Changemakers

A Neighbourhood Challenge Project

3 May, 2012 06:49

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We postponed our final event as it was clear that we needed a longer run-in to make it a success. It will now be held on Thursday 24 May. We want it to be a real celebration of the projects delivered through our work in Old Trafford, Moss Side and Collyhurst, as well as an outline of actions in those communities which have followed from our work there. Here are the details:

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History

Museum

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May 3, 2012 at 6:49 am

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ChangeMakers blog

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ChangeMakers blog – 5 March 2012

Since our last blog post we have been working hard on developing things since our three participatory budgeting events in Old Trafford, Moss Side and Collyhurst.

Traffic issues around schools in Old Trafford

We have made some good progress on this issue. We have had a meeting with the police and they have agreed to work with us on this issue. They are preparing a letter to go out through the schools making clear that parents flouting traffic and parking regulations will be dealt with through financial penalties. We will need to hold the police to this agreement, but it is a step in the right direction. We also now have a meeting in the diary for parents and a school head to meet with senior traffic managers from the city council to look at other solutions to the problem.

School Exclusions

Following our gathering of local parents in Moss Side, we have a meeting in the diary with the City Council manager who oversees school exclusions from the council’s perspective in ensuring that young black people excluded from school get alternative education. But it is becoming very clear that there are issues around informal exclusions, and parents feeling provoked by some schools to remove their children from school, which means that the issue is much bigger than official figures would suggest. We are now putting together our submission to the Children’s Commissioner for inclusion in her national inquiry into school exclusions.

Community Organising Training

On the back of our PB events, and our actions, we have been able to run a range of community organising trainings. These will help us build some sustainability into our work by rooting community organising in the different parts of Manchester in which we have been working. Here is a picture of some of the participants on our most recent training which took place a couple of weeks ago.

Successful projects from our Participatory Budgeting Events

A project proposed by Old Trafford News to build a website to add to the reach of their community newspaper was enthusiastically voted for at the Old Trafford PB event. Old Trafford News recently launched that website – very well designed, packed with useful local information, and very easy to access. Here is a picture of some of those at the launch.

The picture shows Guardian Northern Editor Martin Wainwright (right of picture), Trafford Mayor Jane Baugh (centre) along with directors, staff and volunteers of OT Media Plus. It was the first time that champagne has been served at one of our events – and hopefully not the last!

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March 5, 2012 at 2:41 pm

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ChangeMakers Neighbourhood Challenge blog

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The new year finds our Neighbourhood Challenge work focused on the issues that are emerging from the conversations we have had, and relationships we have built, through the 3 participatory budgeting events that we have run.

Collyhurst

This area in north Manchester represents the toughest part of our Neighbourhood Challenge because of apathy, generational unemployment, urban decay, and lack of community resources and infrastructure. Whereas Old Trafford and Moss Side, despite levels of deprivation, are vibrant multicultural communities, Collyhurst is white working-class enclave which feels as if it has been forgotten by time.

Typical streetscape in parts of Collyhurst

So what to do? We need another approach to really engaging people. Our participatory budgeting event was very successful and represented one of the biggest community events that have taken place in Collyhurst. We are building on that, and will be running a community organising training in the area in February. We are also planning a sort of ‘community roadshow’ involving outreach events in different parts of the area to create more opportunities for people coming together and connecting with each other. This approach will be led by members of the Church of the Saviour, working closely with ChangeMakers and people from some of the local schools.

Moss Side

Our conversations with people in Moss Side before, during, and after our participatory budgeting event in the area raised the issue of the disproportionate numbers of young black men who are excluded from school. The stories we are hearing suggest that apart from excluding more black children, some schools are operating a system of informal exclusion. This means that pupils are prevented from attending without going through the necessary legal procedures – it is also illegal. It is also clear that parents feel very disempowered when trying to support their children in exclusion processes and are at a considerable disadvantage in not understanding their rights, and not having the confidence to challenge decisions. A further aggravating issue is that Academy Schools on average exclude at least twice as many pupils as state run schools and, unlike other schools, do not take in pupils who have been excluded elsewhere.

We have a strong group of people from Moss Side now working on this, including parents who have had the experience of their children being excluded. We aim to work with them to build relationships with the various stakeholders in the process. We will also be presenting evidence to the Inquiry on School Exclusions currently being undertaken by the Children’s Commissioner. And we have begun to engage with the city council’s education department.

This is a big and complicated issue going back thirty years and still no satisfactory outcome for black families. We are also aware that schools have real problems with managing pupils with seriously challenging behaviour, and that there are no easy answers. But we are sure that exclusion is not the answer and that the cost of exclusions – both to the pupils, and to their communities – is very high. But the local people working with us are fed up with the endless reports that keep being written on this subject, and are determined that we are going to make some real, practical change.

Old Trafford

We have met with parents groups at 3 schools in the area which are all concerned about traffic issues around the schools attended by their children. Apart from the physical danger to their children, the parents are angry at the inconsideration and disrespect that drivers dropping kids off at school are exhibiting by insisting on parking as few yards from the school as possible, leaving cars on pavements so that others have to walk in the road, and not heeding all the advice and pleas sent by headteachers. The police have tried to deal with this issue, by establishing a presence outside the schools for a while, but as soon as they are not physically present the car driving culture reverts to type.

We now have agreement that these 3 parents groups will come together later this month to agree an action plan, along with members of the local Anglican church who are also getting involved with ChangeMakers work as a result of our activity in the area. They have agreed to work to involve local residents in this action who they know have problems getting their cars out of their drives in the mornings because of these problems, and are the subject of abuse if they make any sort of complaint. The parents have also suggested involving children from the schools in some way in this action, so that this is something that impacts their undertstanding of the issues, and so that they can be part of the pressure on the offending parents.

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January 13, 2012 at 8:25 am

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21 November, 2011 18:06

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Here’s an evaluation of one of the projects people voted for in Old Trafford!

The Big Picnic

On Friday 22nd July 2011 at 12pm children from Seymour Park primary school broke up for their long Summer holiday. This year, along with their parents or adults coming to meet them, they went off into Seymour Park for a celebratory picnic. The picnic was organised by a group of mums from Seymour Park school as a way for everyone to get together and discuss holiday plans, find out what’s going on and enjoy some time to talk while the children played together.

The group had successfully bid for money from Our Cash Our Call. A pot of money distributed by Change Makers using

participatory budgeting, where the community gets a say.

The group had asked for £600 in a bid which Elaine Eland and Louis Baker (her son) had stood up and presented on the 16th July at Old Trafford Community Centre.

The money requested was to pay for picnic items – big blankets; cool box; picnic basket; disposable cups; etc. Toys to entertain children were also purchased – hula hoops; kites; football; etc. A pull along truck was bought to enable the `picnic pack’ to be easily taken to the local park. There was money left over for food. However, the picnic invitation did ask for people to bring something along to share.

Around 50 adults and 100 children attended the picnic. Some people came for a short time, with commitments to Mosque. Others stayed on until 6pm, even braving a rain shower by hiding underneath a piece of tarpaulin that someone had brought to sit on.

There was lots of food.

Fathima cooked a wonderful chicken biryiani while Fiona baked some delicious cake, which we cut up on our picinic trays.

Pervine brought chick pea salad cakes. Vanessa provided some fried chicken.

Amongst the hundreds of cartons of juice we even had pims (fake pims!) with ice and a slice.

The children quickly made good use of the toys, which there just weren’t enough of. The most popular `toy’ became the trolley. Kamal spent at least 2 hours pulling round the younger children in the trolley. A `bus stop’ was created by them and there were many complaints about having to go home at 6pm.

The trolley was used (and built) by Addleshaws solicitors on their team building “Big Week Out”, doing gardening work in St. John’s grounds, the day before the picnic. The picnic pack is now stored at St. John’s Centre and is available for anyone from Old Trafford to come and borrow if they are holding a picnic in one of the local parks. Part of the pack has been used by a local child minder who used it at the event on 28th Sept. to celebrate Hullard Park obtaining a green flag.

I am sure that the Big Picnic will now become an annual Summer event for parents and children at Seymour Park School. The toys will continue to get stuck in trees, squashed, lost and burst and will be something that will need to be replaced. The remaining money will be used to advertise the picnic pack and how to access it in Old Trafford News, after Winter, when the weather warms up for the next round of picnics in parks.

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November 21, 2011 at 6:06 pm

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15 November, 2011 10:35

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ChangeMakers Blog – Update and Learning

In terms of the questions for the blog this month, we hope that our answers are spelt out in some detail below, but in terms of headlines:

² What’s happened this month?

– We ran our third and final participatory budgeting event, in Collyhurst

² What have you learnt this month?

– That our model is working

² What’s been challenging this month?

– Running a big PB event, and research/action teams, and community organising training all at roughly the same time!

² What are you proud of this month?

– That against the odds in Collyhurst, an area of huge deprivation with high levels of apathy, our on-the-ground community engagement work resulted in 130 people turning out at our participatory budgeting meeting despite local cynicism.

Method and learning

Pilots in participatory budgeting to date in the UK have been led invariably by professional public agency staff throughout the process. The PB work we have done with people in Old Trafford, Moss Side and Collyhurst has been community led. Each meeting has been chaired by a community leader, and other community leaders have taken on specific roles during the process. Community leaders have also presided over the PB events themselves. This fits with the community organising principle never to do anything for anyone that they can do for themselves, as this risks taking away their dignity by leaving them as passive recipients of help.

This has meant that the PB events have had a much more grassroots style. They have also involved far more people from the community not only in planning and delivering the PB events, but also in things like providing entertainment during the events.

Because of this grassroots delivery, there has also been much more local accountability. So, for example, people have been very focused on getting voting systems right and amending them when they have could, to ensure transparency and fairness.

But our bringing together of PB and Community Organising has been a key area of innovation for us, and some of the things we have learned from it are:

· local people can be trusted with significant levels of responsibility in delivering events in their area

· We have been able to begin to build strong relationships with local people prior to PB events. We have had the opportunity to make the whole process much more relational, and to spend time getting to know people, and listening to their concerns about their area and their ideas about what needs to change. We have also been able to share with people the basics of the community organising approach, and to tell them how we have already been successful in enabling local people to tackle significant issues in their communities using this approach.

· Running a PB event in an area, particularly one which involves funds for the area, and one which is led by local people, builds up a significant levels of trust on which to build further work. I think the relational approach has also helped develop this trust.

· Developing this trust, and engaging people at a significant level, can happen relatively quickly in a local area – in just a few weeks. One manager at a large housing association said appreciatively after one of our events “we’ve been here forever, you’ve only just arrived and the sun’s already shining on you!”

· The energy created by our PB events has been phenomenal, and has provided us with opportunities to engage people around something which has felt very positive to them, has brought them in touch with so many other people in their community, and has given everyone a sense of what is possible when communities get organised.

· We have had a very wide range of responses from local councilors to our PB events. Some councilors came for the whole of one of our events, and were very impressed with the numbers we turned out, and the atmosphere and organisation of the event. They were also prepared to say this publicly. Other councilors have been entirely disinterested and have not responded to any approaches about the PB events. And in one area, one particular councilor went out of his way to make known his opposition to what we were trying to do, and organized other councilors to boycott the event – and this despite the fact that his local authority is employing staff part of whose job description is to promote participatory budgeting. It is probably true to say that for the most part, councilors were unaware of our longer term ambitions for this project around community organising, or perhaps were less concerned with the direct democracy part of what we are trying to do. Those who dislike our model tend to be those who take an Old Labour, paternalistic approach which in effect is saying ‘we know what is best for the community, and we know what people think’. This approach fails to recognise the value of the relational ingredient in community engagement.

· Bringing together all the people who have won funds for their project has so far been very useful and productive and demonstrated the social cohesion benefits of what we are doing. The levels of interest in other people’s projects, the offers of encouragement and support to each other, and the opportunity to find out more about the community are all invaluable and provide a very solid base on which to build relationships, and to work with people on other community issues as we move into community organising.

Inevitably with a process of innovation there are also challenges. Some of these have been:

· How to move people on from participation in a grants process to considering being more directly active around wider issues in their area. For some people that is quite a jump, and we have had to be sensitive to where people are at on this issue. It is very easy to take the process too fast and for people to feel that they are being railroaded into a process that they haven’t signed up to. So this is about honouring other people’s perspectives, taking sufficient time for people to consider what for them are very new approaches, and in the end allowing some people to be able to say – this is not for me.

· The issue of very low social capital in Collyhurst – the area is desperate, like the place that time forgot! Generational unemployment, no community resources, an architectural layout with lots of space which has become hostile space. Key to success in the area has been the on-the-ground engagement work that our community organiser Amanda Bickerton has been doing. This has simply been very grassroots streetwork. Talking to whoever she can. Visiting pubs, shops, drop-ins, and standing at school gates. The turnout for our participatory budgeting has proved the value of this approach. It has also involved Amanda in giving people a lot of support in preparing their presentations for the PB event, and also just a large amount of reassurance to people. So the extra resources that we put into Collyhurst have been invaluable. Our next challenge in this area of the city will be about whether or not we can take people the next big step into public action around their issues.

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November 15, 2011 at 10:35 am

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15 November, 2011 10:33

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Written by Neighbourhood Challenge

November 15, 2011 at 10:33 am

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15 November, 2011 09:19

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ChangeMakers Blog – 7 Nov 2011

WE DECIDE – our participatory budgeting event in Collyhurst, involved 9 presentations from groups of people in the community, which had been shortlisted by the steering group from 15 initial bids. We were blessed with a wonderfully sunny, warm day – which we are sure made a difference to peoples’ willingness to travel beyond the Collyhurst boundary to attend the event at Manchester Communications Academy.

Local people on the Collyhurst steering group were not hopeful of a good turnout – we’ll be lucky if we get 50 people they said. Everyone was happy to be proved wrong when 130 people turned out.

The turnout represented a very broad age-range, with a lot of families, and a large number of children who were all allowed to vote.

One issue which people felt very strongly about at the event was our rule that people had to live in Collyhurst in order to vote. It became very clear to us that there were a good number of people who had attended to support a local school, or community project and felt cheated by the lack of a vote. Our steering group got their heads together and decided that, because everyone there was so clearly wanting to support Collyhurst, and as every project was going to be delivered in Collyhurst for Collyhurst residents, that everyone would be allowed to vote.

The atmosphere at the PB event was really very positive, and there was a strong sense of solidarity about issues in the community of Collyhurst, and the need to fund projects in the area.

As the steering group had set the maximum grant level high at £2,500 we knew that we would not be able to present many bids as most people were asking for the maximum amount. So in the end 7 out of 9 bids were funded, an 8th bid was part funded, and only 1 project did not receive any funding. This meant a very high proportion of ‘winners’ in the room which added to the positive nature of the event.

The winning bids were:

No Organisation Project Sum requested
1 Saviour Primary School A self sustaining gardening project incorporating a greenhouse, plants, and vegetable area to provide a young enterprise project and fresh produce a low prices £2500
2 Church of the Saviour To purchase waterproof gazebos and outdoor furniture for community events in Collyhurst £1200
3 Irk Valley T & R Association To restart a drama group aimed towards a production for the Diamond Jubilee and to provide positive activities for young people £1200
4 St Malachy’s RC School A new kitchen area for basement hall which is used by community groups for meetings and activities. There is a real need for this now that Collyhurst Youth Club has shut. £2500
5 Saviours Stars A Morris dancing troupe which trains young and older girls to compete in carnivals etc in North West. Encourage team work, make friends. Start up costs and hire of hall £2100
6 Collyhurst Village Tenants Association To resource a series of events to bring the local community together – size of village 4-500 people. Help to foster community spirit and reduce antisocial behaviour £1500
7 Manchester Communication Academy School and community allotment teaching area and conservation site. First open to 60 pupils, then open to community. Need to build and landscape area and buy secure storage container. £2500
8 Luke Wilson, MCA To make a video with Collyhurst children to promote safe crossing of roads etc – no funding for professionals to go into schools so this would be shown in different schools. £2500

Watch this space for some reflection on our learning which we will be adding soon.

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November 15, 2011 at 9:19 am

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