Engaging the Community

Kate Hellard, Community Projects Officer

What we’ve done

In 2013 Frome Town Council (FTC) delivered Participate Frome, using the Nurture Development ABCD model as its basis. We asked residents what one thing they would change and how. They answered: men’s clothes shops in the town, a more pedestrian friendly town centre, to tackle dog poo, anti-social behaviour and to create more leisure opportunities for young and old alike. This gave us a base line but did not necessarily help local people make change themselves. In addition, many of the hottest subjects seemed to be out of the influence of the town council.

Moving to 2016 we contracted a Community Connections pilot project to run in three specific areas of the town to help us better understand the conditions for change and look to empower residents to affect change in their communities.

Throughout we have built town wide initiatives with statutory and non-statutory partners seeking to address many of the issues identified in Participate Frome and earlier in the 2008 Vision For Frome Community Plan.

A new approach to Community Development for 2018.

The main aim of this work is to better enable individual communities within the town to support themselves. FTC’s role will be to build on earlier work with groups within those communities and broaden the engagement to involve other local people.

Working with residents and businesses, the task will be to clearly identify not only the issues faced by local people but also where the combined resources of the community can make a difference. This will not be a talking shop – rather the expectation is that there will be real action on the ground with FTC acting as an enabler.

We will trial an approach to community development in Frome based on Nurture Development’s ABCD model which has been successfully implemented in other parts of the country. It involves mobilising people to act on things they care about and want to change in their own community. Skills, knowledge and other resources are valued, connections are made between residents, local organisations and informal community groups to build strong relationships and social networks.

The role of the community development worker

It is important that the role of FTC in community development is to support and, where appropriate, coordinate community members to come together. A key element of this work is to grow projects from the bottom up, whilst shar-ing examples of opportunities that may be relevant and achievable from both FTC’s portfolio of existing projects and further afield.

There is a single point of contact within the Council, who will:

  • Facilitate gatherings of local people (focused on practical projects and getting to know each other)
  • Identify and work alongside community ‘activists’ in each community.
  • Work with businesses, developers, housing associations and other organisations to identify opportunities.
  • Draw on the resources and time other staff and councillors so that the benefits of our initiatives such as litter campaigns, Share, Community Fridge, Car Club, charging points, renew-able energy, street parties, play, sport participation, micro providers and Health Connections can be experience more widely
  • Be accessible and where appropriate take an enabling role helping to create new projects, form residents’ associations, friends’ groups and similar.

How the project will be managed?

A group of staff and Cllrs will take a strategic overview of the work, ensuring that outcomes are identified and communities are supported appropriately. We will invite councillors from all three tiers of local government and address any issues as they arise. Other organisations will be invited to make a contribution where necessary.

Measuring success

The measurement of success will be that community members report that they have a greater sense of connectivity, health and wellbeing; and that commu-nities are working together to overcome issues and challenges as they arise. This in turn will result with successful projects in place

Reactive support for community organisation

Underpinning this work is our work in recent years to support the thriving and vibrant third sector in Frome – a large number of charities, CIC’s, sports clubs, community organisations and other groups. Our support is intended to ensure that they continue to meet increased demand for their services and projects .

Over the course of the last year, FTC has been approached by 42 organisa-tions and 5 individuals / businesses for support and advice. Their issues and enquiries ranged from advice on setting up a new group, formalising existing governance and fundraising. Fundraising is usually their initial reason for mak-ing contact, but we often find governance issues are also underlying.

The support is tailored to meet the needs of each group, with an initial meeting to identify specific areas of concern / advice sought. We use a facilitative ap-proach, with staff and trustees to ensure there is a shared vision and realistic goals where budgets and financing are carefully considered.

Through this work we have seen organisations move from crisis to more stable and sustainable positions. Organisations become resilient and therefore services are significantly less vulnerable. This making them better placed to meet increased demand and an ever changing, challenging, funding climate.

Community group training

We also offer a comprehensive training programme. Already this year around 50 organisations have attended the training programme, Discuss and Do events and volunteer forums. We review the programme on a regular basis to meet current need. recently a number of schools looking for advice around fundraising for extra circular activities led to a well-attended and successful schools training recently.

Volunteer Frome

Volunteer Frome is an online platform providing a volunteer service for the town. Delivered by SPARK and supported by a Volunteer Frome Coordinator who is funded, this year, to engage more young people in volunteering in the town. It essentially matches opportunites to individuals and helps to address the changing shape of volunteering.

Community groups newsletter

The newsletter offers groups a means to keep up to date with training, funding and networking opportunities, as well as providing a space for to share news and highlight initiatives that we are involved in. It has proved very popular.

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