If the results reflect a positive view and the Playground is perceived to have wider social and community benefits, let’s hope that the survey will help potential funders to rally round and ensure that free and open access for children using the playground continues to be supported in an area that, despite considerable progress, still faces the on-going challenges of addressing deprivation.