In the second in the series of highlighting our partner initiatives, as shared at our Partners’ Meeting in June 2016, Sian Lockwood of Community Catalysts writes for us about their Inclusive Change programme and looks at how this worked in Wakefield.
We all want to live in places which feel friendly, welcoming and safe. We want the places we live to be good places to bring up kids and to grow older. By themselves, neither public services nor local people can make a neighbourhood a great place for everyone who lives there. We need to find different ways to talk to each other, to plan and to work together to create a neighbourhood which allows all of us to have a good life.
The Inclusive Change Programme
Community Catalysts joined four other charities and social enterprises to develop the Inclusive Change Programme. We joined together because we believe that adding on good things to existing systems isn’t enough and may not be affordable. Instead, we think the only way to tackle the challenges that areas face, is to help people in the area to work together to re-design the whole system. Our shared goal is simple: not ‘service efficiencies’ nor ‘demand management’, but ‘good lives in good places’.
The Wakefield Story
What does good look like and how can we achieve it?
That question sets a goal for all services and professionals which is rarely prioritised, measured or commissioned for: the goal of arranging every intervention around and in support of people’s own capabilities. Wakefield Council and their VCS partners had a number of initiatives in place aimed at engaging with local people to agree local priorities and develop and deliver local solutions to local issues.
These initiatives were not always aligned and while in some areas there may be duplication, other areas may be overlooked or disengaged. The people of Wakefield have a strong sense of place and identity with their local community. Many people, through local VCS organisations and individually, work hard to support their community, neighbours and friends. Much of this activity goes unseen and unrecognised, and inevitably there is duplication or gaps. The activity of the council and their partners can cut across and damage positive community action.
Wakefield Council was aware of both the strengths and weaknesses of their current approach and asked Inclusive Change to help them work differently with local people and communities. The Inclusive Change programme focused on people in two Wakefield localities, Knottingley and Havercroft & Ryhill, to find ways to connect with the priorities and contributions of local people, including people who are on the edges of their communities. We wanted to shine a spotlight on what is already happening and support citizens to find ways to make best use of all the assets, resources and initiatives in their locality, identifying and find solutions to any gaps.
Project workers spent time in the two neighbourhoods learning from local people and collecting their stories. We learned that:
- Local people understand local issues better than anyone else but that they might need help to realise this and to share what they know with others in their area
- People are concerned for other people in their community and especially for those who are socially isolated
- Local people already work together to solve local problems and help other local people
- Local agencies don’t always value what is already there and don’t realise the impact of decisions they make or factor local assets into their plans. Sometimes expensive plans were made when much cheaper ones might have had more impact.
- There is lots of duplication of initiatives and activity which sometimes link well with other and sometimes don’t. Alongside this, there are lots of gaps and areas of need that are not always met by local people or statutory agencies.
- Many agencies, charities and business provide funding for local activity but their spending is uncoordinated and fragmented.
- Finally we learned that local people are willing and able to work in partnership with statutory agencies and strategic decision makers to co-design and co-produce more effective approaches.
We also learned that the way in which we worked was as important, if not more important, as what was actually done. Listening to and learning from people, building trust and modelling co-production had huge impact.
At the end of our programme we brought local people and statutory agencies together in each neighbourhood to enable these messages to be shared and for new ways of working to be forged. These meetings had real impact on people working for statutory agencies and helped to build trust between them and local people.
Wakefield Council understood the importance of acting quickly on some of the issues discussed at these meetings and these quick actions helped to build trust further. Discussions at these and other meetings have since informed the council’s new strategy to support social enterprise and develop Local Area Co-ordination.