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Not another toolkit: Is there a better way to organise ‘how-to’ guides for community groups?

Local Trust's innovation lead David King explores how support for community groups could improve

November 2017

I’ve been visiting a lot of Big Local areas recently. Whilst chatting with some of the brilliant people that are involved, I’ve been asking questions about how people access resources and advice that help them improve their area. 

The Big Local model gives volunteers easy access to local advice and support. Need help with managing a budget? Your Big Local’s chosen ‘Locally Trusted Organisation’ should be able to help. Want to understand how to improve housing in your area? Your local 'Big Local Rep' will be able to signpost you to support. Need practical advice about delivering Big Local? Our online programme guidance has the answer.

Network limitations

Where information is not held locally, people can use networks to find what they need. Local Trust hold a series of networking events and have helped to set up Facebook groups and a Workplace rep forum to connect up everyone in the Big Local family - from volunteers to full-time staff. People involved in Big Local also have networks of their own that can be used to find information.

Using networks of people has its strengths, but if the person who holds the answer is on holiday, or busy, then you might not get what you need. This problem worsens if you want a range of views on an issue.

Many national organisations, think tanks and public bodies have spotted this problem before and produced ‘knowledge bases’ or toolkits that make information accessible and easy to digest.

Unfortunately, maintaining these resources can be a challenge as funding dries up (or when the website they are on gets reorganised or switched off), there’s a lot of duplication across different toolkits, and some are more successful than others in showing up when searching the web.

Build your own

Looking at the state of things, I can’t help but envy the Designing Buildings Wiki. The construction industry fund and support this knowledge base, but anyone can create an account and add content.

If we had a similar site in the world of community-led change, I could easily record and share information about what’s worked in the Big Local programme, and, where possible, add to existing articles rather than duplicate information. When the Big Local programme winds down and our website gets switched off, that information would still be there for others to benefit from.

There are many reasons why this would be hard to copy, but a starting point is surely to create a shared list of everything that’s out there right now. I’ve started one off and would love it if others could contribute, just be sure to add your name and comments in the second sheet. 

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