‘Life worth Living for’ Story: The Annexe

The Journey of the Teddies

TeddiesThe Investing in Social Capital Partnership selected the picture of the knitted teddy bears as the first banner for its website and promotional materials.  “For us it represented connections and we liked the feeling of movement and creating something as a group”.  Below is the story behind the image with kind permission from Ita, Jan and Annexe Communities.

About the project

VAF support the Connects2Project at the Annexe Communities based in Partick, Glasgow.  Funding is provided through the Glasgow Third Sector Transformation Fund to support older people aged 65+ to reduce social isolation and improve health. http://www.voluntaryactionfund.org.uk/funding-and-support/reshaping-care-for-older-people/

The Knit and Natter group is one of the activities emerging from the project this year.

The inspiration

Teddy Story - Ita and JanIta is the main inspiration behind the teddies.  Ita was previously isolated and house bound after being diagnosed with MS.  She hit rock bottom when her GP said she’d need to go on anti-depressants. Her sister brought her to the Connects2Project and the rest is history.  Ita states that “Connects2project is my anti-depressant.”  She is amazingly inspirational and has really changed for the better.

Before Ita joined, the project had only knitted squares for “peace blankets”  She used to be an amazing knitter and has got a whole new lease of life through this venture.  Ita has knitted over 150 of the hats so far, some having been already sent off to Syria with another pile ready to be shipped off to Nepal. Each week Ita would come to the Positive Living Class and share what she had knitted that week. Amazing beautiful hats. Each one a work of art! Inspiring Jan to knit again after years, bringing in knitted teddies on a weekly basis!

The story so far

One day, Ita came in to say that she had attended another knitting group to see what they were doing and came back with a pattern for puppet dolls. Then next week she turned up with the most adorable wee teddy. Everyone just fell in love. So to date over 30 teddies have been made, loads more in the making.  https://www.facebook.com/Connects2Project

Tapping into wider community assets

Nan McKay group donated wool which helped clear out a cupboard through a connection made at VAF networking event. Jane Cowie, Project Development Officer says “So all good, win, win and yes, loads of connecting going on at physical and social levels. Magic. Love it.  Sometimes they have to be reined in on the nattering front”!

From Scotland to Syria and beyond

The reason behind the teddy bears initially was to send off to women and girls in the developing world who have survived prolonged, obstructed labour who may be left with irreversible damage www.freedomfromfistula.org.uk for more information.  Each woman got squares for a blanket and a wee teddy bear puppet as a present for their baby. So far a few have been sent to Syria, Nepal, Goa and Tanzania www.sharetanzania.com.


Reflections on our partnership*

After introducing our Investing in Social Capital partnership in our last blog we thought that this would be a good time to share how the partnership has been strengthened through working to introduce a social capital approach into the Voluntary Action Fund (VAF).

Right at the beginning it became clear that to introduce a new approach across the whole of VAF, would take time, investment and commitment. It also needed a strategic approach with expertise and support from Assist Social Capital (ASC) to make this shift.

arrowsLooking at how we work

bean character with magnifying glass

It also meant taking a close look at how VAF works as a grant-maker and how a social capital approach could be introduced, as changing the way the organisation works would clearly have an impact on its culture and operational structures. So, what has been done within VAF so far? We…

  • provided training to all staff and trustees to increase their knowledge and understanding around social capital which also helped us to realise what social capital already exists and how we can further release it.
  • created open formal and informal spaces in VAF to enable us to hold conversations about social capital, trust, our values and behaviours and the changes happening – this also included reflecting and sharing examples of how to unlock social capital
  • introduced cross-team working groups which greatly helped to build relationships across VAF overcoming the ‘silo’ mentality – as part of those groups we also established a Social Capital Champions Group
  • and integrated social capital into our strategy and operational plan

arrowsInvolving our funded projects

people circle

An important part of VAF’s work is of course the way they work with funded projects. So, how do we encourage the organisations they support to take this approach? To facilitate the transition we…

  • include a social capital approach at VAF fund welcome days, provide networking opportunities by providing informal spaces for people to chat and get to know each other
  • provide training opportunities on specific topics delivered in a participative way
  • introduced an open question in VAF application and monitoring forms on social capital – this includes individual stories and case studies
  • developed with some of the funding streams an evaluation framework together with the respective projects
  • supported the creation of clusters
  • started a Social Capital Evaluation Pilot initially within one of our funds and we are currently running a second round across all VAF- Programmes with interested projects

arrowsEngaging with wider stakeholders

speech bubble and people

Finally, we also aim to ‘reach out’ to other investors and policy-makers across and outwith the sector with the aim of maximising financial support to the 3rd sector by taking a social capital approach to investment.  We do this by developing awareness about the Third Sector and the role of social capital through demonstrating what we are doing and sharing examples. So far, to achieve that we…

  • hosted three Social Capital Conversations in 2014 and three Social Capital Events (2015) across Scotland with a final one scheduled in early 2016
  • facilitated an event as part of the Learning Network Challenge Fund (awarded by the Scottish Government) in the Gorbals (Glasgow) bringing together a cluster of individuals and organisations to identify and further develop new models of community-led regeneration, health and wellbeing
  • had discussions with various relevant stakeholders such as the Scottish Government, the Scotland Funder Forum, and raised awareness with the corporate sector as well as donors and philanthropists
  • participate in other groups such as the Scottish Volunteering Forum and the Social Capital World Forum.

arrows Strengthening of the IiSC Partnership

The partnership has been strengthened as a result of this approach. So far, both partners have identified benefits including.

  • Increased formal and informal conversation & communication
  • Sharing of information, resources and expertise
  • Joint presentations to stakeholders
  • Development of funding proposal for public sector and investors
  • Reviewing and reinforcing shared values and trust between ASC & VAF


*Please note that this blog is written from VAF’s perspective

Investing in Social Capital

It is widely acknowledged that inequality is steadily rising , compounded by reducing public finances and increasing demand for services. There is a new language emerging around supporting asset-based approaches, which is to be welcomed; yet we continue to take traditional approaches to investment!

We know that investing in projects that unlock social capital can result in positive benefits in our communities and contributes to the prevention of deep-rooted inequalities. What is more, we believe that when funders embed a social capital approach in their investment practices there is an increased likelihood that social change can be sustained.

Investing in Social Capital is a strategic partnership between the Voluntary Action Fund (VAF) and Assist Social Capital (ASC).

VAF is a long-established grant-maker distributing £16million public funding per year across a range of social policy areas. Our mission is to release existing and potential resources within communities by investing money, increasing capacity and building relationships.

ASC is a social enterprise that demonstrates the value of relationships as a key resource for health, wealth and wellbeing of any community of place, practice of profession through the use of social capital as a critical resource.

Through this partnership VAF and ASC are pioneering new evidence-based approaches to investing in communities.

We believe that

orange logo - Merkin is a better way of investing in communities.