This is a long term community engagement project that we started in 2013 and will to continue to support until 2017. We have been employed by Catalyst to work with the local community to ensure as many people as possible get involved with and get behind the major regeneration proposals for their neighbourhood. As well as facilitating residents’ meetings and other opportunities to empower local people to make their voices heard we also provide independent advice to individual residents and are working with Catalyst to develop a Master Plan.
In the first three months of the project we focused on outreach and relationship building. Preferring the personal touch we delivered door to door publicity to introduce ourselves, explain our role and outline the wide range of ways local people could get in touch (including our free phone number, email address, drop-in’s and outreach sessions).
We then carried out extensive outreach to publicise our service and our role within the project. This involved a face to face survey with the local residents’ groups, the anti-regeneration lobby, resident champions and activists, local councillors, community organisations and services (churches, local school, youth club, safer neighbourhoods policing team, local cafes and pubs) and the housing staff working on the estate.
Following this we set up a constituted Resident Steering Group (RSG) to:
Represent the estate
Oversee the progress of the regeneration
Develop the Design Groups for involving residents in the development of the estate’s planning application
Develop the estate’s Community Involvement Action Plan
Agree topics and agendas for monthly public meetings
Participate in the recruitment of the architect and developer
We supported the RSG to develop the design groups, and worked with Regeneration Officers to create the Master Planning Community Engagement Strategy leading to the phase 2 planning application. We ensured that the local community’s issues, concerns and aspirations all influenced the master plan. This involved working with residents to create a design that not only met their needs but kept within the parameters of what was achievable and likely to achieve planning consent. We then held road shows and events to test, challenge and refine the community’s evolving ideas.
We carried out targeted outreach for specific groups of seldom-heard residents (including the elderly, Moroccan residents, young people and women who due to religious reasons wouldn’t attend meetings attended by men).
Our high visibility and presence on the estate has ensured we have developed a good relationship with the local community as well as a sense of trust as independent advisors. We have increased participation at public meetings and events month by month demonstrating our effective approach at engaging with local people and encouraging residents to get involved.
We identified early wins from the survey and outreach and successfully recognised emerging issues and concerns to address with Catalyst. Our knowledge of regeneration projects and expertise in community engagement frameworks means we can effectively assess the awareness and understanding amongst local people and adapt our capacity building sessions as necessary to address any gaps.
Empowering local people with knowledge and giving them the ability to influence the overall project has led to a real sense of ownership of the Master Plan. Local people appreciate that this plan has taken their needs into account and addressed their initial concerns. The Residents’ Steering Group even hosted an estate-wide event where the final Master Plan was presented. Establishing several constituted residents’ groups to represent the estate, has enabled lots more people to get involved and we are delighted to have seen increased engagement from the Moroccan community.