Councillor Martyn Rawlinson, Inner East Preston Big Local chair, discovered time, teasing and a friendly Big Local network provided a great way to learn as part of the Legacy North learning clusters.
As a long time community activist, learning event’ tend to be approached with an element of scepticism, perhaps even cynicism. After all, you’ve seen it, done it and bought the t-shirt when it comes to tackling problems in your area. So when Local Trust’s ‘Big Local Legacy North Cluster’ came knocking, I was Google Earth-ing the nearest pub fairly sharpish.
These were learning events with a difference however.
Four sessions were planned for Big Local partnerships to discuss issues around legacy. Local Trust has given one million pounds over 10 years to 150 areas in England with few rules imposed on how communities want to spend the money. Some areas are already halfway through the exercise and the legacy sessions were designed to get groups thinking about year 11 and beyond when the scheme ends and the money has gone.
The format of the events were fairly traditional; workshops, discussions, feedback, presentations and tours of local amenities. The Big Local groups are tussling with typical third sector issues of sustainability due to the availability of financial, human and physical infrastructure resources. While these sessions were designed to provide information, the facilitation by members of the National Association of Neighbourhood Management, NANM, was less predictable.
Ben and Sarah from NANM gently guided the sessions yet allowed the participants to lead on much of the content and discussions.
“Community activists know what they are talking about. They know what they want and where they want to go – but they don’t always know how to get there.”
The facilitators teased out the attendees reasoning behind their opinions and helped construct logical pathways for further research and practical progression. Pros and cons turned into decisions as the events unfolded. If the answer to a question wasn’t in the room, (and with a wealth of experience in the room it usually was), then it became a task for the next session. Networks were formed, friendships forged and plans were made for a reunion later in the year to review the pilgrim’s progress.
The multiple sessions allowed time for problems to become opportunities and ideas to become reality.
“There was also a recognition that while many groups were battling similar issues, every group required its own tailored solution to fit their particular set of circumstances.”
For a learning event to achieve that, is quite extraordinary.
We still made time for the pub of course.
For more about learning clusters and support available to all Big Local areas this year, check out Support from Big Local 2019 and upcoming events