And the Grant Fund 2016 winners are...

It's been such an exciting couple of months here. We've got two incredibly talented new Associates, a cool new website and we've just handed out nearly £5000 to some powerful community projects.

This year we had over 50 applications from local groups, charities and social enterprises for support from our grant fund. As I studied each application, I was heartened and proud of our city for the hard work ordinary people are doing to make a difference in the world. But, like the rest of the team, I found it so hard to shortlist projects. We got together last week and thrashed it out. With so many 'causes' close to our hearts for various reasons it was tough but we are very proud of our final six projects.

Ruskin Mill Trust: New Standard Works

This will develop a horticultural project at Argent College, in the heart of the Jewellery Quarter, which is already supporting 15 disabled students. The roof is ready for transformation into a garden and the grant will fund benches, raised beds and the tools to transform the space into an accessible and inclusive community asset.

An artist's impression of what the garden may look like

An artist's impression of what the garden may look like

The Azadi Trust: Hope Therapeutic Garden

Run entirely by volunteers, the Hope Garden provides a welcoming space in inner city Birmingham for asylum seekers. Many members experience mental health problems and isolation and so the time sowing, planting and weeding provides a therapeutic environment and place to learn new skills. The grant will fund compost, seeds, tools, healthy refreshments and transport fares for the group.

The OHMI Trust: Teaching Pilot

Musical instruments that can be played with one hand are extremely rare and so millions of disabled and injured people are denied access to musical life. The Trust have spent 5 years challenging this by developing suitable instruments and now they need help funding the pilot project teaching groups. The grant will support a weekly ensemble group for disabled children for a whole term by funding the teachers and accessible transport for the group. 

Personal Support Unit, Birmingham

This small charity working in the Birmingham Civil Justice Centre provides practical help and emotional support to people going through court proceedings without a lawyer. With legal aid rare, they support unrepresented people facing eviction, bankruptcy or losing contact with their children. The grant will fund three volunteers for a whole year which will allow them to provide one-to-one help over 250 times to service users.

PSU volunteers advising unrepresented clients

PSU volunteers advising unrepresented clients

Birmingham Pound Steering Group

The group are working to create a useable, sustainable local currency to strengthen a local economy and build Birmingham's inclusive identity. A 'Birmingham Pound' would encourage people to think about where they spend and make local spending visible. The grant will support the volunteers to attend a course in Bristol to help them push through to the next stage in making the pound a reality. 

Wellbeing Choir

The Birmingham and Solihull Wellbeing Choir brings people with and without mental health problems together once a week to sing for their wellbeing. It provides an opportunity for anyone experiencing social isolation to be part of a supportive community and have a great time. Originally established by the Mental Health Trust, the choir no longer receives funding despite its value and popularity and has lost its venue. The grant will fund an accessible and centrally-located venue for the choir for six months.

The Birmingham & Solihull Wellbeing Choir in action

The Birmingham & Solihull Wellbeing Choir in action

We’ve had a good year at The Wisdom Factory and are thrilled to have been able to give so much back these local projects and make an instant difference by supporting our city's thriving network of not-for-profits, community groups and social enterprises.

We'll be keeping in touch with these groups over the next few months and will keep you updated on their progress.