Recently, Deb James from NCVO has been looking at Big Kirk Hallam’s approach to community engagement on behalf of the national Big Local programme.
She then asked the partnership what had influenced the approach to engagement it had taken since the start in early 2013. The partnership talked about this at its April meeting and its response is below. We hope this matches with how residents and partners see how Big Kirk Hallam has worked.
It’s what we’ve always done.
The group recalled the very first meeting the Big Local rep facilitated in January 2013. At the meeting a number of the current partnership were present and remember the exploration of the different ways community members could be involved, with Bill brandishing a bike wheel and suggesting the rim of wider community interest, the spokes of people taking the strain of the action and the small hub connecting these to moving forward. This picture has remained with the partnership, seeking to ensure (rim) large numbers know of and feel connected to Big Kirk Hallam through newsletters, website, events etc, drawing on the (spokes) strengths, skills and commitment of those leading on the action by building vibrant partnerships and clear agreements on who is doing what and to what purpose and retaining a committed and connected (hub) partnership with the majority of residents retaining the vision and giving direction.
What else could we do!
As a group of residents, connected and involved in Kirk Hallam, the partnership feels it was the only way to go. Looking back members simply said “what else could we do?” Thus arose in the partnership a combination of methods. To reach everyone, you have to have a printed newsletter through every door about 4 times a year even if some don’t get read. To be accountable to residents you need face to face opportunities through being seen at others’ events and running your own. To share and discuss plans, you need to work with interested groups and bring the findings to a larger event. To keep a record, you need to see the web as both a live communications tool and an archive. As the chair said, “It’s all there from the very start.”
We had to make a difference from the very start.
For the partnership, it follows from the above that it could not wait until plan approval before making an impact but wanted to and needed to start even in a small way at the earliest opportunity. So within 4 months, it had agreed to apportion half of the Getting Started money (£10,000 out of the £20,000) to the community chest. This meant by June in that first year, funding was already going out to local groups and projects.
We have a story to tell.
The chair describes how the Big Local rep went on (and on) about telling the story, but when the partnership was just starting out, it was not clear what this meant or why it might be important. But Big Kirk Hallam did record and report openly on everything it did from the start through its website and then through other methods like newsletters, email, Twitter and Facebook and events. Looking back, the partnership is proud of its record and that what it has done is open to public scrutiny. It believes that its approach has reinforced success, celebrating what people have done and how Big Kirk Hallam has helped them do it. It hopes and believes that this in turn has been a positive example that others have followed, further building the community engagement at the heart of what Big Kirk Hallam stands for and is proud of.