Today, Wednesday 8 March, people, organisations and networks around the world are celebrating International Women’s Day 2017 and its theme ‘Be bold for change’ – driving the greatest change for women through purposeful collaboration. To celebrate this day at our women-led organisation, we want to highlight the story of a group of young women we collaborated with a few years ago whose bold vision for supporting their community created a network of support and activity for local families in their area.
When we first met them in 2013, Tidworth Mums had begun to provide arts and craft and play activities for families, on a not-for-profit basis, in Tidworth, a garrison town in Wiltshire. With support from Wiltshire Council and the Army Welfare Service, and in collaboration with The Glass-House and the Open University through the Unearth Hidden Assets research project, the group built their confidence and capacity to identify and unlock their assets and explore and build a case for soft play in their area.
Over the course of a year, we helped the group to explore different ideas and models for play provision locally, learn from others involved in providing play opportunities and facilities, and develop creative ways to engage their wider community in building a case for soft play. These activities included a Mega Soft Play Day which attracted 275 local children and 158 parents and carers, and not only provided a fantastic pop-up play opportunity, but gave the Mums and their supporters an opportunity to engage families in identifying their play needs and desires.
One of the biggest challenges for the group in sustaining their mission was the transient nature of their membership, which consisted mainly of army wives with young children, many of whom were only temporarily ‘stationed’ in this area. In spite of this challenge, Tidworth Mums continue to provide regular creative activities for young families in Tidworth, volunteering their time to enhance the lives of military and civilian families locally. Tidworth Mums exemplify the creative potential and contribution that a small, fluid group can make to their community when they work collaboratively to uncover and mobilise local assets. Our year of working Tidworth Mums helped them to see themselves with new eyes: “as a valuable asset for the local community”.
Our collaboration with Tidworth Mums on Unearth Hidden Assets inspired us to create a Soft Play Resource Pack to support other community groups exploring the provision of play. We later revisited the group with colleagues from the Open University’s Design Group to capture their story in a case study film for an open online course on Global Systems Science (on the Futurelearn platform) on the role of grassroots action and engagement in policy formulation.