Last week, the Just Act team attended the Local Government Association (LGA) conference in Bournemouth. The conference brings together Councillors, Local Authority staff and groups working with local authorities (such as charities, businesses and service providers) to discuss the key issues for their areas, share ideas and meet new people.
We had a stand in the exhibitor area, where we were competing with groups giving away everything from the standard pens and bags, to ice-cream and even trees to get people to their stand.
How to get people talking about their communities?
To get people chatting with us, we had a huge board and asked people to write on it what they love about their community. We also had a tray of chocolates which helped attract attention.
We were also asking people to write post-it notes with their favourite community project in their area. It was a great conversation starter, with many Councillors and Local Authority staff talking enthusiastically about all the great work that happens in their communities. Some were even struggling to pick just one to post on our board (we let them do two if they insisted)!
What community projects were people most proud of?
We heard about several community garden projects, with two in particular aiming to support people with mental health problems (Growing Together and A Place to Grow). There was also a dementia café, an arts club for older people and an annual neighbourhood lunch to bring people together and share ideas for the area.
And even people from businesses who didn’t see themselves as part of the community sector, once we started chatting realised that they too were proud of their communities and were aware of the community activity that happens in their area.
One man we spoke to started talking about a colleague who had set up a community nursery and another lady shared that she volunteered at her local judo club for young people.
The Just Act team’s favourite community stories
On each day we chose our favourite project – on day one it was the Friends of Willenhall Memorial Park in Walsall, West Midlands. We met Sean, a Councillor for Willenhall South in Walsall and he told us that the project celebrated 20 years this year, with the park’s membership reaching 10 user groups. Their biggest project to date has just been delivered – they built a skate park to encourage more local young people to use the park.
On the second day we really liked the sound of Bournes Green Community group, which was formed on a social housing estate in Southend-on-Sea, Essex. The group ran a listening event for residents’ views of what they liked in the area and what they wanted to improve. This led to the creation of three new sub groups for residents to focus on: community events, crime and disorder and youth involvement.
We found it was really great to meet people from across the country and share Just Act with them – so hopefully we’ll see some new faces hopping onto the Forum in our live chat next Tuesday and becoming part of the Just Act community.
Charlotte is the Communications and Policy Officer at the Community Development Foundation (CDF).