Recent cuts to Bristol City Council’s council, totally £100m over the next five years, have been a hot topic of discussion of late.
It is in moments like these that we need to recognise the ability of local communities to make a difference by taking an active role in creating and delivering local services.
We have the people power to expand these services and make them better – but where do you start when you don’t know how to get involved in local community groups, let alone run one?
Bristol24/7 Partnerships Manager Caragh Jones was recently invited to Ujima Radio 98fm to talk about this issue, alongside South West Regional Development Manager for Locality Paul Hassan.
A roundtable discussion was held involving four local experts who shared their broad knowledge of community development: Claire Goff, NewStart; Carolyn Hassan, Knowle West Media Centre; Alex Kittow, Southmead Development Trust; Jayne Whittlestone, United Communities Housing Association.
The programme was brought together as part of the Good City Economies project and Keep it Local for Economic Resilience, involving New Start magazine, New Economics Foundation, Locality and funded by Friends Provident Foundation.
The first question related to how the community can play an active role in designing and delivering services. “Communities can play a huge role,” said Clare Goff. “Communities have the answers to problems, whether it’s affordable housing or whether it’s enterprise. Creativity comes from communities.”
Alex Kittow gave the following advice, in response to a question about how to get individuals involved in community activities. “Just get out there and do it, is the simple answer. There’s loads of activities and groups, and they all need people to help and volunteer. So get yourself out there and do something if you want to make a difference!”
Listen to the full podcast of the Ujima takeover:
Volunteer groups can be active and achieve a lot, but sharing the actions they’ve taken with a wider audience can be a challenge. Carolyn Hassan suggested using the web and digital inclusion to broadcast community solutions. “We want to share what we’ve learnt and support other communities so that they can take advantage of some of the innovations and ideas that have worked,” she said.
The experts also suggested that communities can help to solve the issue of empty buildings, which is a growing problem in Bristol, and to help find uses for them again.
Jayne Whittlestone had the great idea of repurposing the buildings to address issues of homelessness. “It is an opportunity that we should grab onto,” she said. “We shouldn’t think of a building as just one purpose – a building can have multiple uses.”
Given enough enthusiasm and the right resources, a community can band together and solve many problems under one roof.
It is up to all of us to go out and start doing something if we want to see a change in our neighbourhoods. Get together, and if you want to see change, you can make it happen.
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