AIM Connected Communities – first round of grants awarded

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More than 15,000 people are being supported into volunteering and given opportunities to build social connections in libraries, museums, arts organisations and charities thanks to Government investment.

Up to £30 million is being provided through the Government’s Know Your Neighbourhood Fund to create volunteering opportunities and support those experiencing or at risk of chronic loneliness.

Nearly £3 million is being distributed on behalf of Government by Arts Council England via partners Libraries Connected, Creative Lives and AIM, through the AIM Connected Communities programme, to create more than 1,000 volunteering opportunities and support more than 4,000 people experiencing, or at risk of, chronic loneliness.

Recent research has found that those living in the most deprived areas are more likely to report feeling lonely, as well as being less likely to volunteer. Research has also shown that loneliness is closely linked with mental health and wellbeing, and that certain types of volunteering opportunities can help connect communities and help people develop skills and grow their networks.

Civil Society Minister Stuart Andrew said:

“Loneliness is something anyone can experience, at any time. We know that volunteering can help people connect, as well as improving mental wellbeing and helping people develop new skills. 

“This funding will mean those in some of the most disadvantaged areas across the country are able to volunteer in an area that interests them. From arts groups to skills development workshops, there are thousands of ways for people to get involved, meet new people and try new things.”

Lisa Ollerhead, AIM Director said

Museums possess a unique power to unite people around captivating exhibits, beloved local landmarks, and inspiring ideas. Our AIM Connected Communities grant programme is dedicated to harnessing these opportunities and we’re delighted to be giving five projects the go-ahead in our first round of awards.

As well as the grants, we look forward to museums participating in a capacity-building programme to empower and enhance the skills of their dedicated staff and volunteers, while also facilitating partnerships with local organisations. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that the projects funded by these grants have a lasting, positive impact within the museum and resonate throughout the broader community.”

The first-round grant recipients are:

Peckover House and Gardens

Peckover House and Gardens have been awarded £81,400 to deliver a transformational project, Damsons, aimed at people living with dementia. Working with the Alzheimer’s Society, the project will create an accessible, safe space for people living with dementia, families and carers, to enjoy as they reconnect with nature and explore creative outlets.

These sessions will provide a much needed, fully supported service for people living with dementia to access in an area where similar opportunities are missing. The National Trust intend to use this programme as an opportunity to create a toolkit that will enable other properties to replicate it in a further five properties over the next three years.

Barnsley and Doncaster

Barnsley Museums and Heritage Doncaster have joined forces to deliver a Heritage and Wellbeing initiative in the Dearne Valley. With a grant award of £50,000, they will be working with b:friend and Age UK, both charities tackling chronic loneliness in elders, to deliver a programme of Museum in a Box outreach sessions using trained staff and volunteers to reach isolated communities. This project will enable the regional delivery of Creative Health, feeding into the South and West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board’s strategy, that will inform future models of delivery and programming. This will be supported by staff training around wellbeing, collaborative working and sharing learning.

Bowes Museum

The Bowes Museum have been awarded a grant of £54,139 to engage disadvantaged young people in County Durham in high-quality heritage volunteering opportunities. Working in a co-production partnership with Teeside School and Sixth Form, they will create 30 new roles for young people aged 14-18 within the museum, removing traditional barriers to accessing meaningful volunteering. The project will enable participants to learn new, transferrable skills, encourage creativity amongst the cohort and reduce the social isolation experienced by many. Placing these young people at the centre of the project from development through to content design and delivery, Bowes Museum aims to create a meaningful, person-centred experience for all.

Wolverhampton Arts and Culture

Wolverhampton Arts and Culture have created a project that will see them working with Strengthening Families hubs across the city throughout 2024. Using their grant of £94,000, they aim to reduce the social isolation and loneliness experienced by many new families through a series of wellbeing and creativity sessions directly tailored for individual communities. Working with community ambassadors and volunteers, the project enables families to forge new connections through a programme of workshops, gallery and collection stores visits, culminating in a co-curated exhibition at community centres. WAC will be working with Voice4Parents, W360 and City of Sanctuary to deliver this project where it is most needed.

Powell-Cotton Trust

The Powell-Cotton Trust has been awarded £56,960 to extend their innovative Sunshine Project through 2024-25. The project creates new nature-based volunteering roles for people with learning disabilities and mental health conditions, working with key community partners such as Thanet Community Day Services and Liberty Training to ensure high-quality experiences for all. The funding will allow the Trust to grow their project’s reach by investing in capacity, training, accessibility measures, creative workshops and collaborative installations and exhibitions. Project leads anticipate that by removing further physical barriers to engagement, they will increase the reach of the project and facilitate the creation of a supported environment for all to enjoy.

Click here to find out more about AIM Connected Communities>>

AIM Connected Communities is funded by the DCMS Know Your Neighbourhood Fund through Arts Council England.