Time for a round up, as I haven’t managed to post here lately – which is all about to change as we launch in to lots of exciting activity. Here’s what the Our Society Planning Group have been working on:
Activity to test change and develop evidence
We’re keen to explore the real experiences of people involved in activity which relates to ideas in the government’s Localism Act. This includes groups which are moving towards taking over buildings, such as the Lye & Wollescote Cemetery Chapels project, and groups and people who are filling in gaps as public services are cut. An example would be Sarah Freeman, recognised at Dudley’s Volunteer Awards this year for providing a meals on wheels service in the area where she lives.
Working with senior decision-makers
The Dudley Community Partnership (DCP) Board meeting in September was cancelled, though we were able to run discussion sessions with members of the Heritage, Culture and Leisure Partnership that month. Feedback from this and the DCP Board meeting in November will be posted to this site soon.
Visit from Cabinet Office
Neil Smith from the Office for Civil Society attended one of Dudley’s Our Society Planning Group meetings and shared information on the government’s Community Organiser programme and the Communities First programme, both of which are running in Dudley Borough (more information here).
Voluntary Sector Network event
Dudley’s Voluntary Sector network hosted an event in July which we contributed to and learned from. People at the event considered the Localism Bill, Asset Transfer and Community Rights. There are videos, photos, blog posts, tweet archives, useful links, and even a graphic recording of the event all at www.vsnjuly2011.posterous.com.
Celebrating community activity
Our approach to Our Society in Dudley Borough seeks to celebrate independent community action, so look out for inspiring stories which Dudley CVS’s Melissa Guest will be posting here over the coming months. Many local volunteers were recognised at Dudley’s annual Volunteer Awards in October.
Developing Dudley Council’s approach
Dudley Council now have a cross-department Our Society group considering the issues facing them as a local authority and how to respond to them within an Our Society approach.
Barriers to our approach
We’re starting to keep a record of barriers that we come across which prevent ideas under the Our Society banner moving forward, or moving forward in a consistent way. These include an absence or depletion of skills which we think are needed, to inconsistent arrangements in relation to, for example, leasing community buildings.
Being open and transparent, and involving YOU!
We hope that the videos and feedback we’ve posted here to date help to share what is happening in our meetings and meetings of Dudley Community Partnership’s Board. We’ve also uploaded Our Society Steering Group papers and links to event feedback and videos. We’ll be posting more regularly now as momentum gains. Later this week we’ll be sharing progress updates on our Community Rights Made Real project with Urban Forum. We invite anyone who is interested to add comments and get discussions going on this site.
We’ve set up a twitter account: @oursocdudley and we plan to circulate regular e-newsletters to stakeholders and subscribers. We may also set up a Facebook page if there is interest. We are planning a large face-to-face event in the Spring which will bring together a lot of what we have been working on and open it all out for a wider discussion and agreement on what steps we should take next in Dudley.
Part of this will involve developing a guide for Our Society, and will be doing this over the coming months in a collaborative way, through the Our Society national online network. It’s free and easy to join, we would love people from Dudley to be involved in the writing process, so please join the site and we’ll update you when the group gets going. Please do leave a comment or get in touch if you’d like to know more or get stuck with any of our online networking places.
Community First is an £80m government-funded initiative that will run for four years, until March 2015. The programme will help communities come together to identify their strengths and local priorities in order to plan for their future and become more resilient. It will fund both new and existing community groups. 9 wards in Dudley Borough are eligible for the Community First Neighbourhood Matched Fund – an initiative that provides local communities with the means to address their own priorities.
In order to get local projects funded, people, groups and organisations in the eligible wards need to register (with the Community Development Foundation) and work together to set up a local panel. The panel then sets up a website, asks people in their ward to suggest priorities for action, and decides upon projects for funding in their area. Every £1 provided in Community First funding must be matched by a similar amount of in-kind donations (this means donations of cash, services, free products or volunteer time).
To find out more including which wards in Dudley Borough are eligible and what support the group behind Our Society in Dudley Borough are offering to the programme, visit www.dudleycommunityfirst.posterous.com
A government funded programme to develop Community Organisers will recruit and train 500 senior community organisers, along with a further 4,500 part-time voluntary organisers, over four years. The role is described on the community organisers website as follows:
Organisers are dedicated, motivated people who will build trust, respect and networks through dialogue and a systematic, broad-based local listening process that ignites the impulse to act. RE:generate, our lead training partner, will train the organisers using their ‘Root Solution Listening Matters’ approach.
The work of the community organisers will enable people to take action on their own behalf and have the power and confidence to tackle the issues which are important to them, rather than wait for the local authority or the government to do it for them. It will also enable them to make the most of new local community rights and opportunities to achieve their own aspirations.
Community organisers will be recruited and hosted by local community host organisations, often in deprived areas of the country. They will listen to residents in their homes, on the street and where they gather, and they will listen to public service and third sector workers, small businesses and local institutions to help develop their collective power to act together for the common good, as identified locally.
Dudley will receive the second wave of organisers, with five of them to be hosted by the Centre for Equality and Diversity, and starting work in Dudley this December.
Through Our Society in Dudley Borough we are keen to make links between Community First Panels, Community Organisers, and the BIG Local area in East Coseley.