Reflections from the Big Local Rep
Every quarter, I am asked to report on Big Local progress to Local Trust and Renaisi who manage the Big Local national programme. It gives me the chance to reflect on how things are going and to look at any challenges ahead. This blog is based on that report and I hope you find it useful.
When I was asked to link up with Boston Big Local, there had been some difficulties and concerns that were raised by residents about progress. I was asked to broker a workshop to seek conciliation and an agreed solution.
The meeting on 8 May was a tough one to be meeting people for the first time. But I was impressed by people’s commitment to resolve concerns and to move forward. Questions were posed and answered and an interim chair appointed who is a resident of Boston, though not of the Boston Big Local area. At a meeting two weeks later, the group of dedicated people then formed as a steering group, taking decisions on how things are run and what needs to be done. The chair, Ralph Pryke, was elected and the Local Trusted Organisation, TaylorITEX CIC, was reappointed. Rachel Lauberts took up again her position as facilitator and I was asked to remain as the interim Big Local Rep until recruitment of a new Rep is undertaken.
Things have moved on strongly since May. The steering group considered draft terms of reference in early June, establishing its core values, purpose, expectations on members and code of conduct, including a declaration of interest. This is heartening progress.
On 26 June the steering group also had an afternoon with me on leadership training, which included drafting a vision and exploring emerging themes for action.
Since May, the group has reviewed progress. It is giving priority to increasing awareness and building active interest among residents within the Boston Big Local area. It aims to deepen the community conversation around local needs through a series of focused meetings with particular groups, including those from Boston’s diverse communities (Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, and Portuguese to name a few), the Disability Forum, Age Concern and the Boston Youth Council.
By the early autumn, the steering group anticipates having the Profile completed and to be ready to hold a public event to share and explore findings to help draw out emerging themes and priorities for action that will best respond to help make the area an even better place to live. Drafts of the Big Local Plan will be shared and discussed before Christmas and the final version submitted for approval by the end of January 2015.
These have been difficult months all round and it is encouraging to see a unity of purpose growing, an appreciation of the leadership required, of managing the process and of getting things done. There is a release of energies and expertise with emerging clarity of purpose and action.
It can be difficult to rebuild a community development process that has gone off track but this is what Boston Big Local has set about doing with care and commitment. There will of course be obstacles ahead, but key people are clear about the course to take. One priority is building interest among residents specifically within the Boston Big Local area and drawing some into governance. Building toward a Boston Big Local area resident-led process is a challenge ahead and one I am confident the current group will rise to. These are refreshing times, with new hope and optimism in the air.