Can ultra-local approaches to creating employment work? In Liverpool’s Clubmoor, residents are working together to build new enterprises and help keep money local, as Suzanne Quinney and Lianne McGinnes explain
Local people are often very aware of the employment and enterprise challenges in their area, including macro-economic ones, but they are also clear about the strengths within their community.
The city of Liverpool is putting in place big programmes around building people’s skills, but based on our experience in the Clubmoor area of the city, we believe that local, individual support and action is also needed to realise the potential in the community and help people get back into the labour market.
Residents in Clubmoor have been taking this kind of community level action, using support and funding from the Big Local programme.
Funded by the Big Lottery Fund and managed by Local Trust, the mission of Big Local is to support residents to improve their area over at least 10 years, according to the priorities and vision they choose.
Community conversations and connections
Ideas for a better local economy in the MyClubmoor Big Local area stemmed from residents making connections and having conversations with other individuals in their community. During the process of developing their vision they had more than 1500 conversations – and this networked approach has continued to permeate how they do things.
With help from residents we mapped the money coming into the area, the jobs and the drivers of the local economy. These include supermarkets and local shops, schools, housing associations and public services. A big issue for the local area is that there aren’t enough jobs here and among those jobs that exist, we are seeing a decline in wages. Income – and how to increase it – is a big issue for people here.
‘The mapping process helped us to understand the
huge strengths and assets of local our community’
We also looked at where money is leaking out. The closure of two local butchers has impacted the high street and local pubs are suffering from reduced incomes, as people choose to drink at home or go into town. Payday loan companies are thriving.
Suzanne was able to give the residents additional input and support on the topic of social investment and some ideas around what’s needed to help create a vibrant local economy. The illustration below, developed during a strategic conversation that residents had about how to build and support the local economy, give an indication of the things they decided to focus on. The vision is to bring more enterprise and money into the area and stop it from moving out. In other words, to make money stick!
Identifying where money is leaking out shows the opportunities available. What more can supermarkets do locally? Can we create alternatives to payday loan companies? How can our high street be a more vibrant place? What kinds of jobs can we create locally?
The mapping process also helped us to understand the huge strengths and assets of local our community, and find ways to build on those and on the local relationships that exist.
Identifying and supporting local enterprise
As the process developed, residents began to focus on identifying actual and potential entrepreneurs in the community, and finding small and significant ways to support them.
They set up their own local awards scheme that allows people to try out their ideas and, if they succeed, to develop and nurture that idea.
Through the awards scheme, a local tree surgeon was awarded a grant to buy a wood chipper. This doubled his productivity and he was able to expand his business and appoint another employee. He also now sends his wood chippings to the local allotment.
Another young man trying to develop a business making children’s ‘mud kitchens’ out of pallets was given a grant to help him expand. He was also supported to access a credit union loan so that he could buy a van – and he helps the environment by going out picking up discarded pallets.
Residents of all ages have become engaged in the process, including young people. We asked residents to answer the question, ‘If we gave you £500, what would you use it for?’. The winning response was 10 year-old Ella’s fantastic idea of a fashion show of clothing made from recycled materials, that promoted the MyClubmoor vision and plan.
Most recently, our ward’s three allotments came together to submit a ‘garden allotment challenge’ idea, which will encourage local residents and schools to grow their own fruit and vegetables.
The importance of individual support
In keeping with the focus on individual support, Lianne has developed a peer coaching model to support local volunteers. Her strengths-based model draws on Appreciative Inquiry, Appreciative journaling, Myers Briggs and PATH (Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope).
Nine people have gone through the coaching so far. Two have got jobs, six are now trained peer coaches themselves, and for two people the process has helped them progress through a Recovery programme.
Lianne helped one young person build up his confidence so that he has now got a job in social media. He also helped her run MyClubmoor’s first SOUP event: a way of finding and supporting new entrepreneurs through the simple means of getting the community together to eat soup and hear each other’s enterprise ideas! The community votes on which idea they want to support and the winner receives the donations on the door that night.
Meanwhile, MyClubmoor has linked people into the money and debt advice service run by local charity St Andrews Community Network, which has helped many people in the area reduce their debt. MyClubmoor has also invested in St Andrew’s for the charity to develop and deliver a six-week accredited money education course for local residents.
There will be much more to come from MyClubmoor over the next decade and beyond, and lots more to learn. But our experience so far has been that one key to developing employment and enterprise in Clubmoor lies in looking at strengths as well as weaknesses – not least focusing on the enterprising ideas of local residents and supporting them to succeed.
Lianne is a resident of Clubmoor and a volunteer-turned-worker for MyClubmoor Big Local. Suzanne is a Big Local rep who gives ‘light-touch’ support to residents.