The places that matter: what have we heard across England?
CoLab Dudley is a social lab working in Dudley town centre. Run out of a coffee shop on the high street, it initiates and supports ongoing experiments, bringing together unique mixes of local people to address complex social challenges and encourage ‘everyday activism’.
Local places matter to many of us, perhaps even more in a digital age – to meet real people, talk eye to eye. Place matters just as much to young people as older generations. Healthy civil society is rooted in places and even big organisations need local networks of engagement. But – as the Brexit vote showed – people in many places feel unheard, neglected and ignored and are hungry for a new vision and the power to make it happen.
Too many feel the places where they live are forgotten…
“Central UK Government thinks the north ends at Manchester.” Sunderland community workshop
“90% of individual giving goes to organisations in London.” Arts and Business, 2014
…And they have too little power to transform them.
“If the council didn’t do it then nobody did it, but we actually need to get away from that.” Oldham community workshop
“59% of charities said that their boards were not representative of the communities they serve.” Taken on Trust, Charity Commission Report, 2017
Initiatives imposed from outside rarely have the answers.
“An area that has a strong community will get further than a divided one” Gloucester youth workshop
“They send in consultants for hundreds of thousands of pounds to tell us the bleeding obvious. It’s like, thanks, but just give us the money and we would have done that 10 years ago.” Penzance community workshop
There’s a desire for collective visions for the places where we live — and local action to make them happen
“Yeah Marks Gate’ not ‘Urgh Marks Gate’.” Marks Gate community workshop
“What we have in Cornwall is more sun and more wind than anywhere else. Let’s harness that and let’s use it for the people in Cornwall rather than it going to EDF.” Penzance community workshop
“Individuals need to be given ‘permission’ to change things in their neighbourhood, and to understand that it is both everybody’s right, and everybody’s responsibility to do so.” Community Foundation Contribution
People want more spaces and ways to come together, to be heard and to hear each other.
“More common meeting spaces where people feel they are part of something.” Inquiry Funders Conversation
New types of spaces are appearing such as Living Rooms, makerspaces, Fab Labs, cafes
and coworking spaces. And existing spaces and institutions are opening up and inviting people in, like Toynbee Hall, Visit My Mosque, community pubs and libraries, 20’s Plenty for Us, Living Streets and the Church Urban Fund’s Together Network.
Local authorities are reimagining their role —this is a crucial moment of opportunity. There are many places already starting this journey: Oldham with their Cooperative Council ambitions, Essex Council’s priority for people to “control and contribute to their communities”, the Wigan Deal and the Everyone Everyday participatory project in Barking & Dagenham to name just a few.
Local authorities in each of these places are catalysing new and different relationships between groups, organisations and people who live and work there. Longstanding local and national support and infrastructure networks are exploring what role they need to play now and how best to bring people together.