Asking Leithers

This week I attended a public meeting of Leith Neighbourhood Partnership which pondered a very important question.

 

A question that is actually really important and one which needs answered by our community here in Leith.

It was a fairly brief discussion, although a number of members of the partnership were present along with their support staff, there was only a handful of interested members of the public.

I was a bit concerned at this discussion in all honesty, some very basic (but useful) advice & suggestions were offered by those present including;

  • Different engagement methods for different groups.  This was a point made by me. Experience, shared learning & established practices are very clear on this one, there is no single engagement method that will successfully engage with all sections of a community. Therefore, different methods will need to be put into place.  Particularly for those groups which are considered hard to reach.

 

  • Utilise experience already developed:  Again, this was a point I made. Many of those in the room including the Locality Manager from City of Edinburgh Council are very experienced in community engagement, make use of that knowledge, don’t start from scratch – there is no need.

 

  • Be creative:  Not all consultations need to be boring and nor do they need to be large surveys.  They can be done in an informal & accessible format such as the methods deployed by Leith Creative when they were putting together their Leith Blueprint where they may excellent use of the ‘place standard wheel’.

 

  • Relationships matter:  Many local groups meet throughout Leith, these are groups where relationships have formed and trust has grown, these groups have become safe spaces where people feel they are comfortable.  Work with the leaders of these groups & visit them to work on the consultation. Think about it, it makes sense.

 

The question and the discussion on the evening was a great starting point, it will be useful to revisit the subject in a few months when the work has been done.

Sadly, I did not get the opportunity to talk about the National Standards for Community Engagement, I’m a huge fan of the principles contained within the standards.  They work and the tool works.  The principles can be used to challenge & support your consultation.  It isn’t a stick to beat you with you, its a tool that helps you to make sure you have covered all the basis, and works well when you bring in others to apply the standards to your consultation.

I try to advocate for ‘challenge & support panels’ to be established for each consultation, made up of representatives from community groups who often have an insight that many people just don’t know or understand.

A new challenge

Today I was proud to become Chair of Leith Community Centre Association SCIO, which manages Leith Community Centre in partnership with City of Edinburgh Council.Leith Community Centre

The Community Centre itself is fairly new when considered against the historical nature of Leith, refurbished in 2004 with two large halls, 3 multi purpose rooms, a crèche room, a meeting room and a community café around 3000 people per week use the centre. Around 120 local groups make use of the centre with many being given free lets.

This is no small building, this is a big undertaking. In addition to the usual responsibilities of being trustee of a small charitable organisation I’m going to need to get my head around rather more practical matter.

Thankfully, I am not alone in this. With other trustees and a small staffing team provided by the local authority we all committed to managing & developing the community centre for the benefit of everyone in our community.

Our Community Centre is an important community asset which assists our community to thrive. It is a safe, welcoming & inclusive space and I look forward to working with others to develop the services available at the centre for the benefit of our whole community.

I hope to spend the next couple of months familiarising myself with the building, its services & its users as well as ensuring that the trustees & I are fully equipped to manage the centre moving forward.  There are some key issues which need addressed such as changes to our staffing allocation which is impacting upon our opening times, some health & safety issues and some minor organisational matters to resolve.

In 2019 I will be seeking to develop strategies around user engagement and building & service development & delivery.

The future is bright for Leith Community Centre and I know that the trustees, City of Edinburgh Council and centre users have many aspirations for the future, which we can achieve providing we work together.