Co-op Member Pioneer – Bentham Allotments Association

I use the Community Wellbeing Index on a regular basis to ensure that the work I am doing is meeting the real needs of the community. It highlights across my three communities that their needs are not that dissimilar as they are rural, isolated villages that struggle with regular work throughout different seasons

Carolyne Lobb, Member Pioneer for Higher Bentham, Settle and Ingleton

Using data to understand the needs of the local community

As a Co-op Member Pioneer for Higher Bentham, Settle and Ingleton, understanding the needs of the communities that I represent is an essential part of my job.

I use the Community Wellbeing Index (CWI) to support this. Data within the Index provides me with hyper-local insight that enables me to learn more about the strengths of the communities that I work within, whilst indicating where there are opportunities for development.

The CWI recently acted as the catalyst behind the now up and running Bentham Allotments Association. I could see from using the data, that High Bentham had lower than average scores for indicators relating to relationships, opportunities, and mental wellbeing. I mentioned this in a local newsletter, and asked residents to get in touch, to further investigate how the needs of the community could be met. 

Working together to bring about positive change

A member of the community came forward and suggested that the creation of community allotments in Bentham would provide a shared growing space which would benefit the community’s relationships, opportunities and mental wellbeing. We met in a café and chatted about what the initiative might look like and who we could approach to help.  ​

I had already set up a Whatsapp group for causes that we had supported at the Co-op through our Local Community Fund, so I linked in with them.  There was fantastic enthusiasm from members of the group, with many people stepping forward to get involved. We also received support and advice from Bentham Youth Café, a local food bank called Pop Pantry, Lower House Sensory Farm, and two local dementia groups.  

We ended up with multiple volunteers, who offered some excellent skill sets, including a landscape architect, a town councillor, a teacher, and a project manager in the non-profit sector.  

Creation of the allotments

Within a few weeks we had formed a committee and were successful in securing a lease on some local land. I also signposted the committee to funding streams, resulting in the award of a grant from the Coronavirus Community Fund administered by the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust for some of the site infrastructure.  

We now have 20 allotments in place with regular attendance from the local community. This is helping to forge new relationships whilst supporting people’s mental wellbeing.

Its great to see how thing have progressed. Bentham Allotments Association have their own Facebook page, which is used to communicate with local causes and individuals who are keen on getting involved with the allotments, such as Bentham Community Primary School. We also have a number of exciting initiatives in the pipeline, such as a vegetable swap scheme and the introduction of beehives to the allotments, as well as outreach events and volunteer opportunities.

All of this work feeds into our objective of bringing people together and the improvement of mental wellbeing within the community. Over time, with volunteer activities and onsite training, perhaps it will also enhance employment opportunities within the local area.

By Carolyne Lobb, Member Pioneer for Higher Bentham, Settle and Ingleton

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