Community power. It’s something we’ve seen a lot of in recent years, with communities looking after each other during Covid-19, increased devolution of political power across the UK, and a growing movement that looks to put local people’s voices at the heart of change.
This approach is central to our work at TPXimpact, as we support public bodies to give people the power to shape the places where they live and the services they use. It’s also why we were proud to partner with New Local as headline sponsor of this year’s Stronger Things event, which focused on growing the community power movement.
This two day event was packed full of talks, workshops and inspiring examples of how politicians, designers, public servants and community leaders are driving a fundamental shift in how people are treated and services are run.
So what exactly did we learn?
The importance of building strong local networks
As Adam Lent, CEO of New Local, said at the very start of this year’s Stronger Things, we don’t have to look far to witness the power of local community action.
Nowhere was this more evident than throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, where centralised, top-down approaches to things like contact tracing failed, and communities and local authorities stepped up to fill the gaps. This work built on the deep knowledge and existing networks of local charities and support groups, who had credibility and relationships that could be mobilised when the crisis struck.
It’s what we call a hyper-local approach, and you can read more about its benefits, including practical steps for success, in our new book Multiplied: How digital transformation can deliver more impact for the public sector.
Putting people’s voices at the heart of change
The importance of involving communities in local initiatives in this way was demonstrated at Stronger Things by TPXimpact’s Community and Political Engagement Director Claire Hazelgrove, whose talk focused on putting people’s voices at the heart of change.
Speaking about our work creating Blackpool Council’s Climate Assembly, Claire highlighted how this initiative gave residents a way to get involved in an issue that matters to them. As Blackpool Council was only responsible for 3% of emissions in the local area, they knew it was vital to bring the community together to take the wide reaching action needed.
Throughout this project and in general, we see that this kind of work gets better results. Incorporating people’s lived experiences into solutions creates buy-in, helping them to be the change they want to see in the world. This in turn encourages local people to engage with their communities in further ways, enabling authorities to do more with limited resources.
Community power: how do we make it happen?
Community engagement like this increases wellbeing, because it gives people the services and infrastructure they want to see in their local places. It’s a fundamental stepping stone towards empowering communities — for people to feel like they have ownership and control over what happens in their area.
This is the focus of our Community Engagement and Participation Managers Craig Morbey and Tom Chigbo, whose Stronger Things workshop looked at ways organisations such as local councils can establish and grow true community power.
In “Community power: sounds great but how do we do this?” participants were invited to think about their own ambitions for empowering communities and how to make this happen. Each group considered an aspect of the TPXimpact community power maturity assessment — eight quality standards that describe what good practice for community engagement looks like.
From having a strong vision and strategy, getting leadership on board, and making sure community engagement is inclusive and diverse, over 100 participants shared learnings from their own organisations.
As these conversations showed, true community engagement has to be done in the right ways and requires commitment and resources to be successful.
If you’d like to find out more about how we help organisations engage with their local communities, get in touch with our team today.
Wrapping up Stronger Things 2022
Whether it was hearing from community champions in politics, healthcare, or independent networks, we’re really pleased to have been part of Stronger Things 2022.
As Claire said after the event: “It was fantastic to spend time sharing ideas with others who are equally passionate about putting people’s voices at the heart of change.”
“No matter where organisations are on their journey, there are always ways to take the next steps forward, and we’re here to help public sector and third sector organisations do just that.”
On that note, we’re keeping the conversation going with a follow up event with New Local on 28 April, Community Power: Making the dream a reality. Subscribe to our newsletter for more updates.
You can also read more about empowering local places in our book Multiplied, written by TPXimpact Chief Designer Ben Holliday. Available to buy now!
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