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Institute for Social Responsibility

I4P – Rochdale Community Champions

Leadership and Participatory Research
with the Rochdale Community Champions
2014 – 2016

I4P have been working with Rochdale Community Champions (RCC) over the last three years to build leadership and participatory research skills. Rochdale Community Champions are volunteers who offer peer to peer support within Rochdale in areas such as CV development, Literacy and Benefit advice.

Katy Goldstraw and John Diamond, from I4P at Edge Hill University, have been working with the volunteers offering bespoke leadership and participatory research skills training with two cohorts of participants over the last three years. Volunteers are encouraged to design and develop their own project, supported by Edge Hill over a six to nine month period. This year Edge Hill have also been supporting a group of Expert Practitioner volunteers, experienced volunteers with the Edge Hill Project to work on a longer term research piece.

The project this year has had a different focus, developing the expert practitioner group and focussing on leadership skills with volunteers. The volunteers have developed a sense of what it means to them to be a champion.

“To me I find … I find that the amount of stuff and diversity in the borough, people don’t even know is there, like Talk English led on to the champions and then led on to the training, like today … I think its really good”

“Its one of the clients I work with .. to do a bit of support with the computer .. I found out later I found out he was on Facebook – that’s fantastic … the fact that he’d done it”

“Sometimes people surprise themselves [after working with the Champs] … if it hadn’t been for literacy work that I did with [a client] … she’s become a leader in her own little group, stuff that she’d never been able to do before.”

These quotes illustrate the importance of the work the Champions do and how valuable the leadership training is to their development as volunteers and well as the range of high quality outcomes that they achieve with and for their clients.  We look forward to the next set of sessions as we develop our 2016/17 plans with the Champions.

Learn more about the Rochdale Community Champions here


Poverty Knock – the song

A group of people are all holding various musical instruments, they are all looking at the camera and smiling.

Music, Cloggs and Poverty Knock with Rochdale Community Champions.
On the 3rd September folk musicians and Oakenhoof clogg dancers joined Rochdale Community Champions to add the music and songs to a recording of the song ‘Poverty Knock’:

It was a great creative experience with playwrights, actors, folk musicians, clogg dancers and even the odd academic, all joining together to build the music for the radio play by the same name,’Poverty Knock’, created by Yasmin Kenyon, Andrew Wastling and Chris Spankie.


National Volunteer Week

Four people are holding a cheque that has the text "Bank of Community Champions" on, they are all looking away from the camera and smiling.

Rochdale Community Champions wanted to spend time during National Volunteers Week raising the profile of their volunteering with the Champs.  The volunteers designed and planned their project, writing press releases and planning an event to value and celebrate their fellow RCC volunteers.

On the 10th June 2016 volunteers and Rochdale Borough Council held a celebration event where they presented a cheque to the leader of the council, for over nine hundred thousand pounds. This was the calculated cost-benefit analysis of their volunteering in the financial year April 2015-16 to Rochdale Borough Council.


Poverty Knock – Radio Play

A black and white image of four people in a recording studio. There are various music instruments and pieces of equipment in front of them.
A black and white image of four people sat on chairs in front of a music sound device. They are all holding pieces of paper.

Expert practitioner volunteers from the Rochdale Community Champions have created a poignant and inspiring radio play reflecting on the links and repetitions in recent social history, considering the similarities in current welfare reform to the workhouse of Rochdale in the 1930s.

The volunteers have been visiting Edge Hill, working with Gary Westhead, in the University Sound Recording Studios to record the audio to their play. While this is being edited they are planning their return to the studios in September, bringing a group of clog dancers and musicians to provide musical accompaniment.

Related Information:
‘Chantelle Collection’ by author Yasmin Kenyon

This collection, which developed from the RCC play, sees author Yasmin Kenyon creating a collection of plays and short reflections around a central character, Chantelle, who is experiencing the brunt of Welfare Reform, whilst caring for her disabled brother.

Chantelle, a determined, courageous and vulnerable young woman, struggles to navigate an increasingly complex benefit system, utilising Food Banks and charitable support where she can to support her and her brother manage in a difficult situation.


A cartoon image of a person holding a megaphone that contains the text "Who we are", coming from the megaphone there is multiple orange lines which are below a bunch of words that include "Respectful" and "Fun", all words vary in size. Also on the image is the Rochdale Community Champions logo which consists of 4 coloured stick figures which surround the text "Rochdale Community Champions"

This year Rochdale Council  (home to the Community Champions) based the leadership  sessions with RBUF. These sessions were held over four days in March 2016 and focussed on building a sense of how Champion volunteers saw themselves, what  being a Champion meant to them, individually and as a group and considered their leadership skills.

Once champions had spent time reflecting and discussing the range of leadership skills that they used, the session considered how these might be developed into a volunteer led project. Several ideas for projects were incubated; around linking digital and literacy champions roles and building local profile for the champions.

Volunteers invited the manager of Toe by Toe to meet with them. Toe by Toe is a support book for use by volunteers and teachers, it takes a learner step by step through the process of learning to read. Toe by Toe is used by many Champions both on their Literacy and Talk English projects.  Champions, met with the manager of Toe by Toe and  discussed the possibility of creating a digital Toe by Toe, perhaps in the form of an App or using COLIN, the Champs online digital system.  These discussions will continue as Toe by Toe are also working with the University of Cirencester to consider developing this.


Rochdale Community Champions – Building Community Knowledge, Developing Community Research

Download Publication

This is the second booklet to come from the joint work between I4P and the Rochdale Borough Community Champions. It is an illustration of the deep thinking and hard work that the Rochdale Community Champions put into their role; not just through the help they give to others as volunteers but also through the careful thought and care that sits behind that. This booklet provides us with some examples of what it means to be a Community Champion. It tells us that who they are and what they think and believe is an important element of what they do.



Theatre Project with Over 50s in Middleton

As part of our participatory research project between Edge Hill University and Rochdale Borough Council a number of volunteers produced research. Julia Smith’s research features in our Celebration booklet and to complement her contribution the booklet she has also written these pieces about the theatre project in Middleton that she directed. The project was a piece of community theatre working with the over fifties in Middleton, a borough of Rochdale:


Celebrating Success with Rochdale Community Champions

Rochdale Community Champion Volunteers celebrated success with Edge Hill University today; receiving certificates and sharing their research.  This event was organised as part of the RCC I4P partnership and was held at Rochdale Town Hall.



Radio Play – Poverty Knock

3 people are sat on chairs inside a recording studio. There are large televisions on the walls around them and various musical equipments in the background of the image.

As part of ongoing research work by Rochdale Community Champs Yasmin Kenyon, Andrew Wastling and Chris Spankie, a radio play is being created.  The final recording with folk songs will be completed in June 2016 as part of the ongoing support provided by I4P at Edge Hill.


Celebrating Success with Rochdale Community Champions

In July, in collaboration with Rochdale Council, I4P ran a “Celebration Event” in Rochdale Town Hall for those members of the Rochdale Community Champions with whom we had worked on a leadership development initiative.   An opportunity to reflect on their work and achievements, the volunteers received certificates and a copy of the celebration book as a recognition of their valuable work on the Edge Hill, Rochdale Community Champions partnership participatory research project.


Rochdale Community Champions – Sharing in the Magic – Enabling Research

An image of the Rochdale Community Champions cover page. A group of people are stood looking into the camera, all holding a certificate. Clicking this image will open the document.
Download Publication

The aim of this report is to celebrate the work of the Rochdale Community Champions, to share the success of the Leadership and Research Training and the success of the Participatory Research conducted by Rochdale Community Champions.

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