What was the Problem/Issue?
The CPP recognised that the previous ‘one-size fits all’ approach is no longer a suitable approach for enhancing and improvement community participation given the differences across the area (from urban to rural).
Theme: Community Planning and Empowerment
In developing the Local Outcomes Improvement Plan, the CPP agreed to split the area into four localities (Urban North, Urban South, Rural North and Rural South). By adopting this approach, the CPP were keen to learn more and increase their understanding around participation in each of the particular areas.
What helped us to improve community participation?
The CPP has held two participatory budgeting (PB) events (one urban and one rural) which were used not only to commence a programme around PB but also to develop a better understanding of what is required for effective community empowerment and participation in the process. The CPP has also supported community led plans, with partners providing support to ensure that they are delivered. Furthermore, there is a recognition that the Council has a good record on asset transfer.
What were the barriers to improving community participation?
The CPP recognises that affluent areas are better at engaging in the process and therefore it needs to focus on building skills and capacity in those communities who are so far not engaged. In addition, the CPP cannot assume that what works in one area will automatically work in another. The CPP has to date undertaken a number of engagement exercises and evaluations (e.g. around the effect of PB on community engagement teamwork), however the impact or the effectiveness is not always apparent. Its therefore difficult to make a judgement on what works.
The CPP is learning that even though they undertake community capacity building, there is a need to approach the this in a more joined-up manner across all CPP partners. It is hoped that this would bring an enhanced level of resource and experience from across a range of agencies that could be utilised in enabling community to better participate in the decision-making process. It is also not just about the ‘traditional’ CPP partner agencies or council services but that there is an increasing role for schools and Headteachers who have been pivotal to what has been achieved to date. With that in mind the CPP wants to develop new partnerships, e.g. local businesses, equalities groups, young people, older people, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants and existing community participation bodies. The CPP also acknowledges that not everyone wants to engage or participate. Therefore, it needs to understand what people understand by empowerment.