Every three months or so, I share my thoughts on local area progress with you as residents as your Big Local Rep and with the central team managing the national programme. Your comments and thoughts are always welcome.
A strong and committed partnership
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world – indeed it’s the only thing that ever has”, said Margaret Mead. And thoughtful and committed are two words that well describe your partnership. The energy and dedication to enact local solutions continues. National research shows Big Local partnerships are doing incredibly well, proving a vibrant and positive force locally as Doers, Connectors and Collaborators. Local Trust nationally is getting that message out to policy makers and funders: that resident-led change is vital to community resilience and recovery. But the personal cost can be high. Look after yourselves as well. These difficult times are set to continue. Remember folks to “put on your own oxygen mask first” – that is to say take care of yourselves amidst the urgency of caring for loved ones and the wider community.
Across the country, partnerships are mainly meeting online and decisions rest with the Local Trusted Organisation and partnership in responding to national laws and guidelines and local conditions. Some similar community challenges are being faced across Big Local, included digital inclusion, mental health and the widening economic divide.
Some popular online conferencing support continues including:
- Monthly Big Local chairs/vice-chairs check-in.
- Big Local workers drop in, the next being on 13 October, 11.30-12.30
- Big Local areas and community hubs, to discuss current government guidance.
Priorities and achievements looking back: running things well, adapting plan and priorities to respond to fast emerging needs through Covid-19, sharing success, retaining and building local networks and partnerships.
The partnership continues to meet monthly with sound support from the Local Trusted Organisation, Age UK Lincoln & South Lincolnshire. Finances are reviewed each month and headline figures displayed on the spend barometer on the website. Quarterly reports from partners were reviewed in July. All were approved. These are posted to the website. These provide the evidence of outcomes and impact through stories of action and change and in newsletters delivered to every household.
Partners continue to adapt their services to be as supportive to residents as possible. The virtual coffee mornings, as described in the latest newsletter, have attracted over 20 participants, sharing and learning from each other. Quick-response funding through, for example, the Community Chest has been much appreciated by community groups. Funding the Leisure Centre’s online fitness programme, Bosfit, funding the production of personal protective equipment and the distribution of five automatic hand sanitizers are examples of Boston Big Local’s swift and flexible response. And meanwhile, Historic Boston (UK) Trumps, a card game focusing on the town’s heritage, has now been produced and is being distributed to local outlets, the sale of which will bring some income to them. Among environmental projects, the Central Park Community Project continues, with the multi-use sports area and table tennis tables now completed and work on the Skate Park nearly finished.
Key priorities looking ahead
Boston Big Local will continue and develop the community conversation into the autumn, through the virtual coffee mornings, through email and phone calls and through the newsletter distributed to every household. This will help the partnership review its current plan and build toward the next due to start in April 2021.
There have been three virtual coffee mornings with over 20 people taking part in each. The first focused on how Covid was affecting people and projects and what Boston Big Local might do to help. The second took stock of the continuing problems and shared examples of projects and activities adjusting to social distancing measures to keep contact and support especially for vulnerable people. The third focused on funding opportunities, including through Boston Big Local which has set up an easy access Covid-19 response fund. The last coffee morning also heard about emerging resident ideas for action in the next plan and canvassed further thoughts which will be fed back to the partnership to help in developing the new plan.
Such success is based on 1) a strong and positive and well-connected partnership, 2) effective, unobtrusive, low key leadership, 3) excellent management of practical matters through the paid worker, 4) very good communications which reach every household through the printed newsletter and strong social media following, 5) a healthy track record and wide-spread trust based on evidenced previous success, 6) sound monitoring processes within the partnership, ensuring high levels of scrutiny and accountability and finally and most of all 7) a vibrant desire to work for and with local residents to make Big Local the success it is in resident-led decision making and funding.