2016: Empowering the Whitley Community

As part of the 2016 project, work as completed on giving people the skills to engage effectively with their local communities, and creating a physical space where it can happen, works for Whitley Big Local, helping ‘spread the load’ of community engagement. ​

Volunteers trained as community researchers provided the evidence that persuaded a local bus operator to change a route so it would better serve local people’s needs. They are now looking at financial inclusion – an important issue for this area. Meanwhile, their community cafe provides an easy access point for local people, some of whom have gone from coffee customers to community volunteers.

What people say

‘It doesn’t matter whether they succeed at the task or not. But because they feel valued in the space where they are doing the task they are growing in confidence.’

‘It’s about that engagement and who we are engaging. Are we engaging the “usual suspects” in the community or are we starting to engage the people who previously haven’t been engaged? And I seriously believe we are at that turning point now.’

Top tips from Whitley Big Local

  • Involve as many people as possible – there’s no point in a few people sitting in a room making decisions without knowing what people want.
  • Act as a collective, by mobilising different people in the community. It’s hard to change things as an individual but collectively you can have great impact – like changing a bus route.

Research insight

The reasons why people engage with Big Local resonate strongly with wider knowledge of why people participate, such as relationships, helping others, personal benefit, and influence. In recent research into Big Local areas by NCVO, the motivations that seemed to emerge most strongly were: getting to know others; responding to issues or causes that matter personally; and engaging because of belonging to, or wanting to connect across, an interest group – particularly families with children.

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