On Tuesday I went to Nesta’s ‘Community Organising for the Big Society’ Event. Following our recent work in Barnet, I was interested to see other people’s approaches to engaging and working with communities to build capacity and encourage grass roots enterprise.
The goverment’s plan is to have 5,000 people become ‘Community Organisers’. There is no further information about the role other than that the organisers will be “unpaid – it seems?!” and will have to find funding for their communities themselves.
The aim, as I understand it from the speakers, is to mobilise communities to work together, solve challenges and help people start groups and charities. The community organisers will have to find sources of funding themselves. In doing this, the government hopes to support communities, improve democratic accountability, to reduce people’s dependencies on local services and reducing inequalities.
Some of the challenges highlighted were around the lack of community maps, skillfully recruiting volunteers, supporting them in the right way, training people up, making the proposition effective to communities, maintaining a local focus and enabling broad participation of diverse groups.
I was impressed by Turning Point’s social enterprise, Connected Cares, models of working with communities, where commissioners and community researchers work closely to solve challenges.
A lot of our work does this, and I know that the success of such master plans require very amazing, inspired, confident people. Because people make communities, I want more emphasis on really understanding the ways that they can support less advantaged people to be part of such an idea. I believe that to make this type of change happen, you need to enable individuals by equipping them with buckets loads of confidence, motivation and local networks. Without this understanding and support the programme will fail.