Friday, 27 June 2008

Communicating community

The eight or nine years I have been here doesn’t feel very long, but in that time I’ve seen the local authority abolish its network of community development workers twice. The one in place when I arrived was the victim of the budget crisis in about 2002. After a gap, a similar one was put in place with Neighbourhood Renewal Funding (NRF), a funding stream which has now also come to an end. The financial realities of providing such support are unavoidable. Nevertheless, those involved in community development work know that sustained engagement and capacity building is key, so this cycle of brief intense activity and then withdrawal is sad.

The photo is of demolition in progress this week on the Yarborough estate, the only part of the parish to be allocated a worker under both schemes. Major development to create a new Freshney Green estate continues, and some elements of other community development is in place alongside it, so all is not lost.

The NRF funded work with which I was involved was the provision of a community magazine centred on each of its target areas (and delivered to every house in and around it). A Community Press Office (now CPO Media) was created and quickly established a significant reputation both in quality and in involving local people. The end of NRF has removed the ability to finance the range of very locally based magazines, but this week three new publications (one each for Cleethorpes, Grimsby and Immingham) will be beginning to drop through doors for which the total distribution will actually be larger than before. Proper market research and the recruitment of a fresh tranche of often younger volunteers also means the Insight magazines have a quite different feel and style.

Somehow I managed to migrate from just helping with the magazine centred on the Yarborough estate to also chairing CPO’s Board of Directors. We met again this week and, after so much planning, were delighted to see the new magazines and discuss where this is all going. The staff have had to work extraordinarily hard to achieve this fresh start with old and new volunteers, and serious work continues to secure the funding needed to ensure the reshaped project’s future, so it is a privilege to remain along side and support what they are seeking to do.

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