For a while now NESTA has been working to learn more about how best to support people to take a lead on changing their communities for the better.
We found out how innovative and powerful local groups can be when tackling CO2 through our Big Green Challenge. We’re learning more about how best to support older people as they come up with and run social businesses to improve their communities through our Age Unlimited programmes. We’ve learned a huge amount from these programmes and others like them.
Most of all, we have seen that there is huge untapped potential within local communities, that people really do want to make a difference in their areas and that given the right kind of support and finance, the results can be genuinely inspirational.
So, we’re now at the beginning of a really exciting new piece of work called The Neighbourhood Challenge.
This will see NESTA working with community organisations of many different kinds to understand how they can draw out, stimulate and support local people to take action on issues that matter to them in their neighbourhoods.
It’s a fantastic opportunity for community organisations to try out their own approaches to community organising and small scale finance with the ultimate aim of finding and releasing untapped potential, skills, time, ideas and the many other strengths that lie within their chosen neighbourhoods.
We have had a huge amount of interest in the programme with around 600 community organisations making an application in round one. Last week we ran workshops with around 50 of those groups.
They came from right across England, battling through adverse weather conditions to learn more about how they could develop their ideas to become one of the 10 organisations who will funded and supported by NESTA to trial their approach to organising from February 2011- February 2012.
The programme is about learning from the people who are actually working on these issues at a local level, but it is also more than that; it is about understanding how to transform local society for the better through enabling people themselves to take a lead on local issues.
We will be developing innovative ways to draw out findings from the projects throughout the programme and aim to share those insights with local authorities, umbrella bodies, government, community organisations and funders of all kinds in order to work together to change how things are done.
And at the heart of the programme, I hope that The Neighbourhood Challenge will help many more people understand their own potential to change things together, and to take a lead on tackling the issues that matter most to them.
It’s about getting together, knowing your neighbourhoods better and improving things locally, where before, you might not even have known your neighbour’s name.