Katie Lee works for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) as part of the Our Place Team. In this blog, she observes lessons for community projects from participants in the Our Place programme.
I’ve been lucky enough to have had the chance to get out of the office and visit some inspirational Our Place areas over the last few weeks. Thanks to everyone who has made me feel so welcome and for sharing their thoughts on Our Place.
For those of you who don’t know, Our Place is about redesigning public services, at the neighbourhood level in conjunction with the community, to harness the valuable knowledge and skills of local people and ensure that services better meet the needs of the people using them.
I’ve pulled together some of my observations and lessons learnt from the teams. If you have any top tips for those thinking about giving Our Place a go, let us know in the comments below.
1. Committed individuals can move mountains
One of the most striking things from our visits is the energy, enthusiasm and sometimes sheer bloody-mindedness of the project leads and their partners. Everyone we’ve met, up and down the country is committed to making a real difference in their neighbourhood. A prime example of this is Somers Town where the community association hosts community organisers (a national training programme in community organising and a grass-roots movement for social action), is co-ordinating the production of a neighbourhood plan, and using Our Place to deliver an employment and training hub.
2. Business matters
When you think about redesigning public services, local businesses may not necessarily spring to mind as key partners, but in fact, you’d be missing a trick if you didn’t involve them. Involving business is at the heart of the Our Place approach in Benwell and Scotswood in Newcastle. Skillsbridge, who are leading the project, match the skills and talent of those in local business with voluntary organisations that could use a helping hand.
Skillsbridge is working with voluntary organisations, service providers and businesses to support and stabilise families in the area and then help people move into training, and work opportunities.
3. Wisdom doesn’t just come with age
Ellistown and Battleflat parish council in Leicestershire is working with local young people to create effective youth services.
After the decline of youth provision in the area, the parish council wanted to do something to create new activities for young people and who better to say what they want than young people themselves?
The council has established a youth council which acts as an advisory body to the parish council and young people can speak at parish meetings.
4. Be bold, think big
Nottinghamshire Police are trialling a number of different approaches in neighbourhoods to reduce the number of emergency call outs. They are working on lots of different strands e.g. reducing domestic violence, reducing anti-social behaviour, and in recognition of the fact they can’t do it alone, they’re working with a range of different partners to identify solutions and prevent problems arising in the first place.
They’re tackling some complex issues but are not afraid of failure and to learn lessons – if you don’t give it a go, you won’t know.
5. A problem shared is a problem halved
Many of the projects we’ve visited have told us of the importance of talking to others doing similar things to gain insight into how to overcome barriers, gauge progress and share learning. The peer support hubs that have been created as part of the programme are proving a real success.
The programme has Our Place Champions and Our Place pioneers are getting out and about and sharing their experiences which is going down really well and we’re always looking for more Our Place Champions, so if you’re interested head over to the My Community Rights site to find out more.
We’re also keen to use Just Act to get areas talking to each other so whether you’re on the Our Place programme or not, we would love to hear from you about your work to transform services in your neighbourhood in the Just Act Forum.5 Things DCLG have learnt from Our Place Areas,