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Colony Member Spotlight: Manchester Cares

Colony Co-Working – Down Arrow

8 February 2023

Our spotlight series returns to shine a light on one of our long standing Colony Piccadilly coworking members, Manchester Cares. Their work brings people together from different generations and backgrounds to combat loneliness in the city. They host regular meet up events at our venues and we are so excited to present this feature piece about their work. Written by our very own, Lucy Watson.

COLONY MEMBERS SPOTLIGHT BLOG: Manchester Cares

One thing Manchester is renowned for is community. Speak to any Northerner and they will tell you about a stranger saying ‘good morning’ to them on the street, or how the cheery glow of a Mancunian’s smile is enough to brighten a day, despite the dark clouds and rain.

Just like London and Liverpool, Manchester is blessed to have a team of hardworking people who are building a community across the city to help combat loneliness: the team is Manchester Cares.

Part of The Cares Family, Manchester Cares is comprised of Vicky, Heather, Naomi and Izzy, with support from Jess, Arthur, Lydia and Elenor in their Manchester office; the team is responsible for bringing older and younger people – or ‘neighbours’ as they call them – together to offer a range of social clubs and a network of like-minded individuals.

Manchester Cares Desert Island Disc Event at Colony Piccadilly

Working from Colony Piccadilly, the team at Manchester Cares and beyond has contributed to our community as well as theirs, offering some of our Colony members a chance to take part in the ‘Love Your Neighbour’ programme, as well as socials such as ‘Desert Island Discs’ – where older and younger neighbours play their favourite songs for the group – and their very own documentary club.

A large amount of the Manchester Cares events take place in our Colony venues where dancing, singing and poetry writing has taken place. I sat down with the team to learn more about their work within the city.

Hey Manchester Cares Team! Can you tell us a bit about your business and what you do?

Vicky: “Manchester Cares is a community of younger and older people. We curate spaces that bring people together across generations and backgrounds to share new experiences, conversations and laughter. We hope through this we create new friendships and help everyone feel part of our wonderful city.”

What’s one of your favourite things about working in Manchester?

Lydia: “I love everything about working in Manchester! But, if I had to choose one, I’d have to say the people. Everyone in Manchester is so warm and chatty – despite the slightly greyer-than-usual weather.

“Whether they’re part of the Manchester Cares team, a neighbour in our programmes or someone new, everyone I’ve met has been so kind and is always happy to help. I think it makes such a difference to working here as it creates a real sense of community. I’m not from Manchester but I feel at home here, and that’s thanks to the people!

As we step into 2023, what are some of the challenges facing your industry?

Naomi: “The cost-of-living crisis is a huge concern for our network. People who experience social isolation are significantly less resilient and able to adapt during times of crisis.

“Charities rely on the generosity of others through fundraising and support from local businesses and venues, and as everyone feels the squeeze, our budget is having to stretch further than ever. Alongside core costs rising, and recruitment challenges, with 56% of charities finding it hard-to-fill vacancies.

“We’re seeing people more isolated too than before the pandemic. Links to communities were hugely disrupted and continue to be so. Some community organisations have not been able to re-open or have had to shift what they can provide. Even where organisations and charities have got back to a sense of normality, we hear from people on a daily basis who aren’t sure what’s out there for them anymore.

“Older people who don’t have access to the internet are particularly affected, because of the digital divide. Although use of the internet is increasing, over a third of people aged 75+ have never used it, and only half of all adults aged 65+ have basic level skills. We’re doing our best to reconnect people to each other, and to other organisations through our outreach work.”

How do you expect the charity sector to evolve in the coming years, and what skills and expertise will be most valuable for anyone seeking charity roles to possess?

Izzy: “It depends on the political and global context, but given the events of recent years (austerity, strikes, COVID, climate crisis etc) and their knock-on effects, the work of the charity sector and community groups will be just as crucial in the coming years, if not more so. On a positive note, social media and technology will hopefully continue to allow us to connect with and reach more people.

“I think key skills you need to succeed in the sector are: adaptability to change, organisational skills – especially being able to manage different projects and competing priorities – resilience, knowing how to look after yourself and others in difficult times, and above all, being empathetic and really caring about the people you support and the work that you do.”

How has being a part of the Colony community affected you?

Jess: “Loneliness at work elevates stress and lowers wellbeing, and lonelier workers are likely to be less optimistic about their career prospects. The resultant drop in performance and productivity costs UK employers an estimated £2.5 billion every year.

“While we work remotely with teams nationwide, being part of the Colony community gives us all the opportunity to connect with colleagues in Manchester every day. This connection increases staff wellbeing and improves internal relationships. Through social events and hotdesking, we've grown our community and met some of our lovely younger neighbours at Colony!

“It’s also been brilliant to be able to bring our social clubs into Colony! From ‘Desert Island Discs’ to ‘Documentary Club’, we’ve loved demystifying the modern workspace for our older neighbours, and we’ve been so grateful for everyone at Colony’s support – thank you Colony team!”

Alex, founder and CEO of The Cares Family, added: “I first started coming to Manchester in 2016, visiting places like Ancoats and New Islington, and it was a building site. But now, you can go for a morning run around New Islington Marina and it completely transformed.

“We were one of the first members at Colony Jactin House back in 2017 and have been with Colony ever since. It’s been about finding that home in Manchester, and we’ve found that with Colony.”

If you’d like to get involved in any of Manchester Cares’ programmes or support in fundraising, visit the website here.

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