Growing Groups

Working for the Voluntary Sector in Hastings

What comes around, goes around

I’ve been uploading lots of interesting stuff to the Hastings Voluntary Action website recently.

My boss has done a paper – which I’ve just uploaded – on the implications for the voluntary sector of the shift towards service commissioning as opposed to grant aid. The paper speaks for itself and as a sensible employee I never pass comment on my bosses work on line.

That said, reading the report reminded me of some of the territory I visited in my earlier life as a Councillor on the good Borough of Hastigns. Following the Cabinet/Scrutiny reorganisation of Local Government – an event doubtless etched on everyone’s consciousness (not) – I ended up in a fairly full-time occupation as the trusty Cabinet Member for Neigbourhoods, Community and Housing.

But painfully aware that no local authority is an island – except of course for the Isle of White – I  felt it was important to have an involvment in some national organisations trying to grapple with bigger issues. For me this meant playing a an active part on the Executive of an organisation called the Local Government Information Unit.  If you’ve never heard of the LGIU (why should you), among other things,  it is an impressive powerhouse of policy wonks who have made some compelling arguments about the greater freedoms and flexibilities needed by local government to respond to local needs and stimulate innovation in local service delivery. At the time those arguments helped to shape much of the light touch settlement that has since been established between local and central government.

Now that I’ve left elected office and moved back to the voluntary sector (a  sort of poacher turned pheasant move) I prefer to stay away from all that high profile championing of the sector stuff. Since work life is infinitely better hold up in the attic (rather like the couple in Beetlejuice), where you can fiddle about with a good database / newsletter / website.

Anyway,  viewed from the attic, it looks to me,  like those who are charged with championing the sector are now going to have to convey similar arguments to local councils that councils once made to central government.

Its my birthday today, so Kate bought me some Friends. Yes yes, I know what your going to say, “you cant buy friendship John” , but you can buy these.


August 7, 2008 Posted by | climbing, Hastings, voluntary | 2 Comments

Googlemaster of the Universe (ish)

How happy am I at work today? Very happy thank you.


In my life, there are little things that please my mildly obsessional mind in ways that more rounded individuals would probably find rather troubling. Today I am chuckling (though only inwardly, since I share my workspace with others) because by careful crafting of meta tags I have clawed our website up the greasy pole of Google UK, we now have top rating when you type in the letters HVA. So take that, Hackney Voluntary Action and the Herpes Virus Association, you are no longer top dogs, from now on Hastings Voluntary Action have top position on the prime interweb search engine – result!


Climbs Around London


















Yesterday evening my wanderings took me to Stone Farm, a long way from Hastings but a beautiful sunny and breezy evening on a sandstone outcrop not too far from Forest Row and Crawley. Playing on the rocks with other members of the Hastings Rock and Fell Club was really good fun. Stone Farm Rocks have some really good boldering and some extremely good bolderers (people who bolder), here is a youtube of someone called Danny Coleman making light work of a difficult Stone Farm bolder problem to give you an idea of the games climbers play.


Stone Farm bolder problem


And while we are in that neck of the woods, a reference is due to possibly the best ‘knock my town’ website I’ve yet to see on the web. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you This is Haywards Heath (don’t forget to turn the sound up).

Lunch time already, and  too much of this morning has been taken up dealing with information and potted history from the Hubs and Capacity Builders websites.  After much chasing of dead links and sifting through lots of ‘management speak’ this has all been boiled down to pritty much three lines of text and three links to go on the Group Support page of our own website. My view is that most voluntary organisations and community groups probably don’t give a monkeys about where everything came from, which organisation morphed into, collaborated with or partnered who ever else, so none of that gubbins gets on to our website.



This exercise has been of considerable benefit to me, in part because I now have a greater historical understanding of the restructuring of voluntary and community sector support services at a national level, but more practically because I have learned that if you keep the shift button pressed down when you click something in the ‘Other Places’ menu on the left hand side of an XP window it opens a new window



June 26, 2008 Posted by | climbing, Hastings, Uncategorized, voluntary | Leave a comment

I’m working next to a giant filing cabinet

The building next to my office window has been growing over the past year, its all part of some new offices and College Buildings that Seaspace have developed as part of the regeneration masterplan for Hastings.

All seemed fine until every floor was equiped with some giant draws, which are about 20 foot long and 5 foot high. It feels like shades of Spinal Tap in reverse and clearly someone has over estimated the size of some of the new students and office workers who will be using these buildings.

April 22, 2008 Posted by | Hastings, voluntary | Leave a comment

New Third Sector Blog in Town

Bashing the word ‘Hastings’ into this week revealed a blog by the recently hired Director of Hastings Trust – Mel Bonney-Kane. I’ve sent Mel a welcome to third sector blogging in Hastings and also stuck this new blog by Hastings Trust in my bloglines account.

I find bloglines is a really useful as a homepage on my PC, because it gives me a list of everyone who has made a new blog contribution each time time I fire up Explorer.

Today, one of the things I’ve been doing is cobbling together a letter to send to about 100 people who get our newsletter by post (in some cases getting it since the year dot). Its a tidy up operation to make productive contact with people we seem to have been sending things to but don’t have any recorded contact data in the other direction–

Dear newsletter reader,


I am writing to ensure Hastings Community News is using the most up to date contact details for its postal mailings. My records show you are a regular postal recipient of our publication, which we send to you free of charge, as a contact for the group shown on the label attached.

  To Continue Getting Hastings Community News by Post – Free

Please can you confirm we are still sending this publication to the correct person at the correct address, by placing a tick in the box below.

   To Change to Hastings Community News by email – Free

Where possible, we now try to send Hastings Community News by email, since this is sent out a week earlier than the paper version, saving us postage and staff time on collating, folding, and enveloping. If you would like to get our publication by email, rather than by post, all you need to do is place a tick in the box below and provide details of your email address.


                                                                        Your email address __________________________


You can also replace your postal edition of Hastings Community News with an email one, by sending a request to together with your name and address.

 To Apply for Free Full Membership of HVA – Free

Literally hundreds of local voluntary and community groups become full members of HVA. Joining is free and entitles you to a range of services.  If you feel your group would like to be sent a membership form  please indicate by placing a tick in the box below


When you have finished with this form, please return it in the post paid envelope enclosed so you can either; continue receiving  Hastings Community News by post, amend your postal address details, receive Hastings Community News by email or request a membership form to join HVA.


Yours sincerely,



December 3, 2007 Posted by | Hastings, voluntary | Leave a comment

Filling the website

Today will be dull in parts (sounds like a weather forcast) because I’ve got to start filling up the new website with some of the text content of the old site – I see a long day of ‘cut and paste’ ahead.

I caught up with some chums from Hastings Rock and Fell Club last night at The Grove School climbing wall. I seemed to have spent the whole evening chatting and doing very little actual climbing. We all swapped stories about our adventures on the way back from Glen Coe the week before.

February 13, 2007 Posted by | climbing, Hastings, voluntary, walking | Leave a comment