Charlotte Repton, project manager of Community Chesterfield, a National Lottery funded partnership between Derbyshire Voluntary Action and University of Derby, discusses the project’s successful training and shared learning programme, which has thrived during the pandemic.  

Derbyshire Voluntary Action is a specialist voluntary and community sector (VCS) infrastructure membership organisation supporting 320 groups, clubs, charities, and organisations in Derbyshire.

All members offer support and services to their local communities to improve health and wellbeing. When University of Derby opened a new health and social care campus in Chesterfield in 2016, it seemed like a natural fit for a partnership. After a successful application to National Lottery’s Reaching Communities fund, Community Chesterfield was born.

Community Chesterfield, which links up the skills, knowledge, and experience at the University of Derby with VCS groups, is now creating a resourceful and knowledgeable health and social care sector in Chesterfield through its training and shared learning programme.

The project aims to strengthen the local VCS to support the health and wellbeing of the people of Chesterfield, as well as enriching the wellbeing and learning experience of students and staff at the University of Derby Chesterfield Campus.

Delivery of its training programme is one of the elements that has thrived throughout the pandemic. The ability to move training sessions online, as well as being responsive to community need, has allowed Community Chesterfield to deliver remote training courses throughout the year.

After assessing the needs based on conversations and feedback from groups, Community Chesterfield added in a provision for e-learning courses, completed at each learners’ pace, as well as the project’s popular Training and Tea model – a series of 45-minute long sessions on a Wednesday morning.

Another area of Community Chesterfield’s work that has thrived during the pandemic is through creating ‘meaningful connections’ between voluntary and community sector organisations and the University, where the activity organised brings benefits to both.

These meaningful connections have included Experts by Experience sessions, which have seen the project connect individuals from VCS groups with nursing and health and social care staff and students from the University to share their lived experience. Individuals have been able to share their experience of managing pain, navigating the health system as an informal carer or living with mental health conditions, directly with students as part of their course.

Students can relate theory to how it affects real people, supporting the NHS ambition towards personalised care, as well as showcasing existing support within the community.

At the heart of everything has been the desire to uncover and nourish opportunities for new relationships, collaborations, and innovation and to link university staff, students and programmes with community-based groups and initiatives. This has been achieved by harnessing and maximising the project team’s extensive networks within Chesterfield and utilising existing well-established relationships across all sectors.

Access to Community Chesterfield’s training and shared learning workshops is free for University of Derby staff and students with a connection to Chesterfield, as well as those working at or volunteering for Derbyshire-based not-for-profit community organisations helping people in Chesterfield.

Some subsidised tickets are also now available for the project’s Training and Tea sessions for anyone living or working in Derbyshire.

For more information about Community Chesterfield, visit communitychesterfield.org.uk