The second session of the LGiU Civil Society Innovation Network took place on 23 January 2012, and brought together members of the Network, with Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, Minister of State for Decentralisation and Cities, London Borough of Sutton, the University of Manchester and Locality to discuss issues around knowing and developing communities.
There was a particular focus on:
- Engaging with communities
- Mapping community priorities
- Capacity building
- Community led commissioning
- Community action
- Sharing best practice
Knowing and developing your communities
Liz Richardson, Research Fellow, for the Institute for Political and Economic Governance at the University of Manchester discussed her work looking into how to develop communities and get to the heart of understanding what they want. All agreed that if you know your communities and their their aspirations it can help to prioritise services and make decisions. However, we all know that asking communities what they think is not as simple as it sounds; sometimes communities don’t know what they think and they can give very exaggerated points of view (mau-mauing). This can lead to decision makers feeling cynical about community aspirations when they have to decide what to prioritise.
Liz’s presentation covers these complex points, and discusses a very practical method that decision makers can use to help decision making: ‘getting to yes’.
London Borough of Sutton: Big Society Vanguard
The Leader of Sutton, Cllr Sean Brennan spoke about the work that they have been doing as one of the Big Society Vanguards. This short video gives a full outline of their projects:
The Community Organisers Programme
Naomi Diamond spoke about the new £80 million Government funded programme to train 5,000 community organisers over the next fours years. The organisers, who will be recruited and hosted by local community organisations will listen to residents in their homes, on the street and where they gather, and they will listen to public service and third sector workers, small businesses and local institutions to help ‘develop their collective power to act together for the common good, as identified locally’.
There was some challenge in the room about the programme, for example, why parish councils couldn’t host the organisers and how they would work alongside elected members (who perform a remarkably similar role to the organisers). Broadly however, most people were positive about the possibility that organisers can offer another layer to understand local communities.
Please feel free to get in touch for more information on the Civil Society Innovation Network on @laurawilkes. Remember that you sign-up to receive notifications of the Network, as well as updates on all other LGiU projects – to do so, please follow this link.