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At the Grassroots’

Text Box: Dr. Vince Hines, developing self-help partnerships

Britain’s grassroots self-help groups enter another phase in their development by forming    ‘self-help partnerships’ for mutual support.

Launched in July 2008, a number of groups agreed to become Self-Help Partners, using ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ to regulate their administrative procedures and governance. London, England was the launch pad. The launch was the culmination of two years working with groups and individuals, assessing the most durable and effective model likely to produce lasting and effective working structures to satisfy current needs in the community.

These ’up-graded’ self-help initiatives are liken to those introduced by early immigrants, most of whom were people of African ancestral backgrounds, coming mostly from the Caribbean to support Britain in mending her war-torn economy, during the 1950s-1980s.

Some examples of  those successful initiatives are  community credit unions; Britain’s modern carnival movement, generated from Notting Hill in West London across the Nation;  the British civil rights and anti-racist movement, culminating in several race, community relations and human rights laws placed on Britain’s Statutes Book; the mobile disco [sound systems] movement; the supplementary school movement; voluntary and community based information and  hostel projects, for homeless children and young people.

These are only a few of the many initiatives developed by the immigrant population,  all based on needs at the time. Those immigrants evolved into third and fourth generation settlers. Their significant contributions  are woven into Britain’s social, economic and legislative fabric and taken for granted by many.

Current world economic downturn is likely to threaten voluntary and community groups, small and medium sized businesses, which depend on grants, contracts and bank loans needed to develop social enterprises.

 Voluntary and community groups are most vulnerable, particularly those working with   communities, whose members are living at and below the poverty line and  needing the support of community initiatives to keep afloat, until they are able to develop their personal coping mechanism.

In developing this type of community self-help partnership model, organisers were mindful of the many young people between the ages of 13-25 years, who seem to be disconnected from mainstream society and the damages they are causing to themselves and threats to the wider community. Their anti-social behaviours are viewed by many members of the partnerships’ as   children and young people calling for help.

Many of the first groups joining the Partnerships work with vulnerable families, children and young people, and those harder to reach. Some of the target groups are not in education, training or employment. Some are groups managed by women and young people recently formed and needing mutual support to move to the next stage of their development.

Local self-help partnerships, mostly borough centred, are co-coordinated by the National Federation of Self-Help Partnerships, made up of all registered self-help partners. The partnerships are influenced by members from the base up-wards and are democratically managed.

The National Federation of Self-Help Partnerships is the initiatives of veteran campaigner and community activist Dr. Vince Hines, who have had over forty years in community development work, in the UK, researching, designing, publishing, implementing and supporting community initiatives.

“Developing self-help partnerships among grassroots’ groups, small and medium sized social enterprises,  help to minimise the risks of groups folding up, leaving their beneficiaries without the services  to which they grew accustomed,” said Dr. Hines

“Self-Help Partnerships primary purpose is to facilitate swift, helpful cooperation and communication among members, helping them to focus on their strengths and weaknesses, and positioning them to benefit from existing opportunities and manage potential risks. The Partnership core purpose is to assist in enabling partners to achieve their mission statements,” Dr. Hines continued.

“The Partnerships aim to help create conditions of trust, a culture of caring and sharing, in the interest of sustainable community development that meets the needs of the local community, where partners pooled resources for better management, efficient service delivery, avoidance of unnecessary service duplications, capacity building, sharing of expertise, and, for mutual benefits, present a collective voice to central government, local authorities, funders, policy makers and others as required, “ Dr. Vince Hines concluded

The caring and sharing to which Dr. Hines referred are centred on areas like   communal uses of premises, administration,  ICT facilities and costs, expertise, staff – paid and unpaid, through secondment or otherwise, funding strategies, project management, Education and Training resources filling gaps in service delivery,  relevant information, advocacy and general support.


Membership to the Partnership is open to registered and unregistered voluntary and community groups, co-operatives, small and medium sized businesses, including sole traders. Only bona fide and active groups, including those with a written governing document or recognised mandate, are accepted to membership. Each member is expected to bring something to the table,  to keep the partnership vibrant and productive.

More details of the self-help partnerships can be read here