A chance to do things differently

One thing always strikes me when I meet local people who want to change their communities.

It’s their passion and determination to make a difference, often against all the odds. Community reps, local activists, residents, ordinary people: call them what you will, they’re the people who work, often without pay, to improve the lives of their friends and neighbours.

I’m thinking of people like Emma Jenson at Liverpool’s Rotunda College, who made delegates to last year’s British Urban Regeneration Association conference sit up and listen when she described her community’s fight to improve a small strip of land.

People like Diane Cocker, whose drive and determination turned a neglected set of allotments in north Sheffield into a practical learning centre on horticulture and healthy eating.

Or Pam Stewart, who battled ill health to become a volunteer director of a women’s refuge in Leigh, Lancashire, and chairs Urban Forum, a network of voluntary organisations.

People like that are the reason why New Start is supporting Stronger Communities, Stronger Economy – a series of events that are feeding ideas into the prime minister’s Council on Social Action.

The events have been set up to help inform the government about how communities can help each other and build their own resilience through the recession and beyond.

As David Robinson, vice chair of the Council on Social Action, says, it’s ‘a chance to do things differently and create a different future for our country’.

We think that future has to start with the ideas of the people most directly affected by poverty, unemployment and disadvantage.

Not because that’s a nice thing to do if you happen to have a social conscience, but because the evidence consistently shows that regeneration that’s rooted in the aspirations and involvement of local people stands a far better chance of success than schemes and programmes imposed from on high.

We’re holding a discussion in Sheffield on 26 March – if you’d like to take part, you can register your interest here. There are other discussion groups in Liverpool, Stoke on Trent and Birmingham, all feeding into the same national debate. There’s more information about this campaign on the Chain Reaction website, hosted by Community Links.


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