Take the NANM network quick survey 2013 -14!

It is now more than two years since we last carried out a survey of members of the NANM network, during which there has been a lot of change.


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Through this survey we are keen to find out more about the current NANM network – people who come to NANM events, read the NANM newswire, follow @NM_Association on Twitter or just keep an eye on this web site. If any of these describe you we want to hear from you.

What we learn from responses will both help us to develop what we do as an association in the future and to better represent neighbourhood working to others. This is a short survey. It won’t take more than 10 minutes to complete. Deadline for responses is Thursday 30 January 2014.
Click here to take the survey

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Five models of localism: which are you?

What does effective representation and accountability look like ? Does it look the same at local authority, ward and neighbourhood level? Can academic theory and research help? If there are differences, do we have the language to discuss them?

The next NANM open space workshop, Five models of localism: which are you?, is on Wednesday, 4 December 2013, 10:30 to 15:30 (coffee from 10:00) at The University of Manchester, Sackville Street Campus (nr Manchester Piccadilly Station), Manchester. You can book on-line at Eventbrite.

In their recent paper Who is accountable in localism? Liz Richardson (University of Manchester) and Catherine Durose (University of Birmingham) identify five models of local accountability based on new research and a review of existing literature. They call their first model the ‘British Political Tradition’ in which power and influence is hierarchical and public agencies see citizen involvement happening mainly at local elections when the public’s role is either as voter, or candidate. Community participation efforts therefore focus only on encouraging more people to stand for election, or to turn out and vote.

At the other end of their scale they describe a model which constantly seeks the public’s involvement as decision makers and problem solvers. In this model, local public bodies see power as coming from many directions and their own role is one of mobiliser, enabler, and convenor.

It is self-evident most of those involved in neighbourhood working aspire to an enabling model. But how can we test the extent that practical experiences of communities match what we aspire to?

That is the question that we’ll explore during the workshop.

To start Liz Richardson will introduce us to the five models she and Catherine Durose have proposed, and explain how they are intended as a practical guide or diagnostic to enable others to test what models of local accountability exist in practice.

We will then convene open space discussions to enable participants to identify which model they think they are working in themselves. This will be a participative day and we hope everyone attending will contribute from their own first hand experiences.

You can find out more about the event and book your place on our page on Eventbrite.

We have funding to cover the costs of this event, which means we can make it free to attend. But we will gratefully accept contributions towards the cost of catering and logistics. Our suggested contribution is £10, which would also entitle you to become a member of the NANM for two years from the date of the event.

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Do you know where you’re going to?

Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/highwaysagency/

We’ve been trying to take stock of plans coming out of Big Local, as well as neighbourhood planning  and Our Place! (as it’s now known).

One thing which interests us are the different routes these projects seem to be going down. For some it’s too soon to say they are on one route versus another but we’ve had a go at naming the routes, in the hope of stimulating discussion – in particular about where different projects are headed, and whether routes chosen now mean they are destined to grow into quite different things in the future? Here goes:

 

 

1) Bridgeheads and basecamps

  • In some places the first people on the scene started by securing a visible physical presence in a neighbourhood on behalf of the initiative, so there’s a person in the same place, most days of the week (or at least a “back in 5 mins” sign). It might be a desk in the office of an existing organisation, or something bigger. Ramsey Big Local did this early on, getting hold of a small office and meeting space just off the High Street where key movers and shakers can usually be found.  Others are doing similar like Warwick Ahead Big Local where the key organisers can usually be found up at the “Addy”, the estate’s popular community centre and adventure playground.
  • These projects are aiming for their physical bases to become literal meeting places to make new connections and cook-up plans. As these projects beg, borrow, or buy more space, and secures more income their physical home becomes their identity.  Ten years later they might be a new generation of Knowle West Media Centres, or Park Centres.

2) Seeding lots of small things

  • This route starts by seeking out local individuals or groups who have ideas which might improve the community, and then providing them with small amounts of human support and/or funding.  This is what UnLtd’s Star People fund does in tandem with Big Local. It’s also part of the rationale behind participatory budgeting like in Windsor and Maidenhead.
  • But can also be non-financial – like offering time to help turn ideas into reality (like NANM’s own work on Media4Me where we enabled a community radio station to deliver a project they had planned but were too stretched to deliver).
  • Seeding lots of things, means failure is expected, and part of the process – but over time these approaches could reach enough individuals to create a critical mass of people with more capacity and confidence which in turn inspires others.

3) We do therefore we fundraise

  • This is a different mindset from community organisations where the main focus is the activities and services and where grants are a means to an ends. This is more like the model adopted by of national charities like Macmillan but on a local scale where the goal is to create a strong fundraising capacity in parallel social action and services.  Some Big Local areas like Rastrick for whom innovative fundraising and creative ways of getting people involved are one and the same thing.
  • There are existing examples too, like the Shoreditch Trust and the Alt Valley Community Trust for whom being brilliant at fundraising and creating income are as integral to their model as their brilliant community services.

4) Building on the last thing

  • Does a truly ‘new’ community group ever really form? It’s hard to imagine an individual who could get people together in their community who was not already connected in some way.
  • In two London neighbourhoods Barnfield (in SE London) and White City (in W London) the leadership for Big Local and for Neighbourhood Community Budgets came from community groups which had been set up for a previous community-change project – in these cases Well London.
  • These groups have already done the hard work of learning how to work together and get things done.  But at the same time, it’s only natural for them to approach these new projects as a chance to pursue (as far as the rules allow) the goals and ambitions they have spent the past five years developing.

5) Changing the Rules

  • Places and communities are shaped by the rules they operate under. And another route is to exploit new opportunities to change the rules.   Queens Park Parish is one of the best examples, where the new legal right to create Parishes with revenue-raising powers has been used. The new household-levy which they have been able to set forms a permanent source of revenue and guarantees its future.
  • Another example are the community groups using the new neighbourhood planning rights like Upper Eden in Cumbria to tackle local problems (in Upper Eden’s case it’s affordable housing).  Free Schools are another example.

What do you think? Might these kinds of distinctions help or hinder us in understanding how to make change happen now, and where it might take communities in the future. Has all this been done before? Or do you have another way to cut-it?

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What’s in the Plan Stan?

We’ve spent the past few months reading as many community-produced plans as we can from Big Local, as well as other neighbourhood-change projects -  especially neighbourhood planning and neighbourhood budgets (now called Our Place!).

As part of  this we held workshop on 18 June in Barnfield, SE London getting people together to share plans from different projects across the country to see what they have in common. The answer is… a great deal! Common factors included  – reflecting community aspirations more than those of public agencies, capturing and empowering individual action as much as action by groups of formal bodies, and an underlying bias towards inventiveness, entrepreneurialism, and creativity.

We heard from Donna at Voluntary Action Camden about neighbourhood planning in two very different London communities – Somerstown, a community dominated by social housing sandwiched between two mainline stations, and Bloomsbury a community on the edge of London’s West End with extremes of wealth and poverty.

We also heard from the Barnfield Community Group about how they are using the energy and expertise they developed through five years of Well London, to now develop a Big Local Plan to use £1m of Lottery money their community has received.

Jenny Frew from CLG also talked about the ‘community rights’ support which communities can use for free via http://mycommunityrights.org.uk/my-community-rights/

* NB – a few days later CLG then launched  Our Place! which is a massive expansion of neighbourhood budgets with a £4.3m enabling budget

And we heard from the chair of the Grove Park Community Group about how they are looking for ways to make positive changes happen in their neighbourhood whether that’s through community planning or other ways.

If we were getting really carried away we’d say there’s a bigger theme here of de-institutionalising and re-humanising communities, tapping into personal passions, enabling enterprise, and creating value. We might even argue this points to a new breed of community action or even a ‘movement’.

We were also struck by the language CLG used around community-led change in relation to neighbourhood budgets – (and the newly launched Our Place!) which was quite a shift from what began as much more local authority-led processes two years ago.

And another thing we found interesting were the routes these and other projects look like they might be going down. For some it’s too soon to say what route they are on – but some seem to have chosen different routes which might take them to quite different places. See our next post for more on this.

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Media4ME in Fishermead – project story and update January 2013

For the past two years we have been working with communities in Fishermead, Milton Keynes on a project called Media4ME.  It’s part of a six-nation EU programme co-ordinated by our partners Mira Media in the Netherlands and David Wilcox of Socialreporters has also been working on the project with us.

We have a presentation about the Media4ME project here. And we have written a more detailed report here.

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The project has used an asset-based approach to community empowerment, seeking out individuals with their own ideas and plans, and using the project resources to help them.  We have also put concerted effort into connecting up those individuals so they can make a bigger difference. Continue reading

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