How to support your community through collaboration

One of the driving ideas behind Connect4SuccessRCT is how local businesses can collaborate to improve their community. A great example of this is Play It Again Sport, a social enterprise in Rhondda Cynon Taf , who work alongside the Too Good to Waste charity to make sport more accessible. We spoke to Enterprise Manager Natasha Burnell on how their relationship works:

Play It Again Sport was founded in 2016 by Steffan Rees, a karate instructor from Ynyshir, Rhondda.  He knew children weren’t attending his (or other sports) classes due to the financial costs of the kit required. He also knew that many, many people have sports kit and equipment gathering dust at the back of their wardrobes: outgrown, unwanted or simply not used any more.  

There was the solution to the problem: take donations of no longer needed sportswear and sell it at an affordable price for everyone.

Four years later and Play It Again Sport is now operating out of Too Good to Waste in Ynyshir, where white goods, furniture and bric a brac are donated, diverted from landfill, sold and given a second lease of life.

The relationship between Play It Again Sport and Too Good To Waste works symbiotically: the donated washing machines and driers need to be tested rigorously, whilst washing the sports clothing which has been donated to Play It Again Sport.  

The result? Safe washing machines and clean clothes.

As a social enterprise, Play It Again Sport would be unable to afford a commercial space to sell from. Working with Too Good To Waste enables a perfect space while providing product diversity to customers.

Our objective is to remove barriers to participation in sport, whether running, football, gymnastics or whatever it is that gets your heart beating! Sport is so important, not only for physical health, but also mental health and wellbeing. It provides opportunities to alleviate loneliness and social isolation for people of all ages.

We rely on donations from local people and businesses of items that are no longer required. We’ve gratefully received water-damaged stock from Cardiff City Football Club, sample items from Quatro gymnastics, team kits from Cambrian, and more. These items would have ended up in landfill, or shipped over-seas as ‘Cash for Clothes’ (increasing carbon footprint and damaging local textile industries). By diverting this stock to Play It Again Sport, it not only benefits the environment, but supports the foundational economy as well.

We have donation bins in all RCT leisure centres, in Cwmbran & Pontypool leisure centres, and also at Sport Wales HQ in Cardiff. Please visit our website http://www.playitagainsport.wales/ for more information and to find our contact details. 

Connect4SuccessRCT – The Story So Far

Connect4SuccessRCT is a foundational economy project in Rhondda Cynon Taf delivered by Practice Solutions. It aims to increase the proportion of goods and services supplied to the public sector by local businesses in the area. In practice, this means we are collaborating with a number of local suppliers to provide the goods that public bodies are procuring, as and when they need them.

Over recent months, the project team have been interviewing decision-makers and community leaders to get a better picture of what this might mean in practice. We’ve used this time to understand the blockages, but more importantly, spot the opportunities that currently exist and where others might be in our post-lockdown future. 

Recent weeks have given us all first-hand experience of what the foundational economy looks like from day to day. Think of all those workers who are busily keeping our communities functioning during these challenging times. They are part of the economy we can’t do without – and will need support and investment going forward. 

It’s been a challenging few months for us all – first the floods, quickly followed by the pandemic – with no time to catch our collective breath. Since the lockdown was announced, we’ve seen a great deal of change, with many examples of community-orientated, need-focused interventions happening all over the place, at times involving the most unlikely organisations who before the pandemic, wouldn’t have considered changing the way they work. It’s been inspiring to see.

The Connect4SuccessRCT project is looking at how we can take the best from this bad situation, operationalise these different ways of working, to deliver reliable and valued services for public sector clients.

My fear is that once our communities and services become unlocked, all the positives that have helped us collectively deal with the pandemic could evaporate. With that in mind, the Connect4SuccessRCT project team needs to work hard to create the policy and political conditions that will strengthen the Foundational Economy of the future. If you want to get involved, get in touch.

For more details contact louise@practicesolutions-ltd.co.uk