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Helping residents to lead change in their communities

Last week Local Trust released new findings from a survey looking at whether residents want more control in helping to transform their communities. Our findings show that the majority of us have a strong desire to be given more of a say in decisions that affect us.

Our survey results found that three-quarters of us (76%) think residents are best placed to know what is needed in their community, with two-thirds (63%) willing to help their neighbours and community if there are opportunities to do so.

We believe that a community and resident-led approach is key to creating lasting, positive change in communities, because it builds on the opportunities and assets available, develops the skills and confidence of the people involved, and creates lasting, long term solutions. But, how can we make this happen?

Our Big Local programme provides residents in 150 communities across England with at least £1m, alongside a range of support, to enable them to build their skills and confidence to create positive changes based on what matters most to them. We have seen first-hand that putting residents in the lead has the potential to transform communities because the drive for the transformation comes from within the community.

Here are three tips for anyone considering putting residents in the lead:

1. Invest in local skills and build on the assets of people and places

One of the most important aspects of a resident-led approach is investing in and building on the skills and assets that exist locally, rather than just focusing on need. We focus on enabling residents to share their skills and expertise within their Big Local area. For example Thurnscoe Big Local benefited from a local person who was also a BT employee sharing his knowledge of digital communications to help them set-up an online presence using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and email. Our Big Local evaluation found that 83% of those most involved are learning from those on the journey with them in their community.

2. Be willing to take risks and learn from mistakes

It is important to take a positive approach to risk and be willing to learn through experience. We learn by overcoming challenges and are more committed to the things we have worked hard to achieve. We apply these ideas to Big Local; encouraging residents to gain confidence, try things, learn from mistakes, take time to review and move forward. Through having more control in this way, residents gain greater ownership, which increases levels of local engagement and brings a greater level of respect for developments driven within their communities.

3. Realise change doesn’t happen overnight

Lasting change cannot be created overnight and we cannot expect real, immediate results too quickly. Our approach is based on the understanding that creating lasting change takes time. We know that residents take confidence from this approach: 88% of active community members surveyed for our first Big Local evaluation this year were confident in their ability to make Big Local happen over the long term. And they have time because Big Local lasts until 2027.

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