Dudley’s five first Community Organisers were trained and started working in Dudley in December. They are hosted by CfED (Centre for Equality and Diversity) and a pull-out from CfED’s December newsletter describes what Community Organisers are, what they will do, and includes contact details and information about Matt, Mel, Abraham, Terri and Keir – see: Dudley’s Community Organisers
I am lucky to work with lots of passionate volunteers and community groups, helping them to raise the profile of what they do. Lorna has invited me to join this space to share how their activity makes a massive and positive difference to our local communities.
Before Christmas, we invited another inspirational community spirit, Tessy Britton to meet some of our local groups, to help them to share ideas and think even more creatively than they already do!
Tessy is a social entrepreneur and the driving force behind the online phenomenon Hand Made which tells stories of national and international innovative community projects. The overwhelming success of this book which has attracted more than 60,000 internet downloads, has inspired Tessy to roll out local editions to towns and cities all over the world.
It inspired us too! So much that Lorna and I have volunteered to guest edit the Community lover’s guide to Dudley borough 🙂
Our guide will help local people find out more about innovative community projects and enterprises that are happening right on their doorsteps and will bring a worldwide audience to the projects involved. Local people will be invited to tell their personal stories in their own words about what they do, why they do it and how it is making a difference.
Part of our journey involved us meeting up with Steph Jennings who is currently working with Nick Booth to create a Community Lover’s Guide to Birmingham. Her enthusiasm for the project was infectious and now we can’t wait to get going!
We are in the process of calling for contributions and have already started working with our first two authors, Wendy Fryatt from Halesowen charity Black Country Foodbank and Sarah Freeman from Dudley based meals on wheels enterprise ‘The Gourmet’.
This project knits seamlessly into our wider work around the government’s Localism agenda which we have branded in Dudley as ‘Our Society’. Throughout this site you will find practical examples of how we are bringing people together to think about the changing relationship between the public sector, local communities and local people.
In the coming weeks and months I will enjoy sharing snippets from our Community lover’s guide to Dudley here so please do check back and see who’s involved. …And if you’re reading this and have got your own inspirational story to share, please do get in touch!
extract from Our Society in Dudley Borough discussion, posted on 13 March 2011 to http://www.oursociety.org.uk/group/dudley/forum
On 9 March Dudley’s Stronger Communities Steering Group met and discussed progress and plans in relation to Our Society. The following is my summary of the discussion.
Strategic buy in
Support for strategic approach to Our Society from Local Strategic Partnership Board: it was confirmed that there had been strong support from the Board and they were very pleased with the approach.
Existing work and tools
The Planning Policy Team would like to know more about Voice, which may help them especially in the light of anticipated changes in legislation.
Planning Policy, Urban Design and the Sustainability Team are interested in using echo, possibly together, and are keen to see if it can help to unblock opportunities in policy such as site development.
West Midlands Police are also interested in working with echo.
Dudley CVS confirmed that Building Blocks support can be provided to social enterprises.
It was confirmed that the Take Part learning programmes address issues around inclusion.
There was discussion around the different strands of work in relation to assets, and the need for a strategic approach. An asset mapping and rating activity being undertaken will help to reduce unnecessary public sector spend on assets, hopefully diverting spend to service delivery. This is different to asset transfer activity, which has a focus on empowerment. There is a also a need to look as the value of a range of buildings such as community centres, many are marginal, relocating public servants to them could help to keep them open and serving communities.
Dudley MBC response to Big Society
Dudley MBC is developing a framework for their wider Big Society strategy, to include a vision of what the council should be, a collective understanding of how Our Society compliments this, and a structured way for each core service to review services in relation to defined outcomes.
Dosti/DudleyCVS to host an event for the voluntary, community and faith sector to discuss Our Society and ways that they would like to take it forward – anticipated date: early May
Dudley MBC to agree response to Big Society
Dudley Community Partnership Board to have a meeting focusing on Our Society in May
Task groups to take forward activity to be established in June.
A focus on tackling inequalities is to be explicit in plans.
Locality are inviting expressions of interest for host organisations (see http://www.dta.org.uk/whatsnew/hottopics/communityorganisers) Dudley CVS will investigate this further and may submit an expression of interest
crossposted from Our Society in Dudley Borough discussion, 25 January 2011 on http://www.oursociety.org.uk/group/dudley/forum
The journey so far …
Dudley has a Local Strategic Partnership (LSP), called the Dudley Community Partnership (DCP). Within this ‘family of partnerships’ there is a multi-agency Stronger Communities Steering Group.
On 21 July 2010 the Stronger Communities Steering Group met and started to look at how Strategic Priorities from Dudley’s Community Strategy in the Strong Communities theme mapped to five policies announced in May 2010 in relation to the Big Society. At the same meeting the group also went on to identify existing activity around community engagement, volunteering, community cohesion and social enterprise development. We identified opportunities and threats in relation to what Big Society thinking was in relation to these.
The action agreed from this meeting and taken to the Dudley Communuity Partnership Board was for a sub-group to organise a Big Society event. This was undertaken and on the 18 November the Dudley Communuity Partnership hosted a Big Society event attended by 117 people: 59% public sector, 35% voluntary, community and faith sector and 5 private sector. See more here.
For me the themes emerging from the 18 discussion groups were:
- A desire for more support and funding for grass roots community activity and volunteers
- A need to recognise community knowledge and skills, and resilience
- Service issues
- Community engagement
- Local enterprise development
- A demand/desire for culture change in local government
I proposed to the Stronger Communities Steering Group that Dudley’s approach to Big Society should:
- address the above issues (raised at the event in November).
- be guided by commitments and approaches in our Community Strategy, Local Compact and Comprehensive Community Engagement Strategy
- be a partnership approach
- be an empowering one – by which I mean working in ways which build confidence, are inclusive, foster organised and co-operative communities and which support community influence.