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:

Email    lucy@urbansprawl.org.uk

Tel.       07989 503 814

Web.    www.urbansprawl.org.uk

Elsie Development Meeting

17th April, 9.30-11.30am

CIHM, 4 Springfield Mount, Entrance off Mount Preston Street, Leeds, LS2 9ND

Book Here: http://elsiedev.eventbrite.co.uk/

At this meeting we will plan a series of actions to take Elsie to the next level:

  1. Improving the Services we offer to members, advocates and clients
    1. Membership – how to improve its value and recruit more members
    2. Quality of support – how to make Elsie a much more powerful helper
  2. Improving Marketing and PR
    1. Making sure that more people know about Elsie, what we do and how we do it
    2. Winning recognition and supporters
  3. Governance and Organisation
    1. Ensuring that Elsie is run efficiently, effectively and has the organisational platform needed to grow in Leeds and perhaps beyond.

The meeting will be fast paced and action orientated – so please come prepared to offer ideas and if possible some time to help too!

We will work in small groups with a focus on getting things done.

Please bring something to nibble and share if you can….

Hope to see you there.


Some Lovely Feedback…

I just got some lovely feedback via twitter from an old #elsie friend, Emma from uswap.co.uk which I would like to share…

‘thank you Mike for your help. I’ve had 2 offers of help & I might be getting some marketing done…’

It should of course really be ‘Thank You Elsie’…

We are making a real difference to some people’s lives, making them feel supported and encouraged, and sometimes giving them access to real expertise and helping hands.

This is good work. Thank you.

Next Elsie New Member Training…

April Member Training will be at Create Restaurant in Leeds on 23rd April between 10 and 12 noon.

Come an join us for a couple of hours to find out more about Elsie in a convivial and friendly way.

You will find out how Elsie can:

  • help you to connect to others in the city,
  • help people to make progress with their projects,
  • help you to find people to help you with your projects and
  • put a smile on your face!

As an Elsie panel member you will have no obligations and it is completely free!


How Can We Make Elsie More Helpful?

I’d really like us to think about this a little.

What can we do so that Elsie becomes a really powerful source of help, both to the people who choose to use us and to you and your fellow panel members?  How can we build our power to help?

This problem has 2 facets:

  1. How do we make it easy for people to specify and ask for the help that they need?  This has to do with building trust and ensuring confidentiality.
  2. How do we get better at recognising the help that people need and develop our collective power to respond?  What ‘help’ can we offer?
  • word of mouth
  • introductions
  • expertise and experience
  • help become investment ready
  • what else?

How can we make it easy for clients to stay in touch and ask for further support – perhaps via face book for example?

So, come on elsieites, your best thinking please on how we can become even more helpful…

Taking Elsie Forward….

Elsie is growing up, and perhaps it is time for her to leave home and make her way in the world. To this end we are looking to set up a working group of Elsieites to plan her sustainable future.

We’ve now got a date for the first meeting of this group: Tuesday 24 January, 9.30-11.30am at Logistik in Armley. Agenda to be decided but will be based on the three main themes of:

  1. Strategy – the Elsie methodology and how to grow the organisation, including finance
  2. Operations – fixing meetings, recruiting panel members, other communications
  3. Marketing – picking up the points about brand and going direct to potential clients at “grassroots level” rather than via intermediary organisations

We’d like to assemble a group of around 10 ‘Elsie activists’ with an interest in developing the network further. If you’d like to be part of this, please email Andy Bagley or just sign up for the first working party session here.

A New Identity for Elsie…

Elsie - Local Enterprise Accelerator for Leeds




First of all massive thanks to Elsie member Richard Eaton who supplied the purple logo that we have used to date.  But today I am pleased to show a new slightly more considered logo that tries to say a bit more about who we are, what we do, how we do it and why!  It has been developed by a friend of Elsie who has asked to not be named.

Elsie is about PEOPLE and communication.

Many logos for community-based initiatives insist on using graphics of hands, or little stick people stood in a circle. This kind of approach has lost its meaning and looks terribly ‘corporate’.

So here we’ve put a human voice to Elsie, by using a hand-written signature. It suggests that Elsie is informal and friendly, and that anyone is welcome. We’ve also put a dotted line in there – partly to anchor the name to the strapline, but also to imply a certain level of commitment and seriousness – ‘Sign on the dotted line’.

If you’re serious about enterprise, then come and talk to Elsie.

A Free Resource for Coaches, Mentors and Advisers

The Leeds Community Enterprise Accelerator – Elsie – is a new tool for coaches, mentors and advisers working with enterprising people in and around the city.  Elsie is, in essence, a giant brain, with a huge heart and lots of soul that can be used to source ideas, introductions and other resources.

Elsie is a group of more than 90 people, and growing, from all walks of life who have come together to help enterprising people and projects in and around Leeds.  Once a month they meet to hear 4 advocates (what we call the coaches, advisers or mentors) each take about 5-7 minutes to tell them about an enterprising client that they are working with and their project, and the nature of the help that they are looking for.  We then spend the next 25 minutes or so creatively generating ideas, resources, introductions that may help, and carefully record them.  At the end of the session the advocate takes this note and talks it through with their client the next time they meet to agree what, if anything, might be worth pursuing.

As well as providing you with a list of resources that may help in working with your clients the panel also gives both you and them tremendous exposure across the city as panel members spread the word through their networks of the projects and people that they meet through Elsie.  But don’t worry, we have discussed the importance of confidentiality and while panel members will raise the profile as required they will not disclose any confidential information that you may share with us.

By working with Elsie to widen the search for new resources  we think you will add a lot of value to your work and develop your networks across the city.

If you are interested in working with Elsie, either as an advocate or as a panel member, then contact Elsie organiser Mike Chitty