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Does the answer lie within, for communities?

By Peter Gilheany

25 August 2015
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With a lot of the impact of both the economic downturn and the public sector cuts still to be fully realised, there are many local communities across the UK holding their breath and fearing the worst. Some of them already feel desperate.

Putting aside the rights and wrongs of this situation, it is happening, so what can communities do in response?

One answer is to consider how to bring the wealth of talent, ideas and dedication that already exists within communities to the fore, working together to support that community. It is exactly what one of our clients is doing.

Local Trust runs Big Local, a programme that supports 150 communities in England to make their areas even better places to live. It encourages residents to become engaged in making decisions and leading change in their communities. One of its key ambitions is to make a lasting positive difference by inspiring genuine grassroots involvement and decision making in local areas.

Alongside other initiatives, including work by the People’s Health Trust, Groundwork and the Power to Change, Local Trust is reiterating the importance of enabling people to get involved.

In addition, there is a big opportunity for businesses to get more involved in the local communities they serve. Many already do, of course, but there is so much more scope for involvement, going beyond the traditional forms of support through basic fundraising and employee volunteering. It requires a shift in approach, from considering local businesses as just another potential pot of funding, to considering them as potential partners in the future success and sustainability of a community.

A relationship built on partnership is much more likely to become long term and deliver more substantial benefits. This cuts both ways, and good businesses should be viewing the communities they serve in the same way, rather than as the grateful recipients of their largesse.

Grown-up partnerships of this kind can help to bring all the skills, opinions and resources from both sides to the fore. The first step is to consider what a shared vision for the future of a community looks like, and to work out the roles different elements of the partnership can play, as well as the benefits they will accrue as a result. As ever, it all starts with a meeting of minds.

Image credit: Big Local South Bermondsey’s green space project, London