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#Empowered2020s blog series 13 October 2017
Opinion: Empowering communities: a Big Local perspective
"There aren’t the kind of support services and youth groups that you find in areas where the deprivation is a bit more visible. But there are a few, and Art Against Knives (AAK) is one of them." Julia Hines talks about how Grange Big Local is becoming empowered by tackling issues around children and young people at risk of knife crime and gang violence.
Today we share with you the latest findings from our research into how communities can have power and authority over their lives and the areas where they live. So far, our researchers have travelled from Bristol to Newcastle in pursuit of the answer to one question: how can communities become empowered?
Communities can only become powerful if they have the right information about the issues that are disempowering them in the first place. They need opportunities to learn about power, politics and the economy.
Armed with this knowledge, communities need spaces to encounter one another and share, discuss, reflect on and debate the issues that affect them.
The relationship between government and communities is changing, and ‘cuts have forced local authorities to engage with communities about the future of services’. This has caused the idea of community engagement to morph into preparing communities to take on responsibility for things central and local government can no longer do for them; whereas, not too long ago, a great deal of community development was supporting communities in partnerships.
The full interim report includes more information on all of the above, summarising points raised in the research and what people think needs to happen. We also share the questions we would like to explore in the next phase of the research, which will see us visiting Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
To introduce this work, we asked Leila Baker to share her reflections on the story so far and thoughts on how the research might develop.
Opinion: Fighting for change to empower communities
"In essence, an empowered community is one that models a different way of living and fights to bring that into reality." Kay Snow argues that the road to empowerment of communities is in coming together in solidarity and resistance against oppression and injustice.
"Training and mentoring can be useful tools to empower people and there are certain skillsets which can be useful. But what spurs people on most is often a strong sense that doing nothing would be wrong, combined with a belief that change is possible." Rachel Nye argues that we need to affirm and equip a wide range of people as change makers in their communities.
Opinion: We can empower communities through supporting local entrepreneurs
"I have found that enterprise is a powerful way to empower communities, but UK enterprise support systems only work for some." Rob Allen argues that supporting low or no income entrepreneurs through a Universal Basic Income can help communities become empowered.
“What ‘empowered communities’ might look like in the coming decade are communities that not only have the capacity to speak truth to power, but also the ability to use that truth to build a more just society.” Angus McCabe argues that in the end, empowering communities should be about making them powerful.
“To create more empowered communities of the future, we think that we need to re-engage our creativity, open out discussion and utilise arts methodologies in community co-produced research.” Katy Goldstraw argues arts-based approaches are crucial for social cohesion and opening up discussion in communities.
Opinion: Community Foundations: the secret to empowered communities?
Community Foundations are “convinced that strengthening communities from the bottom up is the only way to rebuild our fractured society.” In this blog, Fabian French highlights empowering ideas from Community Foundations across the country.
Opinion: Creating space to talk: The future of resilient communities relies on speaking up about wellbeing
“We definitely need systemic change from government nationally and locally, but until we are able to take collective responsibility for acknowledging and prioritising wellbeing, then our communities will never truly be resilient.” In this blog, Peter Lefort argues that in order for our communities to become empowered, we first need to look after ourselves.
Opinion: Empowering communities: a rural parish perspective
“Effective community development takes place where people are supported to enact initiatives based upon the things they care about.” Bob Rhodes explores why people may be becoming less involved in community life. He suggests that we’ll only see empowered communities once people feel more supported to do what matters to them.
Opinion: We need new forms of partnership with revived public services
“To achieve empowered communities, we need to work for new forms of partnership between strengthened communities and strengthened public services.” Gabriel Chanan argues that for communities to become empowered, public services must become more participatory.
Opinion: Why communities already have everything necessary for systemic change
“The faith that the individual has everything he or she needs to incite world change must be the collective foundation for our work in communities going forward.”Nathan Ardaiz argues individuals can make change happen in communities and offers 5 ways for this to happen.
Nathan Ardaiz is a designer & facilitator at AzuKo.
Summer blog series 13 July 2017
Opinion: Refugee integration is a key component of community empowerment
“Investing in the skills, enterprise and networks of refugees is an advantage to all.” Matthew Rogers argues for more emphasis on refugee integration as a driver for community empowerment and explains why now is the time for long-term solutions.
Opinion: Safety, the state and public services: necessities for empowerment?
“Before any of us can be empowered we must first of all be safe: safe in our homes; and safe in our communities.” Dr Rachel Shanks argues that community safety is a primary foundation for community empowerment, and that community workers also play a crucial role.
Rachel is a member of the Empowered Communities in the 2020s steering group and teaches on the Postgraduate Diploma in Community Learning and Development (CLD) at the University of Aberdeen.
Summer blog series 5 July 2017
Opinion: Empowered communities are the bedrock of our society
“People should feel proud of who they are and where they live, have aspirations for the future and be able to take decisions about their lives. They should feel cared for by their neighbours and others in their community, and in turn look out for them.” Daniel Goodwin argues that we need to create the right conditions for a greater sense of community responsibility, and make it easy and fun to be part of a wider social life.
Daniel Goodwin is a member of the Empowered Communities in the 2020s steering group and a Local Trust Trustee.
29 June 2017
Opinion: Where would you want to meet your community?
From the project research team at IVAR
Last week we ran a session at the Co Ltd conference for community organising where the theme was building, bridging and bonding. We wanted to talk about the things community work can do to improve lives with a bunch of people who have loads of experience and an ear to the ground. Various events recently have made us think about how you bring groups together - particularly in diverse communities with different views - to tackle difficult problems and make sure people are heard. So we asked the Community Organisers what sort of spaces are needed for convening and how you might make those spaces inclusive.
Suggestions included schools and other public areas like parks, pubs, social clubs, libraries. However, one participant said that schools are not comfortable places for everyone and that some people have really difficult relationships with their children’s schools. They also pointed out that people working with communities assume that bringing together those from varied ethnic or other backgrounds is always a good thing: "We can’t ensure spaces are inclusive, we’re exhausting ourselves and may be in danger of shutting down all conversation”; sometimes, aspirations for inclusivity may be unrealistic. However, the overriding feeling from the day was that all communities are different and the most appropriate space needs to be chosen by the community.
Where would you feel most comfortable meeting a variety of people from your community? Have your say via our online survey or get in touch on twitter #Empowered2020s.
We are interested in hearing from anyone that works with communities. Whether you’re a local group with half an hour at a coffee morning, a youth group with a passion for making a difference or an organisation delivering health checks in a community centre. Whoever you are, whatever group or organisation you are part of, we would like to hear your ideas about how communities can become empowered.
We’ve created some resources to help you host a conversation about the research in existing meetings, from your upcoming AGM to lunch with a few friends. All contributions will form an important part of our research, so please do get involved.
The research team would be happy to talk about your event and answer any questions you might have. Please email email@example.com.
In the resource pack you’ll find some things to help shape your conversations, and to help feed back to us what you’ve been talking about:
Three different ideas for activities to get the conversation started... and keep it going!
A set of questions to help with discussions
Some advice on photo consent – in case you want to send us pictures or post some on social media
A print-able ‘conversation catcher’ sheet for capturing what people are saying (we’ve provided it in colour and in black and white)
A ‘Key Points’ template for you to fill in online and email back to us – or print out and stick in the post.
Opinion: We need people with more gumption, less fear in our communities
From the project research team at IVAR
That's what one person said to our researchers when we dropped into Big Local's fabulous annual Spring Events. So, what is 'gumption'? The dictionary says it's about courage, confidence, spirit and determination.
And how do you build 'gumption'? Some of the things people said can help were: having the chance to do new things; getting out of your patch so that you can bring in new ideas; being allowed to get on with things and not being told what to do; feeling like you are part of something; and feeling secure about voicing opinions. Those things take time.
As part of this research, we’re asking people about how communities can take control and what may be standing in their way. Join the conversation on twitter #Empowered2020s or click here for more ways to get involved.
24 May 2017
Update: You spoke, we've listened
From the project research team at IVAR
We've completed the 'scoping' stage of the Empowered Communities research. That's led us to make some positive changes to what we'll do next in the research.
We found that people have strong views, profound experiences and passionate ideas that they want to share. We are using what we hear to continuously adjust what we ask as we go along. And we're working hard at figuring out where we 'fit' alongside other research and inquiries.
We wanted to get the Empowered Communities conversation started as quickly as possible. We knew that other people were carrying out bigger studies than ours with weighty literature reviews attached to them that would cover the same ground as us and more comprehensively too. But we still wanted to use what has already been learned and written. So we have chosen to review a very small number of books and reports that draw together learning from across the field and that we think are important for our research.
We are midway through this initial review process but wanted to highlight some of the themes that are emerging as we go along and the implications for our research. In our intial literature report we highlight two themes that struck us as important for our research:
What motivates people to take part?
Community development and poverty alleviation
As our research progresses, we will continue our review and use it to inform some of the key topics that are emerging from the research.
Update: Four themes from early workshops and interviews
From the project research team at IVAR
Like most research projects, this one began with a 'scoping' stage to make sure that we were asking the right questions and to get more ideas about who might want to contribute to the research. In this short summary, we are sharing a few messages that came out of the scoping interviews we carried out and workshops we attended to help us shape the research. Here’s a quick overview of four main themes we found:
‘A local base for a national conversation’ — People we spoke to want assurances that the research will be rooted in local communities and driven by what those communities need and want.
‘What motivates people to engage?’ — We need to understand what motivates people to get involved with communities, and what puts them off. By understanding this we can begin to look at how to broaden the range of people getting involved in communities.
‘If you can't create jobs and enterprise, you won't regenerate your community’ — People identified a range of issues where they thought community development can and needs to continue to make contribution. Some said people's economic prosperity and economic regeneration is critical.
‘It may not be important to start with, but real change requires funds’ — We picked up a variety of views about funding for work with communities.
Find out more in our summary document. There are other themes that we plan to explore through the questions that we are asking in the next stage and the people, groups and organisations that we are inviting to respond, but we would really like to hear your reactions. Tweet using #Empowered2020s or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Update: Initial survey reveals your top five ways to create empowered communities
Initial results are in from the project survey that asks — among other things — what you feel is most important to help communities become more empowered and vibrant. From these first 50 responses, the top things that people think could help communities to become more empowered and vibrant in the future are:
Devolution, power, agency to make decisions locally
Active participation in policy decision-making
Resources for work with communities
Support including education, training, capacity building, peer support
Self-efficacy or confidence and self-belief
You can find out more in this short report which summarises all the survey responses received from 20 March – 11 April 2017.
In addition to using this data to help develop the research, the research team at IVAR are also able to use the replies so far to see where to target to get further survey responses that will achieve a good geographic spread of voices and perspectives.
The survey will be open until the end of June 2017, so it’s not too late to add your response. The survey asks how you would like to be involved in the Empowered Communities project, what you feel is most important to help communities become more empowered and vibrant, and for examples of where the researchers might look for empowered communities.
Press release: Have your say about the future of communities
We’re going public with Empowered Communities in the 2020s, our research and public engagement project. We’re inviting organisations, public services, community groups, organisers and individual citizens to share their visions of how communities can become more empowered and vibrant. We’re offering a whole range of ways to participate: in person, online on this website and on social media using #Empowered2020s. Read the press release.
3 May 2017
Take part: Plant a 'vision tree' at your next event
How can communities become more empowered and vibrant in the next ten years? This is the question at the heart of Empowered Communities and although it’s a biggie, it’s something we’re inviting everyone – from expert to neighbour – to share their own response to.
It’s also a question that opens new and unexpected conversations – conversations which explore what people value in their community, what could be better, who holds power and what vision of the future people are inspired by.
Add your response
We’re inviting as many people as possible to share their answers and we’re collecting them in one place — the Empowered Communities ‘vision tree’. Taking part is simple – write your answer onto one of our tags (or tweet it) and we’ll tie it onto the tree so that people at following events can see it and add their own ideas too.
Where to find it
We’re sending our ‘vision tree’ on tour to events, meetings, public spaces and gatherings to reach as wide a range of people as we can. The tour started in March and the tree will be at all of the Big Local Spring Events, gathering fresh ideas in Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham, Newcastle and London.
Book the tree
If you are part of a community, or support a community or network you can also use the Empowered Communities vision tree to start your own conversation.
The tree is available to groups, organisations and venues who want to start their own conversation about the future of communities. We can talk to you about how you might want to hold that conversation or you can use it in whatever way works for your group.
Answers on a postcard
If you can’t get to the tree yourself, you can still add your answer to the question by phoning or writing to Local Trust, or tweeting us @LocalTrust. We’ll add your comment to the tree so everyone can see it.
What are people saying
Among the responses we’ve already had are ‘Put young people in the driving seat’, ‘Focus on fun’ and ‘Tolerance and collaboration’. Do you share these views or have something different to say? If you want to have your say, you know what to do.
At the very first workshop of the Dialogues series, we met the Empowered Communities project steering group and asked them why they think empowered communities matter. The group mentioned everything from Brexit to personal experiences of knowing neighbours — it really got us thinking!
We’ve put our favourite answers into the video above, or you can see all the vox pops in full in this playlist.
The steering group members come from a mix of national and local organisations and all have knowledge and expertise in working with communities. They are: Alice Casey, Angus McCabe, Daniel Goodwin, Debbie Burton, Fabian French, Fozia Irfan, Lorna Prescott, Paul Bragman, Dr Rachel Shanks, Richard Wilson, Sue Gill and Tony Armstrong.
Leila Baker, head of research at IVAR argues that the Empowered Communities ‘Dialogues Series’ is a research approach for our times, and explores why it is so important that envisioning the future should not be done without reference to lessons of the past. Read the blog.
14 February 2017
Update: Introduction to the Dialogues Series
Leila Baker, head of research at IVAR, explains that the Empowered Communities in the 2020s research will be structured through a series of dialogues.
Dialogue: Issues – Exploring issues that intersect with community development and empowered communities, such as income inequality, local ageing populations, housing, immigration or climate change.
Dialogue: Nations – Visiting four nations in the UK to hear from people who work with communities regardless of whether or not they have a community development remit as such.
Dialogue: Places – Conversations in four communities of place, to hear from people who work with, or in some way support communities — regardless of whether or not they have a community development remit.
If the past of community and place-based funding can teach us anything, it is that we must create space to explore, share and understand new ideas and practice. Local Trust’s Empowered Communities project will do just that, says Matt Leach. Read the blog.
13 February 2017
Opinion: Why did the Big Society fail?
As our Empowered Communities project prepares to look at the future of support to communities, Matt Leach reflects on what we can learn by looking at the past. Read the blog.
3 January 2017
Opinion: Do you chat to your neighbours online? What about in 15 years’ time?
Just five years ago I wouldn't really have imagined I would be chatting to groups of my neighbours about things that really matter to my everyday life, says Alice Casey, Local Trust trustee.
Just before Christmas we had some work done on the kitchen, and found damp plaster and lead piping which needed to be removed. Having a young baby in the house and with winter setting in, we weren't best pleased to have to have the heating and hot water turned off for chunks of time at late notice over the holidays. I sent an email out and within a couple of hours had offers of three fan heaters and a spare kettle to borrow plus invitations to get out of the cold and use neighbours' hot water.
Just five years ago I wouldn't really have imagined I would be chatting to groups of my neighbours about things that really matter to my everyday life. Now, I do this regularly. Whether it is finding emergency childcare, improving the local park, finding the best doctor to go to or many other local tips and issues, my first port of call is no longer a local newspaper; it is the email group on our street, the second place I turn is to a what's app group of neighbours with kids of a similar age, and the third is a local news website and Twitter/Facebook feed run by volunteers.
This is just one example of how community life has been evolving over the past 5 years for one group of people; what change can you imagine in your communities over the next 10 or 15 years?
The Community Development Foundation worked with communities for fifty years, closing its doors in 2016. As part of its closure, Local Trust has taken on legacy funding from CDF that will spark new thinking about the issues that matter to community development over the next 10 to 15 years, imagining impact of some of the bigger trends, as well as the community led changes in behaviour and interaction.
Whether it is the resounding impact of Brexit, the apparent upward trend in community well-being or apparent decline in trust of ‘experts’; Local Trust is interested in hearing from creative researchers with ideas to help understand and imagine community change in the future.
Thanks to additional support from JRF, we are able to look particularly into how those living in poverty may be empowered or affected. This research is an exciting opportunity to think and inspire others to think about how we can shape our communities into the places we most want them to be, for everyone to enjoy; a subject very close to the heart of Local Trust and all the 150 community partnerships we work with.
Press release: New project launches to explore a radically different future for communities, as report suggests collaboration with residents is key
Local Trust today announces the names of steering group members who will direct a major new independent research project scoping the future of work with communities. The announcement comes as Local Trust also publishes a new report characterising the perceptions of 26 leaders in the community sector who gave confidential interviews to insight consultancy, BritainThinks. Read the press release.
7 September 2016
Update: Empowered Communities outline plans announced
We’re delighted to announce outline plans for a major new research project that will capture the contemporary value of community development and scope its future. View the announcement.
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