Presentations, resources, and links to information from our Giving Time event on 19 November 2015 in Birmingham are now available. CLICK HERE to read and download.
Giving time – can volunteers be nudged? A learning event about the Giving Time study – randomised experiments in interventions to encourage volunteering
10.30am – 4.00pm Thursday 19 November 2015, The Bond, Birmingham
In the latest of our ongoing series of free learning and networking events we are delighted to be working with the project team who led the Giving Time research into voluteering and volunteer recruitment.
The Giving Time experiments were led by a team from four UK universities, who wanted to know whether sharing information about how others have volunteered could help to improve volunteering. Whereas previous studies have looked at giving money, this was about giving time – and whether volunteers can be nudged. The methodology was randomised control trial in real-life field settings involving university student volunteers, Parish Councils, National Trust volunteers, and housing association residents. The research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
A day designed to provoke discussion and ideas
We will have contributions from the research team, from organisations who took part, and others involved in citizen science, story-telling, and community animation. Presenters and participants will mingle in fast-paced workshops ranging from Q&As, to participative and arts-inspired formats. Focal questions will include:
In this guest post Emma Smith describes how people around the country are finding that organising a Big Lunch ends up helping them get other things going in their community too.
The Big Lunch is the UK’s annual get-together for neighbours, an idea from the Eden Project made possible by The Big Lottery Fund. The event is becoming part of the annual calendar for communities across the UK. The first Sunday each June is Big Lunch day – Sunday June 7th June 2015.
Big Lunch events can be big or small and they don’t need to cost much when everyone brings something to the table. There is also a free resource to help communities get started – The Big Lunch pack – available at www.thebiglunch.com or by calling 0845 850 8181. It contains posters, invitations, stickers, speedy salad seeds and lots of tips and extra info.
Over the past six years Big Lunches of all sizes have happened in all kinds of communities, in streets, back gardens, parks and community venues. Thousands of events have taken place each year, with a whopping 4.83 million people taking part in 2014.
Last year, when Lara’s next door neighbour mentioned The Big Lunch, they agreed to see if there was an appetite for holding a street party in their Edinburgh neighbourhood. After an initial planning meet-up with some neighbours, the answer was a resounding ‘yes!’
I think it just took a couple of us to take the initiative and get the ball rolling
As Lara explains, “I think it just took a couple of us to take the initiative and get the ball rolling.
“It seems to be a common theme that neighbours have fewer opportunities to meet informally. In our neighbourhood, we’ve seen the closure of the baker, post office, pub and chemist. Some of us lead such busy lives that unless we make an effort, chances are we won’t see or speak to our neighbours. But it turned out everyone was really keen to get-together once the idea was put out there.”
“The real benefits we’ve felt since include a greater sense of community and in building trust. It reduces the anonymity of some of your neighbours. Once you’ve chatted to someone over cake (or chocolate strawberries, or green smoothie, or home made pakora!) what you’ve actually done, without noticing it, is broken down some imaginary barriers.”
Post Big Lunch 2014 research (carried out by Havas UK) demonstrated the positive impact Big Lunch events are having across the UK. 86% of those that took part said they felt closer to their neighbours afterwards, with 8 out of 10 people having kept in touch with people they met at Big Lunches in previous years.
It’s not just the day itself but what can happen after that really makes a difference too, with 64% of Big Lunch 2014 participants saying they went on to do more in their community following Big Lunch events in previous years.
Onkar from London is one example. He wanted to get more involved in his community and to help support the local allotment which he could see from his bedroom. He held his first Big Lunch in 2013 which was an amazing success, with many residents visiting the allotments for the first time. Generosity from the community and local business’ was overwhelming and it raised awareness of the fantastic allotment association in Northolt. Onkar is now planning to set up ‘grow your own’ classes and has recently taken part in Big Lunch Extras program at the Eden Project to help community spirit grow even further.
Our first street party in 2008 seemed to instantly create something special that needed to be built on and we started Home Watch for the estate the following year
In Manchester, Brooklands resident, Paul, also explains; “Our first street party in 2008 seemed to instantly create something special that needed to be built on and we started Home Watch for the estate the following year. The Big Lunch has assisted with our Home Watch scheme and neighbours actively look after each other’s houses when they are away – or even on holiday together!”
And Jo, from a fairly established, yet under -funded rural village near Belfast, helped organise her villages Big Jubilee Lunch in 2012. With many hidden social issues, Jo found that The Big Lunch was a great way to bring people of all ages together and help connect the many different local membership groups. Since their first Big Lunch, Jo has continued to promote community interactions, and has gone on to do lots of innovative things to support local young people including converting a garage into a drop in centre for local youths who had nowhere else to go.
The act of spending a few hours with those we live beside is helping to encourage communities to go on to do much more, become more sustainable and to celebrating local living and sharing – from ideas and conversation to skills and resources.
Those who would like to boost community spirit in their area can get involved by registering for a free planning pack at www.thebiglunch.com or calling 0845 850 8181.
Emma Smith is part of The Big Lunch team.
On 12 March, members of the NANM network met-up in Barnsley to explore ‘Devolution: single or double?’
We also intend to write something that briefly captures the key themes that emerged during the day, and which we hope will prompt further discussion.
We have heard the word “Devolution” everywhere over the past six months; from Scotland’s referendum, to new financial and political powers for Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield. We have also heard increasingly about groups of local activists seizing the initiative in their own communities – to re-open a local pub, to save libraries, or to win contracts to deliver services previously run by local authorities.
The temptation is to see these developments as similar responses at different scales to the same issues; scepticism of Whitehall and Westminster politics, disillusionment with ‘big’ power and big projects, and a widespread sense of traditional power seeming distant and disconnected from daily human local lives.
One reading of all this is that the big devolutionary tilt – in Scotland, and in the English city regions – now just needs to be replicated or given another shove, on a smaller scale and we’ll have achieved ‘more power to local communities’?
We are not so sure. When we meet with others involved in neighbourhood and community projects we often hear them describe their Town Hall or County Halls as feeling just as distant as Whitehall. For many people it seems that shifting power from Westminster to their own city council or local authority doesn’t lead to them feeling decisions are being taken closer to them, or that they have more control. It’s just one group of decision-makers ‘somewhere else’ being replaced by another. The headline priorities of newly empowered cities reinforce this: grand transport schemes and other infrastructure projects; steel and glass, rather than people and communities. The human element is often reduced to workforce statistics – reinforcing our concern that future ‘devolved’ decisions of re-invigorated cities will feel no more focused on local communities than Whitehall’s decisions today (see high speed rail, housing, and healthcare).
And if you study what the more ambitious local authorities are saying about getting closer to communities and neighbourhoods is it really about surrendering decision-making power and budgets to communities? In some cases it is – but more often the stated goals are about building cleverer administrative systems for tailoring services and pre-empting needs. This is smart, necessary and important if public services are to meet spiralling demand, but it is not the same as devolving power, money, and decisions to villages, estates and neighbourhoods.
Yet, almost in a parallel world across the country there is a renewed energy and enthusiasm going into community-led activities to improve or create something right where people live. We have seen this in the take-up (slow but steadily growing) of ‘community rights’ to create local plans, take over community buildings, or to bid for contracts to run local services. We have also see it in the amazing energy which has been collected and released by the Big Local programme where £1million has been offered as a catalyst for change in 150 communities. And then there are myriad examples of new organisations trying to meet pressing needs in their communities in new and imaginative ways, often using technology to turn labour-intensive tasks (like matching users to support, or distributing information) into very simple tasks.
This small and local devolution is not some kind of replica in miniature of city-regional devolution, in many cases it feels like a challenge to the culture and structure of city-regional government. So while the newly empowered cities may quickly start looking like scaled-down versions of Whiltehall, local devolution looks very different; you could even say, the polar opposite.