Community Engagement and Community Development in Hastings and St Leonards

Paul Crosland: Mediation Support Ltd & Community Development in Hastings etc

5th Oct 2010 - Hastings Pier Fire - the catalyst for Mediation Support Ltd to move to St Leonards to “innovate in getting stuck communications unstuck & to model taking responsibility in communities”. The Hastings Observer published the mission as: “We need to act if we want justice”. As CEO, I'm passionate about “finding our power”, articulating our values/needs & getting amazing outcomes out of facing our difficulties. Together we'll generate a “more caring & sharing Hastings & St Leonards”.

I've chosen one film (of 200plus) films to put here as it has been praised for how it unfolds the Community Development Work in Hastings & St Leonards which has been partly shaped by the "Action for Happiness" agenda. Here's a September 2011 meeting with the director of Action for Happiness, Mark Williamson, showcasing & discussing how Hastings & St Leonards have set a lead in a wide-range of Action for Happiness related projects; including developing community understanding and healing in the aftermath of the pier fire:

Why not now try... - "St Leonard's Sharing"?

Notes on Community Engagement and Community Development

This is an extract from a paper circulated on the October-December 2011 University of Sussex "Community Development & Community Engagement course" (10 weeks) which I completed.
(This study is perhaps the most successful UK Community Development work that we were shown)

Over the last 7 years, the Beacon Partnership has achieved a series of dramatic health, educational, law and order, and environmental outcomes. Today, a series of initiatives contribute to the ongoing maintenance of the regeneration process. A purpose built nursery in being constructed, alongside a new youth centre. There are plans for a sensory garden, money has been secured for landscaping the original Beacon site, from which the estate takes its name. A mosaic project for street names and signs aims to bring the young and elderly to work together with the long-term unemployed of the estate.

Case Study AnalysisOur first motivation for seeking to understand the process of regeneration that occurred on the Beacon and Old Hill Estate from the perspective of complexity theory, emerged during a complexity workshop held in 2002. During the workshop, a presentation by Eve Mittleton-Kelly provoked the following response from the author:Although the presentation was nothing to do with community development, I was mesmerized by it. What I heard being described was a process which, uncannily and exactly, mirrored my intuitive responses to ‘kick starting the Beacon Project’. It placed great value on widespread networking and the creation of relationships and dialogue based on trust. Conversations, humility and respect, I now realised, contributed hugely to the creation of that all important enabling environment, which released the resourcefulness of this community to become self- organising and achieve such significant and dramatic outcomes. Sitting through that presentation was one of those rare, life-changing moments of self- enlightenment.The most significant aspect of the regeneration process on the Beacon and Old Hill estate was that, from the outset, there was no initial funding, no hierarchy, no targets, no business plan, only a shared vision of what the community wanted to be, rather than an obsession with what it had to do. Thus, the regeneration process was not a result of a predetermined plan. Rather, the process emerged as a consequence of the interactions between the members of the community, and between the community and its environment, namely the statutory agencies, the police, the council, and so forth. As the community evolved, so also the agencies and professional bodies co-evolved with the community.Prior to these processes occurring, however, it is important to pay attention to how the receptive context for change was created. Not only was the community isolated from the statutory agencies, it was also isolated from and within itself. The common response, when others suffered the effects of crime and vandalism in the community, was one of relief that it had happened to someone else. There was little or no communication, either between the community and the authorities, or amongst the members of the community themselves. Rather, as Bob Mears, the Police Community Liaison and Crime Reduction Officer was later to reflect, ‘there was an attitude among us and other people that everybody who lived on the estate was a criminal. That’s obviously not true, but there was no exchange of information.’The success of the residents’ associations, and then the partnership, consisted first and foremost in enabling relations to be formed amongst the members of the community, for people to begin to talk to each other again. As a consequence, vandalism and crime were no longer seen as other people’s problems – rather, they were problems confronting the community as a whole. In turn, the formation of these relationships enabled relationships to begin to form with the authorities, such that chains of communication between the community and the statutory agencies started to emerge. As trust spread throughout the community, so the community began to be trusted by the authorities, and the community in turn began to trust the agencies. On the basis of the formation of such relations, therefore, we can talk of a co-evolution of trust between the community and its environment. An initial series of ‘listening forums’ ultimately led to the situation where the agencies began actively to glean the views of the people in the community. The change in attitude was captured by Grenville Chappell, the Chair of the Beacon Community Regeneration Partnership: ‘You’ve got to get out there and find out what people want, not sit around and think you know best what people want.’While these interrelations doubtless constitute a necessary condition for the regeneration process, the momentum for that process came from a different quarter, a quarter which bears all the hallmarks of non-linearity. In a linear relation, the cause is ‘commensurate’ with its effect. In non-linear relations, however, small causes can lead to disproportionately large effects. It is precisely this disproportion of effect that propels the regeneration process. In the case of the Beacon and Old Hill estate, perhaps the most striking example of this is the instance of dog-waste bins. The provision of dog-waste bins on an estate is calculated according to a ration based on the number of residents in the estate – not the number of dogs. If, as is the case on Beacon and Old Hill, the number of dogs per capita is higher than average, there is a consequent lack of dog-waste bin provision. On the Beacon and Old Hill estate, the environment was blighted by dog waste. The Partnership worked to deliver a dog-waste bin provision which reflected more accurately the number of dogs on the estate. Within a very short time, dog-waste became a problem of the past. In a subsequent survey of tenants and residents, which sought to determine the single factor that had the most impact on the estate, a large majority identified the provision of adequate numbers of dog-waste bins, and the resultant improvement to the living environment for the community. Here was clear evidence of a dramatic outcome following from a small intervention, and the momentum this gave to the change process was to lead, ultimately, to a community-wide commitment to the betterment of the environment.A key element of complexity theory is the insight that, within a community or organisation, knowledge is distributed, and behaviour is necessarily localised. Macroscopic changes in the behaviour of the community or organisation as a whole are then classified as emergent phenomena resulting from the interactions between the localised changes in behaviour. This necessitates a conceptual shift from the assumption that change must be ‘managed’ from the ‘centre’. A fascinating example of this notion of localisation occurred as a direct consequence of the award of the Capital Challenge funding. While this award provided further evidence to the community of its ability to achieve successful outcomes by working together, it also necessitated, as a stipulation upon which the funding was conditional, the formation of a formal Regeneration Partnership. The effect of the formation of this Partnership, not least in terms of the trust which it built up in the authorities, was a noteworthy break in the traditional working practices of local government. Rather than maintaining sole control of the budget and decision making processes, Carrick District Council agreed to delegate some of its powers, a process which empowered the Partnership, which remained a predominantly tenant-led body, rather than a council committee, to make recommendations to the full council concerning the estate’s progress. As Mike Owen, Senior Housing Officer for Carrick District Council at the time, said: ‘It was quite brave for the authority to extend responsibility to a body controlled by residents.’ While the decision may indeed have been brave, it had the effect of ensuring that it was the specific local needs of the community which were being responded to, with local, directed, changes being the result. Perhaps the most poignant expression of this localisation of the decision making progress is to be found in the way that the Partnership worked together with the tenants to determine the order of priority for the improvement work on the buildings enabled by the award of the Capital Challenge funding. Such localised self-organisation in turn ensured that, for the community as a whole, there was clear evidence of the fairness of the prioritisation of the recladding and heating improvement work to be undertaken.
ConclusionThe Old Hill and Falmouth Beacon estate are a living example of relevant order emerging out of what was in 1995 a chaotic system. The intricate web of interactions which have formed between the community and the agencies hold the Beacon Partnership at the edge of chaos and allow the exploration to involve different individuals in new projects. The self-organisation of new social structures which emerge are able to adapt and respond to changes. There is a sense of agencies ‘acting differently’ in non-traditional ways, forging links outside of their organisational remit which contributes to this emergent order. The visibility of the change is captured in the wonderful gardens on the estate- where once prams and mattresses flourished, there is now a riot of flowers and shrubs, rockeries and raised borders. Work is ongoing to determine whether exchange visits , where communities (beginning to regenerate) are brought to Falmouth to ‘see’ and share stories can act as a vehicle for the possible transference of successful change.
(The above is the second half of the report that can be downloaded directly from

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