Working in Neighbourhoods

The following is from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) page on their new publication Working in neighbourhoods, active citizenship and localism, which I picked up from Lambeth Council’s Cooperative Toolkit blog.

What can we learn from working in neighbourhoods?

Neighbourhood working can help to deliver Localism policies, good partnership working, more active citizenship and civic responsibility, and get local councillors to play strong community leadership roles.

JRF’s Working in Neighbourhoods project offers useful lessons for local authorities, neighbourhood practitioners, and communities, drawing on direct experience from practitioners in Bradford, and many other places. It found:

  • Neighbourhood workers are key to co-ordinate partners and services, broker agreements and solve problems creatively.
  • Active citizenship could be strengthened by tapping into the pool of ‘willing localists’.
  • Transferring more control to communities requires new mechanisms to share risk and reward between public sector bodies and communities.
  • Councillors can play a community leadership role, and be honest with constituents, tackle difficult issues head-on, and mobilise the wider community.
  • Central government could offer support, guidance and leadership for action at the local level on the shared challenges facing local public sector organisations and local government

Reading the summary report I was interested in a finding about the need for consistent yet flexible structures in neighbourhoods.

Consistent structures mean agencies know they exist, are delegated to attend, and can build relationships. But consistency needs to be delicately balanced by some flexibility, for example when to have meetings, and who attends. flexibility means meetings have a clear purpose, are held when needed, and have the right people there.

This balancing act is something which we face in Our Society work in Dudley. Another finding which echoes what we are thinking about in Our Society work is the need for skilled individuals.

Skilled individuals, with ‘local knowledge’. organisations often focus on the structures, but it is also the people within them that make a difference. one lesson from the WIN project was that people’s skills were based on their ‘local knowledge’. Local knowledge was gained through experience, and/or talking to local people and front-line workers, as well as being ‘out and about’ in neighbourhoods. 

The findings in relation to the role of local councillors will is of relevance to the Inspiring Democracy activity we’ve been involved in.

Download the summary report (12 pages)

Download the full report (80 pages)

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