Civil Service Live: Successful Communities

I’m at the ‘Quality Street: Unwrapping the secrets of a successful community’ session at Civil Services Live.  Campbell Robb and David Rossington are presenting the work they’ve done in ‘Public Service Agreement 21′ (hereafter PSA21), and it’s about helping communities to be active, empowered and cohesive.  Communities where there is a shared sense of belonging are more inclined to be supportive of one another and are also more likely to take an active role in community decision making as well as participating in sport, art and cultural activities and exhibitions.
Successful Communities

10:05 Central government can not solely drive participation and active engagement because communities are about the services and people within those spaces.

10:09 Central government should see itself as a signalling and communication mechanism for successful communities – to indicate and amplify the processes and projects that work, and to transfer assets from local authorities to public service organisations to make things happen.

10:12 Anything involved in seeking to change behaviour is difficult.  This is magnified in that we can never be sure that the projects will work in all contexts.  While we have data on successful projects, we can’t be absolujtely sure about cause and effect.

10:14 Cohesion is crucial to the establishment of relationships in communities.  The BIG LUNCH – an initiative of the Eden Project – is supposed to encourage growing own foods and meeting and enjoying collective production in the community.

10:17 Interestingly, there seems to be much more distributed sense of empowerment (and higher overall scores) in the Places Survey than for cohesion between community members.

10:23 Some examples are given of bothsimple and complex strategies of supporting community needs – from taking full time carers out for an evening, to mentoring for repeat offending violent criminals.

10:25 There many people who are extremely angry about reprioritising funding for communities.  In Kensington Chelsea, it was decided to reallocate funds from the area from support of royal swans to refugees in the area.  Media responded by lambasting the local decision makers for abandoning the swans, regardless of the need among refugees.

10:27 Strong investment in volunteering to get young people to do 50 hours of community service while at school to encourage them to sustain that activity in adulthood.  By focusing on the volunteering infrastructure, it is hoped that cohesion and empowerment coefficients will be raised.  The perception is that through volunteering and by giving to the community as an intrinsically good thing for the public interest, a greater sense of relationship development and support will be generated.

10:33 Steve Wyler now up talking about Development Trusts Association and the community led action right across the UK.  It’s noted that empowering citizens to both complain and to act on behalf of community interests.  Wyler notes that the image of community groups is damaged.  Tends to raise image of dingy hall, self-important bullies and saddest strategies.  These stereotypes are dying.  Incredible, highly designed, well-organised and altruistic groups emerging.  Wellness Trust in a city estate took residence in disused shop fronts to create opportunities for one another.  People aren’t divided into volunteers and recipients of goodwill – the roles tend to be mutual.  Participants give and benefit from self-help, and develop together.  Spirit of self-help, social enterprise and community asset ownership are the ingredients for successful communities.

[JJ's note: HERE! HERE! Wish I'd had this last night to describe the work Amplified do as a non-profit group of volunteers to assist idea amplification.]

10:42 Development Trusts Association doing an amazing series of things to help development of successful communities.  Community assets central to the transformation of community action.  This is not about command and control.  It’s about tapping into energy and creativity already present in communities.  Need to recognise that big project spending has failed.  Need instead to invest in community development and to highlight the great efforts out there, and to combat the rise of prejudice and cynicism.

[JJ's note: what a fantastic session. This is the kind of positive action the Civil Service should be celebrating publicly.]

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