Category Archives: Community engagement

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)


MASH Lab Launch!

Tuesday 17 April will see the launch of Dudley’s MASH Lab.  This has evolved from the OUr Society: Our Solutions research and discussions which have taken place and which led to thinking which we call MASH: Managing Assets and Services Holistically. The ideas have been committed to by senior decision makers in Dudley Council

The purpose of the MASH Lab Launch is to share the thinking behind MASH and to collaboratively select a realistic number of areas of work to test in the MASH Lab over the next 8 months. Areas of work being considered will include:

  • Dudley Council organisational transformation and workforce development to be developed in collaboration with VCFS to ensure change in future relationships.
  • Dudley Council employee Volunteering Strategy to be refreshed in collaboration with VCFS to provide two-way benefits.
  • Dudley Council Compact champions to be revitalised to promote cross sector networking, connecting, problem-solving, and feedback.
  • Dudley Council staff to be given responsibility for online and social media communications to improve overall communications.
  • Dudley Council website to be refreshed to be more outward facing and user-friendly
  • Dudley Council to enable citizens and VCFS to let Dudley Council and others know about positive activities happening in local areas to be uploaded on line
  • Refreshed and or new collaborative forums / stakeholder groups where Dudley Council can involve VCFS and citizens in understanding pressures on services and budgets and explore solutions
  • A refreshed complaints process for Dudley Council where feedback on service improvement is encouraged – a dialogue.
  • Design of a new online (and possible offline) process for inviting suggestions from citizens and VCFS for service changes and co-production.
  • Dudley Council Engagement Strategy to be a catalyst for changing the way the council and VCFS work together – less consultation and more collaboration
  • Revision of Dudley Council commissioning approaches to include commissioning to local VCFS organisations
  • Dudley Council to develop a collaborative approach with VCFS to ‘Community Right to Challenge’
  • Collaborate learning to be gained from Climate Change group, including Transition Stourbridge, experience of influencing design and delivery of a re-use facility / shop within the new contract to run the LA Civic Amenity site, Stourbridge
  • Dudley Council and VCFS to collaboratively create a comprehensive ‘joint asset management policy’ to include:
  • Develop a process to identify opportunities for co-location of Dudley Council with VCFS and other organisations in shared buildings
  • Dudley Council and the VCFS to collaboratively develop an approach to the register for ‘assets of community value’, to gain relevant nominations, understanding and procedures.
  • Dudley Council and the VCFS to collaboratively develop an approach to Neighbourhood Planning, as connected closely to community asset management.
  • Dudley Council to collaboratively develop a corporate policy and approach for disposing of unwanted fittings, furniture and other smaller items from council buildings due to closures etc to VCFS groups

Invitations to the event are being circulated widely to community, voluntary and faith groups, and to selected officers in Dudley MBC so that there are links to the areas being considered.

Cooperative Councils

Cooperative Councils have caught our eye here in the Our Society Planning Group. Lambeth Council have a great area on their website explaining aspects of their cooperative approach. We were particularly interested in their 7 key principles:

The cooperative council sets out seven key principles that provide direction for public services. They are:

Principle 1: The council as a strong community leader.

Principle 2: Providing services at the appropriate level personalised and community based.

Principle 3: Citizens and communities empowered to design and deliver services and play an active role in their local community.

Principle 4: Public services enabling residents to engage in civil society through employment opportunities.

Principle 5: A settlement between public services, our communities and the citizen (this is what we provide, this is what you do for yourself) underpinned by our desire for justice, fairness and responsibility.

Principle 6: Taking responsibility for services – regardless of where they are accessed or which agency provides them.

Principle 7: Simple, joined up and easy access to services – location and transaction i.e. “one place to do it all”, “one form, one time to do it all” – providing visible value for money.

Dudley Council have set up a Localism Steering group which will take forward activity in relation to changes through the Localism Act in relation to Planning, Housing, Governance, Community Rights,  and more. Our Society activity is also part of what the Localism Steering Group considers, and may help to shape the direction for public services and relationships between Dudley MBC and citizens and communities.

Dudley’s Community Organisers

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

Inspiring Democracy Project

Dudley is one of seven areas selected to be involved in research as part of national project funded by the government called Inspiring Democracy.

The project focuses on building relationships between citizens, community based organisations and elected members working together to influence local political agendas. In each of the seven areas across England a different look will be taken at aspects of councillor and community organisation/s relationships and objectives.

Sue Gorbing

A focus group for interested members of community groups and organisations in Dudley Borough will be held on the evening of 7 March 2012, venue tba. The focus group will be run by Sue Gorbing from community development specialists changes who have been contracted to deliver this project. Invitations to the focus group will be circulated to community groups over the coming days.

The Inspiring Democracy project will lead to a resource being produced to enable Elected Members and community organisations to think about and enact their roles in a more constructive way. Everyone taking part in the research will be invited to an event on 25 April (likely to be in Birmingham) and have an opportunity to feed back on the draft guidance and input to the final write-up.

The other research areas are: Wolverhampton, Solihull, Shropshire, Preston, Keighley (Bradford) and Wiltshire.

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