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Big Society and Community Organisers – discussion paper. Prepared by Neil Smith, OCS Policy Manager for Community Organisers and Community First programmes Not a statement of government policy. Overview. Information presented is already in the public domain.

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big society and community organisers discussion paper

Big Society and Community Organisers – discussion paper

Prepared by Neil Smith, OCS

Policy Manager for Community Organisers and Community First programmes

Not a statement of government policy

overview
Overview
  • Information presented is already in the public domain.
  • You will have questions, not all of which I can answer at this stage.
  • All programmes, across all of government, are subject to the outcome of the spending review (SR10), completing on 20th October.
contents
Contents
  • Coalition Government Commitment
  • Overview of Community Organisers and Community First
  • Community Organisers – the detail
  • Case Study 1 Milton Keynes Council for Voluntary Organisations
  • Case Study 2 Balsall Health Forum
community organisers overview
Community Organisers Overview
  • A belief that for all communities, the key to achieving their goals is the ability to be more self-organised.
  • That disaffection manifests itself is in low community cohesion or, for individuals, a low sense of belonging to their community.
  • The measure for identifying these communities is through deprivation and low social capital.
  • The objective is to create higher levels of community action in order to build stronger communities and networks, and to help citizens develop skills and resources.
community organisers overview5
Community Organisers Overview
  • The Prime Minister has committed to training 5,000 independent community organisers over the lifetime of the parliament.
  • The established model for Community Organisers is for them to be self sustaining.
  • There will be Community Organisers throughout the whole of England, but Community First areas will be a particular focus.
  • The funding available for this project is subject to the outcome of the spending review.
community first overview
Community First Overview
  • The Prime Minister has committed to target this programme to the 100 areas with highest deprivation and lowest social capital.
  • Grants will be given to neighbourhoods to encourage:
    • more social action by new and existing neighbourhood groups
    • people to help others and themselves to improve quality of life
    • the localism agenda and core Big Society principles in action
    • neighbourhoods in deprived areas to articulate their needs and influence decisions made about that community, by taking control of the resources needed to make a difference.
community first overview7
Community First Overview
  • These grants will not be handouts, but will be focused on addressing the priorities that a community has identified for itself.
  • Strong link to Community Organisers programme.
  • The funding available for this project and the size of individual grants are subject to the outcome of the spending review.
community organisers background
Community Organisers Background
  • Community organisers will play an important role in delivering the Big Society by facilitating and galvanising local community action.
  • Evidence shows community organisers can do this.
  • Many local communities have an active core of local residents who get involved in improving their neighbourhoods. This is not the case in everywhere.
  • Some communities are fragmented & marred by a lack of trust. Making the Big Society a reality will require more effort in some communities than in others.
  • Community Organisers instrumental in generating and revitalising a community spirit where it no longer exists, increase the effectiveness and capacity of existing local groups.
why do this
Why do this?
  • Increasing number of individuals and communities who are described as disaffected, other common labels include at-risk, disenfranchised, marginalized, excluded, underserved, troubled, alienated or disengaged.
  • The root causes of disaffection numerous & interrelated e.g. low self-esteem, poverty, family breakdown, substance misuse, unemployment and involvement in crime.
  • Manifested as low community cohesion & a low sense of belonging to the community. The Citizenship Survey report shows nearly a quarter of people (23 per cent) do not feel strongly that they belong to their neighbourhood.
  • The feeling of belonging may vary depending on affluence; those living in more affluent areas generally have more positive attitudes towards their neighbourhood.
why now
Why now?
  • People who feel that they can influence decisions affecting their local area are more likely to have a strong sense of belonging to their neighbourhood (82 per cent compared with 74 per cent for those who did not), definitely enjoy living there (74 per cent compared with 62 per cent) and agree that people in their neighbourhood would pull together to improve it (78 per cent compared to 59 per cent).

(As cited in NCVO document The Big Society – the evidence base at http://www.ncvo-vol.org.uk/big-society-evidence/community-power_version_udpated15 July 2010)

why community organisers
Why Community Organisers?

A community organiser approach will strengthen civil society by seeking to empower local communities to act on important local issues.

They will:

  • Strengthen the capacity of people as active citizens through community groups, organisations and networks;
  • Strengthen the capacity of institutions and agencies (public, private, voluntary and community-led) to work in dialogue with citizens to shape and determine change in their communities;
  • Act as catalysts for more social action by new and existing neighbourhood groups, supporting people to help others and themselves to improve their quality of life;
  • Play a crucial role in supporting active democratic life by promoting the autonomous voice of disadvantaged and vulnerable communities;
what will this create
What will this create?
  • The introduction Community Organisers is seen as instrumental in generating and revitalising a community spirit where it no longer exists, and in communities that are already active it will increase their effectiveness and capacity.
  • This can help create conditions under which local people are better equipped to participate in local decision making and to design and deliver local services. In this way, strong civil society can support public service transformation.
what will they do
What will they do?
  • The community organiser role will be flexible and they will be expected to undertake a range of functions:
    • Identifying gaps or failings in services provided by the state
    • Mobilising community support to tackle these gaps or failings locally
    • Helping people to start groups and charities
    • Enhancing social capital and strengthening interactions between all parts of the community
    • Liaising with civil society organisations, the state and the community
    • Helping to secure funding for local activities and their own work
how will they do it
How will they do it?
  • The core principles for community organisers are that they will:
    • Agitate for social action; encouraging awareness of community and individual responsibility
    • Empower local communities to tackle the issues that matter to them, rather than acting in self-interest
    • Devolve decision making to those most affected, promoting a sense of ownership and enabling individuals, families and communities to take responsibility
    • Encourage and support more local social action by developing and supporting the set up of more community groups and social enterprises
    • Liaise, challenge and build links with the local state, including local authorities and Primary Care Trusts; robustly but constructively
    • The ‘community’ can be taken to mean either geographical communities and communities of interest or identity.
what is out there already
What is out there already?
  • There are a range of community organising approaches, including:
    • Citizens UK (primarily London)
    • Regenerate (various places)
    • Church Action on Poverty (Manchester)
    • Together Creating Communities (North Wales)
  • These are presented for information, not as agents
how does community organising fit with existing activity
How does Community Organising fit with existing activity?
  • Complement and work with existing, effective organisations and groups
  • Challenging, supporting, inspiring
  • Bringing structure to communities that have little social capital / cohesion
  • Work with local authorities & other agencies as appropriate (it might not always be...)
slide17
Small scale examples of Community Organising, right here, right nowCASE STUDY 1 : Milton Keynes Council for Voluntary Organisations
  • In partnership with the Open University and Milton Keynes Children’s Fund, the CVO has been running the ‘Community Mobilisers’ programme to develop a range of preventative services to help children and families living in some of the higher need council estates.
  • Community Mobilises engage diverse groups of people of all ages in working for a common cause – the wellbeing of children and families. This involves building people’s confidence, skills and qualifications. Examples of activity include encouraging and training a community group to keep the school pool open during the school holidays. They identified that there was there was know one locally with the experience or qualifications to keep it open.
  • “Soup Kitchen culture is when you just lay everything out for people. When you serve them services. The Mobiliser doesn’t do that. He makes people take responsibility. But that’s hard work. There is much that drags you the other way.” (Evaluation Report 2. P. 23)
case study 2 balsall heath forum
CASE STUDY 2: Balsall Heath Forum
  • BalsallHeath Forum community group has transformed the prospects for local people within a deprived neighbourhood of Birmingham, and in doing so winning national recognition and numerous awards for civic renewal.
  • It began when residents set up street associations to tackle anti-social behaviour, prostitution, move abandoned cars and reclaim patches of derelict land. They then raised the money to employ a full time organiser, held monthly communal meals to which 250 people from all faiths came, awarded communal honours to the most active good neighbours and began to share resources – information or food predominantly – across the neighbourhood.
  • The Forum now employs 15 people who work to do things ‘with’ rather than ‘for’ the community by building capacity creating social capital.
case study 2 balsall heath forum19
CASE STUDY 2: Balsall Heath Forum
  • 2009 LSP survey of 8,000 residents in 31 of Birmingham’s neighbourhood’s. It asked: “do you feel safe in your neighbourhood, proud of it, able to influence events in it?” BalsallHeath top in all three categories.
  • House prices have started to rise and inward investment has risen.
  • What is the cost of success?
    • Police deploy 31 fewer officers, saving £1.3m pa
    • Vice squad disbanded, £350k saving
    • Placing a prostitute before the courts costs £5k, 200 dealt with annually, £1m saved = £2.65m
what have you
What have you?

Questions, comments and discussion