An Online Elsie…

You know how it is when you can’t make an Elsie meeting but wish you could?  Or think of something helpful as you are on your way home?

Well, fret no more….

We have an online Elsie community where, each month, we will post brief descriptions of the various projects we have helped at the panel meeting, allowing you to catch up and post any ideas that you might have to contribute.  You can also use it as a way to connect with other Elsie panel members, to comment on their ideas and generally do great things!

It would be wonderful to see you in the community – but please remember we are just piloting this at the moment.  However I am sure it might prove popular.

Apply to join the community here:

Look forward to seeing you in the online community and hopefully at our next panel meeting too.  The online community is great – but no substitute for getting out to the real thing!

A Vision and Mission for Elsie….

Here is a first stab at a draft vision and mission for Elsie following our recent development meeting.  Please share your thoughts and responses.  What have we missed?  How can me make it more powerful?  More appealing?  More impactful?


Leeds: a flourishing city where communities, enterprises and individuals help each other to achieve their potential



Elsie exists to help Leeds enterprises and projects of all kinds succeed, by providing free ideas and advice from a network of supporters. We aim to foster a culture of mutual support throughout the city by constantly growing the number of supporters and people we help.

How Elsie Works


  • Gives free support to any Leeds business, charity, social enterprise or community project
  • Works through advocates, who gather feedback for those seeking help from panels of trained supporters
  • Maintains high standards of competence, confidentiality and integrity
  • Does not provide ongoing or more specialised support but can advise people where to find this

Tom Riordan says….

We were joined at a recent Elsie panel meeting by the Chief Executive of Leeds City Council Tom Riordan.  Here is what he said about Elsie…

Yes I really enjoyed listening to the debate.  Thought it was an excellent example of civic enterprise!  Really good to see the efficiency and focus of the process. Supportive but challenging input. Obvious willingness of people to offer support outside meeting.  Think it’s a great model.

Elsie Development Meeting – April 2012

First of all a big thanks to the dozen or so of you who made it and to the couple who tried in vain!

We worked in three groups, each focussing on developing specific suggestions that could be implemented to take Elsie to the next level. Each group looked at a difference function:

  1. Strategy and Governance of Elsie
  2. Improving Services to Members and Clients
  3. Marketing and PR

As a starter for 10 Mike offered the following mindmap.

Strategy and Governance Group

So main priority is to clarify vision and values.  Soft approach suggests that at this stage we stay in a loose coalition of citizens format rather than go for a properly constituted group, although this remains a key decision to be taken.  Can we realise ambitions for quality and growth, should they exist, without forming a legal entity?

Anyone fancy having a stab at producing a first draft of any of these things?  Vision and Values?  Rights and responsibilities of members etc?  Standards specifying what members and clients can expect from Elsie?

Improving Products and Services

These are just some notes I was jotting down as the group talked ideas through. Their specific recommendations are here:

I think the case study work can happen pretty quickly as Tess from the university has some ideas on how this can be done while giving students valuable work experience.  And I will start some work on clarifying vision values etc…

Marketing and PR Group

So, once again, if I have got this right the main challenge is to revisit the core message.  What is Elsie…, what do we do etc.

Look to feed regular case studies into local media

Build a team of Elsie ambassadors so it is not just Mike berating people to help!

Anything else big, important and doable that I have missed?

Tess is already laying plans to shoot video witness testimony from both panel members and clients that can be published in both video form and transcribed.

I am going back into wordsmith mode to develop values, vision, core message stuff….

Is there anything here that YOU fancy taking on?

Future Thinking

Whether or not we choose to formalise the entity that is Elsie, I think we do need to give it some more structure and leadership.  We need to focus on:

  • Service Development – making things better for members and clients
  • Marketing and PR – spreading the word, recruiting members, publicising successes etc
  • Strategy and Governance – plotting future developments – realising the vision….

To make this happen I propose that in September when we are 1 year old we should have a celebration at which we get to choose the people who might like to lead in each of these areas and help them to form ‘working parties of the willing’ to drive things along.

I also think that we should elect an Elsie ‘Head Honcho’ with a one year term to help provide leadership and direction and ensure that the three working parties are co-ordinated and effective.

This would provide the opportunity for more people to share in the leadership and development of Elsie, to learn stuff, develop skills etc and ensure that ownership was broad-based.

We could make birthday party and election/re-election of ‘officers’ an annual celebratory gathering.  Thoughts? Opinions? Party organisers?

Many thanks again for the help today folks.  If you missed and want to know more do use the comments box to raise questions or drop me an email.

Urban Sprawl – best practice in Elsie Advocacy?

At last months Elsie Panel meeting Urban Sprawl sent their advocate Oliver Knight to see what support he could get from Elsie for them.  Now to be fair all our advocates do a brilliant job – but Oliver and Urban Sprawl went that extra mile in two ways. Firstly they had produced a clear written brief to support their advocacy presentation, and secondly they got a professional actor to deliver it with vim, vigour and wit!

I have reproduced their brief below in full.  If you are able to help in any way then please do contact Lucy….

Urban Sprawl

I would like to introduce you to Urban Sprawl.

Urban Sprawl are Yorkshires only homeless theatre company. They were founded in 2004 and since that time they have delivered arts engagement programmes for and with people affected by homelessness.

They meet twice a week. On Monday evenings at Multiple Choice, a substance misuse agency, and Friday during the day at St Georges Crypt. The management of which has described Urban Sprawl as both “amazing” and “working wonders”.

They produce at least two original theatre productions every year, in addition to numerous other activities and engagements, such as playing as the Urban Stage Band and performing their now famous flag dance. They are regular contributors to arts festivals and events all across Leeds.

This prolific activity provides community, fraternity, engagement and entertainment, both consistently and regularly for one of the most vulnerable and under-represented sections of our society.

Although during their history they have received some funding for certain periods and projects, they are currently entirely unfunded and are solely reliant on volunteers at every level, including running the company, and of course, the generosity and goodwill of others, to allow the project to continue.

And it must. And it will. Urban Sprawl have shown remarkable resilience over the years in making it happen, delivering what they set out to, engaging, encouraging and supporting their clients, and simply surviving against all the odds.

This is a great example to all concerned, though it should be noted that this is also an example Urban Sprawl has taken from its clients, as much as the other way around.

Because of the precarious, at best, financial situation and the nature of the client group, Urban Sprawl can be a somewhat chaotic affair. This requires those involved to think on their feet, be creative in finding solutions to problems, and as a result they have managed to build an impressive skill set between them.

However. There are still many areas of expertise that they lack, and it is with this regard that they are looking for help.

Although money is always useful, it also always gets spent, and they would like to concentrate on more long term solutions for the development of Urban Sprawl.

By this they mean assistance with both structure and infrastructure and in putting in place protocols and practices that can benefit them in perpetuity.

So specifically, Urban Sprawl would like assistance with:

1.     Business development.

Currently Urban Sprawl is not a business as such, but rather an unincorporated voluntary organisation. They really need to sit down with an experienced and proven business leader to discuss what the best model for them may be, going forward. Someone who can advise them on, for example, what becoming a charity, social enterprise or C.I.C. would entail. How to go about it, what the pitfalls and hidden problems could be. Whether in fact these are the most appropriate routes to take at all, and what the alternatives may be.

If we could find such a person to help them in this regard it would be wonderful to be able to develop a relationship with them, so that they had someone they could turn to for specific business advice that arose after the initial decisions had been made and enacted.

2.     Fundraising/corporate sponsorshipAs it stands, currently Urban Sprawl are unfunded. They manage to make small amounts of money here and there, mostly through busking as the Urban Stage Band and the modest returns from ticket sales to the shows.

Again they need advice and assistance from an industry professional with the experience and contacts to be able to take this to a different level.

When people meet Urban Sprawl and see what it is that they do, they are invariably impressed with the people, the projects and the tangible benefits that those involved enjoy.

They really need someone who has both the clout and the skills to get those who may wish to help, to know about and meet Urban Sprawl.

3.     Publicity and Marketing.

Right now Urban Sprawl publicises itself through word of mouth, public performances and social media. What they really need is a partner who can help them develop press contacts, television and radio coverage, and to reach more people in all ways.

Again this would be a person who had the skills, experience and contacts to make this happen. Someone whose phone calls would be returned, whose emails would be responded to. Someone who can open doors.

4.     Web hosting/Site design.

Urban Sprawl does have a website, but it is much in need of a more professional approach and a much greater presence on the internet. Someone to redesign the site properly would be fantastic, but it is even more important to find someone to host and manage the site properly, to take time to teach the team to use it more effectively etc. These services can be expensive, and as previously discussed, there is no money.

5.     Patron/Figurehead.

It would be wonderful if a famous person who was sympathetic to the cause could be found to endorse or agree to be patron of Urban Sprawl. Someone whose name being attached could help in providing many of the other things that they need.

As always the issue here is in access to such a person. If anyone could help put Urban Sprawl in contact with people who fit the bill, and facilitate in making that happen, it could assist them across the board.

6.     Kit.

Urban Sprawl is always in need of equipment, costume, props, set etc… The list of stuff that could help them out is enormous so absolutely any help whatsoever in this regard would be invaluable.

However, one problem that always comes up with this is that of transport. Urban Sprawl does not have access to a vehicle of any kind, or even someone qualified to drive it. So logistically they are very restricted in what they can do and where they can go. Again any assistance with this would be immense, as currently there is none at all.

Perhaps there is someone involved in running recycling schemes or organisations, someone who manages donations to those in need, to help Urban Sprawl in gaining access to the opportunities that already exist.

Urban Sprawl is an important and worthwhile endeavour that desperately needs all the help it can get. It makes such an enormous difference to the lives of those it touches. As a current client said after involvement with the most recent production, “Urban Sprawl is the difference between life and death”.

I can only strongly urge you to help in any way that you think you can, your efforts could not be better placed or more appreciated.

Thank you so much for your patience and attention.

Please contact Urban Sprawl via:


Tel.       07989 503 814