Develop a Steering Group
Starting a Shed can sometimes seem like an overwhelming task, but the quicker you have people around who share your vision and passion, the less overwhelming it becomes. Sheds are about communities of men coming together to develop and sustain safe and fun spaces that benefit their health and wellbeing. It’s important to involve as many people from the local community as possible to develop a thriving Men’s Shed that benefits many and doesn’t rely on a single person to keep it going.
The essence of a Shed is the relationship between the Shedders, the sense of community and the kind, generous nature of supporters. This often comes about by sharing the work, trials and successes from the outset. There are many examples of groups bonding around the Shed idea, enjoying being together and working on projects long before a physical space is found.
UKMSA can often put you in touch with a local Volunteer Ambassador who has been through exactly what you are going through now and can be on hand as a friendly presence to advise and guide you if you feel this would help.
Start by spreading the word. If you have existing friends that love the idea of a Men’s Shed just as much as you do, get them involved. If not, you’ll need to cast your net wider. In small communities, you may be able to spread the word and find people to help simply by word of mouth, but in larger communities, this can be more challenging.
Here are a few ideas to help you get a group together:
- Ask local businesses to help spread the word to their customers.
- Put a poster or advert in shop windows, GP surgeries and supermarkets.
- Tell your local paper what you’re doing. They often help with a free editorial or small advert. Ask free papers and community magazines to spread the word too.
- Speak to other community groups, clubs and churches.
Hold a Public Meeting
If you’re unable to get a steering group together by talking to people in your local community, you might benefit from advertising and holding a public meeting in a well-known community space, like a village hall or sports club.
Benefits of a public meeting
- It gives you a fixed point to work to and something tangible to tell people.
- You can spread the message to a large group in one hit rather than spending a lot of time on the phone or visiting individuals.
- You are likely to find willing volunteers to help with the next tasks.
- It will show you how much appetite there is for a Shed in your area and so can help inform the next stage.
- Questions will be asked that you may not yet have thought of and it can prompt your own thinking.
- You might attract local business support, or donations of tools.
But, be careful…
Advertising and holding a public meeting can draw lots of attention and create premature expectations from people wanting to join the Shed. If you already have a group of people that can help you start the Shed, you could hold the public meeting later to announce the Shed is opening.
If you need to find people to help and you can’t whip enough support from your local area, make sure it’s explicit in your advertising that the public meeting is to find support to develop a Shed in the area, but it won’t be open right away.
Planning your meeting
At this point you’ll need to start thinking about a budget. The main costs to consider at this early stage are printing information, hire of rooms and tea and coffee. If you have a budget that’s great, but if you don’t have one, don’t worry, a lot can still be done.
Make sure you give yourself enough time to plan the meeting and decide how you are going to inspire attendees to help or join the Shed. You should also make sure you advertise it well in advance to make sure as many people are free to attend as possible. Don’t forget the refreshments. They’ll help draw a crowd and oil the conversation.
- Let UKMSA know you’re holding a meeting – we will help to advertise your meeting on social media and we may have had enquires from people wanting to help start a Shed in your area already.
- Encourage family and friends to spread the word. The value of networking for Sheds cannot be underestimated.
- If you are struggling to find a venue many supermarkets have community rooms that you can use for free, and always ask if they will provide tea and coffee as a donation. If it’s summer, you could even hold it in a local green space with a shelter.
- Tell your story everywhere you go. Most Sheds have a story behind them; whether you’re doing it to improve the wellbeing of the men in your community or you’ve found yourself with more time on your hands than you’d like – people will want to help when you tell them why you’re developing a Men’s Sheds.
See our helpful Promoting your Shed guides in our Resource Library. You can contact us to request a Starting a Shed PowerPoint presentation to enlist support from potential fellow Shedders, helping them understand what a Shed is and how to set one up.
Visit other Sheds
One of the best ways to determine what you want your Shed to be like (and what you don’t) is to visit other Sheds. The more Sheds you can visit the better as no two are the same. You can get inspiration for the type of activities you want for your Shed, and you can share experiences and get tips from other Shedders too. Not only that, it’s a great way to build connections and make friends.
If you’d like to visit other Sheds, you can find details of the ones nearest to you, and across the entire UK, by visiting our Find a Shed map. Click on Sheds on the map to display contact details.
Decide what to do
The activities you decide to do in your Shed should be determined by the group developing it. A range of activities to suit the starting group are likely to be attractive to lots of men in the local area. There aren’t any rules about the type of activities that have to go on in a Shed, but here are some common ones that you might like to include in your own:
- Woodworking and metalworking
- Electronics and 3D printing
- Model building
- Bicycle repairs
- Upcycling and repurposing
- Gardening or conservation work
If you do activities for the public in exchange for a fee or donation, be careful not to take trade from local craftsmen or small businesses.
Next, thinking about premises.
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