Archive for October, 2012

On the tin – a series of practical resources

In August we posted a blog about some of the things we are working on. In this we mentioned some resources that we are playing with to get them ready for public consumption. The first of these is nearly ready and we will be launching it on 1st November 2012. It is in blog format – a bit like the Inspiring Democracy resource but branded to be part of a specifically practical series called ‘on the tin’. Each blog in the series focuses on a different aspect of  community engagement and the skills, knowledge and understanding that supports practice.

The first ‘on the tin’ blog is called Working In Inclusive Ways and leads you through information and questions to get you thinking. The sections are: Exploring Equalities, Barriers to Involvement, Stereotypes, Prejudice & Discrimination, Equality Skills and Handy Documents (which consists of a series of equalities related posts). Each section has comment boxes and we hope that people will post their feedback and/or their own information to add and build on the resource for others to use.

We had some deep and meaningful conversations about making this degree of work freely available online and made the decision to do so for a few reasons:

  • this information exists, it is something we have pulled together for various bits of work and it feels like such a waste to limit access to it if others may find it useful
  • the online world is the way to go these days and we benefit from other people’s resources where they have been generous enough to share. We wanted to do our bit to add to the fermentation pot
  • it offers us a way to showcase our work. Whilst some people will find the blog/s useful in their own right, others may see the potential for something similar but tailor-made. It is a competitive world out there and we think we have something to offer which is a bit different. Our online portfolio helps potential clients/commissioners to make their own minds up
  • we are quite nice people really and sharing makes us happy

We will be protecting each ‘on the tin’ resource with a Creative Commons licence which will be explained in each case – and we will be encouraging you to use the information, share it with others and tell us how you are getting on!

Put 1st November on your calendar to check out Working In Inclusive Ways – we will circulate the URL and look forward to your feedback. Following on its heels will be further ‘on the tin’ resources, including:

 

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Friday, October 26th, 2012 Community engagement, Equalities & Diversity

Neighbourhood Planning: in my own time

Jill has been having a think:

I’ve been doing some reflecting recently, as I’ve been involved in a neighbourhood planning group for about a year now, and I’ve come to some conclusions for myself that I want to share…

The area we cover is too large (10k people) with little sense of shared community, identity or networks. This is one reason why it has not been possible to get people involved from across the whole area- it isn’t meaningful to people, it isn’t local enough, we are not connected across our differences/boundaries. Community based groups have to be meaningful to people and build on existing networks and shared interests/identity – this is why we only have people from 2 areas. Keeping this wide focus makes the group structurally weak and creates a negative  feeling …(of failure at some level?)…which is insidious and affects the culture of the group

I don’t think that it is possible to make the group inclusive to all areas – even with a full time community development worker it would be hard and it would be through connecting people with similar interests and identities, not through geography. It won’t happen organically…

In order for neighbourhood planning to be worth doing there has to be a commitment from the local state (local authorities, fire, police, health, education etc) to create a shared route to influence. At present we have not got this. In fact, someone attended one of our meetings earlier this year to tell us that the council would definitely not support a formal neighbourhood development plan to emerge from our neighbourhood planning work. She told us that we would have to make the business case and persuade them. Not exactly fertile ground…

At present, we have little understanding of how we can shape the agenda once we have a neighbourhood plan. We have to choose whether to accept these boundaries laid down by the council or take a more challenging position and start a lobbying/advocacy process with them.

So on both fronts – community and council – it feel that there is not much support or commitment. This feels difficult to progress – very hard work for a very small group of people to take on. The group over the last year has operated very minimally and it feels like there isn’t a great deal of energy around, so do we have the energy to turn this around as it stands? I have limited time/energy outside work and family life for volunteering /activism and I want to use it for the greatest effect and there’s a lot to do out there at the moment.

I do think there is something positive to take from this – square up to these challenges, rather than plod on, and consider what to do to become productive and positive. For me – for a start,  it would be to:
reduce the geographical area we work with and focus on membership as part of our NP work
contact and call a meeting for the council, fire, police, health, education, transport and ask about their practical commitment to neighbourhood planning and neighbourhood influence.

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