Jayne Gosnall is working for Church Action on Poverty setting up Self-Reliant Groups (SRGs) with women in Salford. She explains why SRGs are such a good idea.
I believe in Self-Reliant Groups because they offer real freedom to us to improve our lives and lift ourselves out of poverty – offering hope to people, like me, who might feel their employment options are limited.
Each group is founded and exists on four basic principles:
- It meets regularly.
- Its members save together.
- They make collective decisions, and rotate leadership.
- They learn new skills together which have the potential to be a business.
The brilliant thing about being human is our uniqueness, and we don’t, or can’t, all grow at the time and in the timescale of an employment scheme that’s devised in an office somewhere… no matter how good the intentions.
The group I’m in is called Recoverista Sistas. We’re in recovery from addiction and mental health difficulties and some have physical issues too. But when my mood disorder wiped me out this winter, it was the one thing I managed when I couldn’t do anything else. In just a few months one of our members has transformed her home life with support from the rest of the group, and has gone from “I’m not clever. I never thought I could do any of this” to starting to support a mixed-ability group with an arts and craft session!
Nobody owns the groups except the people in them, and the most important question to ask to see if a group is working is, “What difference is this making to their lives?”
- If their confidence is growing, it’s a tick.
- If they’re learning, it’s a tick.
- If they’re contributing to their community it’s a tick – and SRGs often bring a real buzz and benefit to their community.
- If they’re surviving, that’s a massive tick, because many funded groups collapse under the pressure of all the admin and reporting required by funders, or when their funding stream ends.
- If a business is developing that’s a big, gold star!
What does a group need from outside? This bit’s easy:
- A free space to meet and where equipment and materials can be stored if needed. Church buildings would be ideal!
- Encouragement and practical support from SRG Champions. They’re people with real-life SRG experience who want to share the hope and enthusiasm, and people like Church Action on Poverty who stick their necks out and believe in everyone’s potential.