Theme 3: Small Groups

Theme 3: Small Groups

Theme 3: Small Groups

In 2013, the Small Groups Network (SGN) developed a position statement, which gives useful context including the definition of small groups. As the statement is so recent we have incorporated elements of it in the section below to ensure that the most recent intelligence is not lost.

Key Issue / Change we want to happen / Key audiences
Small Groups bring a wealth of strengths and benefits to the city[1]. They empower communities, are well placed to understand the communities they work within, and have the independence and freedom to respond knowledgeably and creatively to need, but this is often not recognised. / Recognition of the work of small groups and the significant outcomes achieved in highly cost-effective ways. A central place to record impact would help to raise awareness of this and could feed into statutory services, local policy and decision makers.
Respect for the informal and gradual nature of groups by public bodies and support organisations, and understanding that a group might want to stay small and not be required to grow larger, allowing them to keep in touch with their members and to concentrate on what has brought them together. /
  • Public Bodies
  • Support Organisations (including Community Works)
  • Commissioners

Voice and dialogue
Our members from small groups tell us that they want the voice of the community and the small groups within it to be at the heart of decision-making in the city, including a voice on BHCC partnerships and steering groups.
Communication with council officers is sometimes one-sided, with small groups telling us it is often difficult to get a response when they try to initiate contact. / Improved dialogue and relationships between council officers and Community Works members to make use of the local knowledge and specialist skills they hold.
Community Rep Champions to help community voices to be heard at a strategic level.
Improved two-way dialogue with council officers on mutual issues with a level playing field for marginalised or seldom heard groups.
Community Works membership strategy 2014 to prioritise engaging small groups not currently in membership, and consider ways to consult those groups who don’t become members. /
  • Council Officers
  • Elected council members
  • Community Works

Improved two way communication
Members have fed back that understanding of each other’s vocabulary is sometimes a barrier to effective communication, both within and across sectors, and this perception is supported by national research.[2]
Small groups tell us that they find it difficult to connect up their work, leading to isolation. / Simplification of language for both sector and cross-sector documents, and simplification of processes for communicating.
Improved understanding from organisations of clear communication and how to identify (and avoid) ‘jargon’.
A mechanism for small groups to meet each other and share support, meet people tackling similar issues, and create a shared agenda.
Opportunities to raise awareness with public bodies of how and what small groups contribute to the city.
A commitment to two-way communication and focussed support to improve resilience of groups. /
  • Public Sector
  • CCG
  • Community Works
  • Community Works
  • Public bodies.

Training & Development
Grassroots groups tell us there is a particular lack of training in the skills that would help their groups to be more effective, e.g. How to be a treasurer/secretary, IT skills, social media, good governance.
Small groups also tell us that they would benefit from support to become independent as they grow e.g. to raise funds, create action plan, run public meetings and ensure that their work is inclusive.
Groups also report difficulty accessing support services such as community development support. / Improved programme of free training for small groups, including follow-up support.
Grants for small groups to attend training.
Specific support for small groups to help them grow, for example when making the transition to taking on a paid worker.
Community development outreach programme targeted at small groups and communities of interest.
Shared learning about how to increase involvement and reduce barriers to people participating.
Support to manage volunteers (see ‘Volunteering’ section for more detail). /
  • Commissioners
  • Public Sector
  • Community Works
  • Other infrastructure organisations

Many small groups report that their access to assets and resources is a barrier to their work, including time off to attend meetings, transport and parking, meeting space that is affordable and accessible, low cost and local community buildings including office facilities.
Affordability can also be a barrier for participation in activities run by small groups. / Travel subsidies and other expenses for volunteers to be publicised more. Affordable accessible transport in general to enable people to attend activities.
Low cost access to practical equipment for events.
Cheap and accessible venues (vital for many groups’ survival).
More small grants schemes like the one offered at Brighthelm for access to meeting space.
Improved co-ordination of asset sharing and asset transfers to give greater stability, perhaps making use of empty properties. e.g. Community Buildings Network, shared meeting spaces.
Support for groups wishing to take leases / run buildings.
Imaginative housing developments with shared community facilities.
Improved information about free meeting spaces that are available.
Brokerage of business support. /
  • Commissioners
  • BHCC
  • Community Works
  • Strategic Housing Partnership

Some of the smaller groups we work with tell us that funding information isn’t always clear and transparent enough:
-It is not always easy to understand funders’ requirements and processes.
-Small groups may have less skills/ability and/or time/resources to develop and grow.
Groups also struggle with identifying funding for core costs and with the level of competition for funding.
Small Grants are at the heart of the resilience of small community groups. It is essential that these are available to enable continuation of their services.[3] / Raised understanding amongst funders of the challenges small groups work with and the diversity of the sector.
Protection of small grants for the very smallest groups to avoid them being accessed by larger organisations at the expense of small groups.
Continuation of funding for health related groups for grass roots projects.
Simpler funding processes for very small grants and reporting requirements proportionate to the amount of funding given.
A flexible outcomes based approach to monitoring and evaluation. More uniformity across funders would be helpful (i.e. a standard reporting format), and more joined up thinking about the kinds of reports and data required.
Training for small groups in how to measure impact.
More assistance for small groups to access funding information.
Use existing networks to disseminate information about funding.
Improved communication channels between funders and those giving funding advice, including about the changes in commissioning structures, so that small groups can stay up to date and take advantage of any funding opportunities arising.
Peer support / buddying between small and medium groups, which could include acting as referees, for example. Continued support through the mentoring network.
Development of a guarantor service for small groups who need someone to give assurance to funders when applying for grants.
A minimum of 3 years funding at a time for core costs. /
  • Funders/Commissioners
  • BHCC Communities and Equalities team
  • Community Works


[1] Position Statement on the Value and Needs of Small Community Groups, CVSF Small Community Groups Network, 2013.

[2]Ware, P (2013) “Very small, very quiet, a whisper...” – Black and Minority Ethnic Groups: voice and influence, The Third Sector Research Centre: Birmingham. Available at: <

[3] Position Statement on the Value and Needs of Small Community Groups, CVSF Small Community Groups Network, 2013.