Fun is the key to community involvement

Proper community involvement in the regeneration of
neighbourhoods can only be achieved by focusing on issues that
communities have the power to influence and by making the process
fun, Community Development Foundation chief executive Alison West

She told the joint LGA and SEUconference that it was pointless
to focus on external factors that were beyond the control and
influence of local people. Instead people should concentrate “on
the issues where local community involvement can make a substantial

“While they cannot change the macro-economic forces, they can
make life far better in the meantime,” West said. “There are
internal issues where community involvement is essential.”

She suggested that communities could lead dialogue with the
local authority and other service providers about the type and
quality of services available, and introduce self-help initiatives
and sharing arrangements to improve the quality of life.

West added that in order to involve people in neighbourhood
renewal strategies and in strategy partnerships, it was important
to first draw people in, and then consult, while still retaining an
element of fun.

“Most authorities consult people, get them involved in drawing
up a plan or strategy and then carry out activities. It is much
better to begin with a programme of activities – anything that
engages people will do. That draws people in. It enables you to get
more people involved in discussion, and takes you out far beyond
the rather limited circle of existing activists,” she said.

West added that it was important to give the community a sense
of ownership by placing real assets in the name of the community
and delegating budgets, warning that people would lose interest if
they had no real power.

However, she warned against transferring too much. “The local
authority must retain democratic control,” she said.

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