Interplay is a Swansea based charity providing access to play and leisure opportunities for children and young people with additional needs aged 2-25. It runs weekly term time play provision, youth clubs, summer schemes and residentials.
Interplay works with children at all levels including profound and multiple disability, learning disabilities, physical impairments, sensory impairments, autism, ADHD and challenging behaviour. The main criteria is that, without additional support, these young people would not be able to access play and leisure opportunities.
Why did Interplay come to Pilotlight and the Pilotlight 360 programme?
Pip Dimmock, the Manager, joined Interplay in 2013 as a Project Coordinator and stepped into the Manager role in 2017. She navigated Interplay through several funding crises when the organisation came close to closing.
The impact of the pandemic, while being challenging operationally, increased funding opportunities as local authorities and funders recognised the importance of play and social interaction. Pip came to Pilotlight because she wanted to create stability and to plan to expand, not just to survive. The small trustee board wanted to feel more confident about Interplay’s future.
What happened during Pilotlight 360?
During the course of the programme, Pip wrote an Operating Manual, capturing all of the key processes which until then had been in her head, and a Business Plan and Funding Strategy. Interplay staff and trustees revisited the Mission, Vision and Values together and had a fundamental conversation about who they work with, and the language they use.
Pip worked with the Pilotlighters and the Interplay board to clarify decision-making and operational responsibilities and engaged other senior staff in board meetings. Recruiting new trustees to support Interplay’s vision was identified as a priority.
The Pilotlighters acted as guides and sounding boards during this process, sharing tools they use in their businesses to facilitate conversation between Pip, the staff and trustees. They encouraged Pip to prioritise, delegate and have faith in her judgement and skill as a manager and practitioner.
“I couldn’t see myself as a Manager. When I saw the descriptions of the Pilotlighters I was afraid I would come across as stupid. They made me feel exactly the opposite, they made me realise what I already knew. They made me feel I was the best person Interplay could have had. Thank you to the Pilotlighters for their patience and understanding and for helping me to see the wood for the trees.” - Pip Dimmock, Manager, Interplay
“What stood out for me was Pip’s perseverance, a lot of people would have walked away and that has been a personal lesson. She has stuck with it and taken trustees and staff with her. Pip has gone from being a doer to a leader.” - Gurjinder Sembhi, Pilotlighter
What’s happened since the programme finished?
It’s nice to have a vision for the future, I couldn’t do that for a while.
Pip Dimmock, Manager
For the first time since Pip joined, seven months into the financial year Interplay has secured enough income to finish the financial year in surplus. Pip, the board and her senior team have been working together to plan proactively and return to some of Interplay’s founding principles. They have secured funding to run a Youth Social Action Fund, and to set up a Learning Disability Liaison Forum in partnership with other local charities. They are seeking funding for more forest school and residential work to enable more independent play. Two new trustees are being inducted onto the board. Senior staff attending board meetings has helped reframe the relationship between staff and trustees more positively.
All the information and expertise that was in Pip’s head is now in the Operations Manual, or going into the Systems Manual Pip is working on with her team. Interplay could now operate without Pip, although thankfully it won’t have to because Pip is enjoying her job again and focused on a bright future for Interplay.
The Pilotlighters had a gentle way of challenging and pushing us all. Their role in giving us focus has been huge. We couldn’t see a future, but now we feel positive.
Becky Cole, Chair
It was amazing to see what has been achieved in the last six months. To see the passion from Pip and the trustees and how they have come together is extraordinary. We have seen Pip grow in confidence and unleash the execution to back that passion. I can’t wait to see what Interplay continues to achieve.
Helena Fernandes Baines, Pilotlighter