Ben Hunt- Trustee and Community Project Manager of Park Life Heavitree
Could you please briefly tell us about your background and why you started Park Life Heavitree?
Someone once said to us ‘your local park is like community glue’ a place outside of work and home where people interact differently. Not like passing on the street but people stop and talk and take time and relax. A place to be known…
Starting out as 3 young families with an idea, we are now a registered charity with 9 trustees and over 60 volunteers. We have delivered food and well-being programmes, run events, run a meal share and cooking with neighbours’ scheme, set up a community coffee van business and established and supported a number of health and fitness activities. We are now planning a community cafe and hub space.
What we’ve learnt in the 8 years since is that parks and places like them might hold the key to some of the major issues facing communities in the UK including an obesity crisis, a lack of community cohesion and the loneliness epidemic.
We have been Community Group of the year at The Pride of Exeter Awards and won the Prince of Wales award for Community work at the Devon County Show.
What are the most challenging aspects of running Park Life Heavitree?
Firstly, ‘If you want things done well, give them to busy people,’ we are now working at capacity and need to create more space if we are to grow and have a bigger impact.
Secondly, overcoming the negative voices is challenging and inspiring at the same time! ‘You’ll never do it’, ‘you’ll never raise the money’. People and organisations who would rather be a barrier to community-led development than be supportive…
Why did you choose to join the Enhance Social Enterprise Programme?
We were looking for some help, support and guidance on measuring our impact. We knew the difference Park Life was making in the community and in people’s lives but we didn’t know how to prove it!
How has the Enhance Social Enterprise Programme helped you develop Park Life Heavitree since you completed it?
Having support from Mark Cotton at Devon Community Foundation through the Enhance Social Enterprise Programme has been invaluable! He asks great questions and it’s been useful having someone from outside of Park Life working with us. His experience has helped us write a Theory of Change, complete large funding applications, start work on our social impact framework and do some in-depth thinking on our charity business planning.
If you are an existing social enterprise in the area and would like to benefit from the fully funded support available through the Enhance Social Enterprise Programme visit: http://bit.ly/2tQsxxf
The Heart of the South West Enhance Social Enterprise Programme is receiving up to £1,053,610 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for ERDF. Established by the European Union, ERDF funds help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.