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Insights from Live Q&A: help and support from My Community

Gemma Petty author photoGemma is the Network Officer at CDF. In this blog she recounts the highlights from our recent Q&A session. We spoke with representatives from Co-Operatives UK, LGA, Locality, NALC and NAVCA about the exciting new My Community Network and support.

On 1 April we held a live Q&A on the Just Act forum on My Community and the My Community Network. Over the course of the day, nine different sessions took place, each focusing on a different aspect of My Community that you can get involved with. It was a brilliant way to introduce everything in one go!

I was joined by Stephen Rolph, Bec Speidel, Lyn Kesterton and Deb Appleby, all from Locality, Justin Griggs from the National Association of Local Councils (NALC), Simon Borkin from Co-operatives UK, Barney Mynott from National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA) and Patricia McMahon from the Local Government Association (LGA).

There was also a number of community groups online to join in the discussion and ask questions. Everyone had lots to say about the exciting ways that the Network will help people to work more closely together and achieve even more in the future. You can read the full discussion here, or keep reading for the discussion highlights.

What is the My Community Network?

The Just Act forum is now home to the My Community Network: a place where you can ask questions, chat to experts and connect with others who are running community projects across the country and are passionate about their area. It’s an interactive support network open to anyone who’s interested in community development. You can find out more how to join and about the benefits here.

My Community website, advice service and help centre

In the first chat of the day, Stephen from Locality introduced the new My Community Help Centre, explaining:

“The network has been set up to be the place to come to find out more about the My Community programmes, the associated grants and other relevant topics, such as the use of the Community Rights.”

Later on, Bec from Locality went on to explain that the new programmes, grants and networking had launched that day – applications are now open for the First Steps, Our Place, Community Ownership and Management of Assets (COMA), Community Economic Development, Neighbourhood Planning and Community Buildings grants and support programmes.

Head to My Community to find out more about each programme and how you can apply.

Barney from NAVCA also dropped in to chat to us about how infrastructure organisations can benefit from being involved with the network:

“Infrastructure organisations will often be the first place that local groups and people turn to for help. Having a network where they can get information and knowledge will be really helpful. It allows them be able to provide expert advice even if they have not got the resources to have the expertise themselves.”

How can local government and communities work together?

Patricia from LGA discussed the ways that the Network will help local government work together with members of the community, the voluntary sector and local businesses to share expertise and experience.

“There is an ever increasing cohort of areas, communities and councils that have worked successfully together to change their areas for the better. It is important that these innovative ways of working (where replicable) are shared amongst other communities who are just starting their journey”.

She also mentioned what some of the challenges could be in trying to work together in this way.

“The main challenge for community organisations is trying to identify those services that local or community-led delivery can do better and cheaper than current providers, or services you can deliver that have the potential to reduce demand for services. From the councils’ end it will rely on them looking seriously at what neighbourhood community budgets can offer in their area.”

Other funding and support

Throughout the Q&A, we had a couple of people ask questions about applications for capital funding.  Stephen from Locality suggested that the local Council for Voluntary Service (CVS) is a great place to start to find out more, as well as the Funding Central website which is another great resource and does a lot of the hard work for you in terms of searching for opportunities.

How can town and parish councils get involved?

Lyn from Locality gave us an inspirational example from Ferring Parish Council using the Community Right to Build. You can read more about this here.

Deb from Locality and Justin from NALC talked about Neighbourhood Planning, Our Place and the great things that town and parish councils’ are doing across the country to get involved.

“There’s so much great stuff going on by parish councils so they can only benefit from getting involved in the network and learning from what is happening elsewhere.”

How can the Network benefit local economies?

Simon from Co-operatives UK was online to chat about the new Community Economic Development programme. CED is designed for local community groups and organisations who want to take a lead in shaping their economies for the benefit of local communities.

He gave us an insight in to the exciting results we can expect to see as a result of being involved with My Community.

“We’re keen to see all sorts of planned activities – whether that’s working on a strategy to promote local spending, exploring the possibility of developing a rural broadband co-operative, or working with key organisations to promote community-led housing. This programme wants passionate people who are committed to working together on a local economic plan that can deliver real local benefits”.

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