What was the Problem/Issue?
A group of residents in the Fraser Avenue area in Dunfermline felt they did not have a voice or any control over the area they lived in. The area was stigmatised locally and although there were plans for regeneration by the Council, community involvement in this was not strong.
Theme: Community Planning and Empowerment
The residents formed an action group, and worked with a Community Education Worker over a few months who supported them to build their capacity so that they were better able to raise concerns with the Council Housing Service and elected members. The created a provocation around housing issues which they developed and delivered as a drama. This was highly effective in bringing forward and increasing the regeneration programme for the area.
What helped us to improve community participation?
Critical to the success of the work was the role of the skilled local worker who was professionally confident and saw this as a central part of her job role. The drama based approach that she used with community participants was engaging and helped raise their individual capacity to identify and challenge community issues.
The project developed in a way that there were some ‘quick wins’ for the group, e.g. some actions n response to issues they had raised. This gave them faith that the process was worthwhile and that change could happen. Since the action group was created there has been a range of other high-profile community events in the area including an outreach community hub.
Regeneration in the area was always a key strategic priority, however the work by the action group and a strong commitment from the CPP to change the way things were done helped to progress the work. The project was also supported by some local elected members. These ensured a meaningful process, that resulted in action.
What were the barriers to improving community participation?
There was a lack of confidence and knowledge among local people in tackling issues with large authorities/ organisations, and a lack of faith that change can happen.
Resourcing the participation was a challenge. Crucial to this project were dedicated skilled workers who commit time to this type of work – too often, a result or outcome is looked for earlier than it is likely to happen or staff are thinly spread over many pieces of work.
A further challenge was reaching new partnerships/ new people in the community in order to do things differently and make change in delivery of services.
We’ve learned how important it is to get new people round the table and to work with different partners to get the changes we are looking for in our communities. This is a challenge at a time when welfare reform is hitting communities hard, and may of those who we want to work with have other issues impacting on their lives that are more immediately important. And many services and community organisations are working to meet a much greater demand.
Key to the success of this work, was that it was driven by the community, and that there was a willingness from partners to try different routes to engagement. We think there are some exciting and good examples across Fife of success, and for us the challenge is to get successful share these and good practice across such a large area.