Urban Wilderness has a vision of culture-led urban regeneration where wellbeing, environmental and economic sustainability are realised through people-led actions and transformational art experiences. Since 2018, the three co-founders have worked collaboratively with artists and marginalised groups to engage and consult, act and make change. Working project by project on commissions their main areas of work are now with young people in weekly art clubs and in mentoring and providing peer-support networks for cultural producers in Stoke on Trent.
Having suffered from cancelled and delayed projects during 2020/21, there was a need to create a more resilient model of working with more sustainable funding strategies. As a relatively young CIC, UW were encouraged by Coalfields Regeneration Trust to get in touch with Cranfield Trust to benefit from their pro bono management consulting support.
The partnerships built with public health services and educational institutions for young people suffering from mental health and behavioural problems to access a program of creative workshops was a new way of working for UW developed during the pandemic. They wanted support to able to explain to partners, potential clients, and a more diverse group of funders how they connect beneficiaries to the place they live and support them to make positive changes in their lives and their local environment.
“We need a post-pandemic business plan to embed our organisation in geographically specific areas of Stoke on Trent suffering from the highest levels of deprivation but with the lowest levels of support for young people.”
Laurel Gallagher, UW
From the outset, the team at UW were clear about their objective for the project and what support they needed from a volunteer. Sarah McDonald, who has a strong background in retail management and commercial development as well as knowledge of the charity sector, was able to provide the advice and support needed to embark on a new business plan.
Sarah describes working with them,
“Urban Wilderness were really receptive to outside support and worked hard between meetings to complete agreed next steps. The only difficulty was getting in the right place to write a 5+ year strategy while the organisation was concerned about funding to get through this year. The team has produced a business plan to for the next 12-18 months and we have agreed to come back to consider longer term direction when funding is confirmed for the next year.”
Sarah was impressed with the team and will stay in touch.
“The vision and commitment of the team, their desire and hands on approach to use art to support their community is inspirational. They do this through the art club that supports the mental health of young people, events that bring the community together and engagement with community leaders to regenerate their local area.”
From working on the business plan the team can better focus their efforts for the future in understanding short term funding needs as well as having a longer-term view to re-write the story of Stoke. Jenny Harper, UW, describes the impact that this has had on the organisation,
“We are able to make sound business decisions based on a clear business plan. We are able to apply for funding more efficiently and are looking into diversifying our income streams.”
Considering the impact of the project overall, Isla Telford, UW shares,
“The personal care provided was exceptional, we feel we have gained long term relationships and transformed how we feel about our organisation and we are delivering services more confidently to our beneficiaries.”
Urban Wilderness have secured Arts Council funding enabling them to expand and continue their youth work,
“This project utilises the 3-year business plan we developed with Sarah and will inform the development of a 5-10-year business plan establishing cultural infrastructure in the historic town of Longton.”
The project also had an impact on Cranfield Trust's volunteer consultant, Sarah McDonald, who said,
“Cranfield Trust is a great way to use the skills I have acquired in my professional life to support the charity sector. I have worked with four different organisations in my time with the Cranfield Trust and I have learned a lot and met some amazing people in each of these organisations. I am able to undertake the work to suit my schedule so it does not feel onerous in terms of commitment. I would (and do) recommend the Cranfield Trust to anyone.”