Exeter Community Forum and Exeter City Council are working with community organisations to put a plan for a team of ‘Community Builders’ to work amongst Exeter’s communities. Diana Moore, Chair of Exeter Community Forum writes about what the Community Builders will do across the city over the next 5 years
How long does it take you to walk to your corner shop? My daughter complains that ‘it takes a VERY long time, mummy – it’s all the people you talk to!’ Aside from a good chat it feels good to live a community where you can stop and talk to neighbours, find out about what activities are going on locally, discover others who share an interest.
Exeter is a friendly place, but as the city changes and grows – with new housing developments and people moving here and away, that sense of belonging can take a long time to feel, however long you’ve put down roots. What if there was a way of making that easier?
For a number of years Community Builders have worked in Exwick, Wonford and St Thomas and have had a real impact on people’s lives. Community Builders have been listening to residents, helping people design an activity trail in Cowick Barton Playing Fields, enabling young people in Exwick to challenge bullying. In short – making it easier for neighbours to get to know one another.
The community organisations involved in the Exeter Community Forum enable really great community projects to flourish in the city. These are growing because neighbours come together to make a change. Changes with others – to help others in their community. I know many people want to get involved in community life or do something to improve a neglected green space, but don’t know how to or don’t feel confident to do so.
The new Community Builders will have a special role – a bit like bees, acting as community pollinators from which thousands of new relationships will blossom.
Find out more about the Community Builders and Grass Roots Grants to support Community action and community Buildings on the Exeter Community Forum website: exetercommunityforum.net
Two great sets of community events coming up – all welcome!
ARTSfest St David’s, 8th – 15th October: Celebrating local creativity
ARTSfest encourages local residents of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to share and develop their creative talents, helping to foster a stronger sense of community in the St David’s village. Events throughout the week are free or low-cost, and are open to all Exeter residents and visitors to enjoy. Programme artsfestdavids-revised-1
You are invited to Sidwella’s Heritage Dinner
Wednesday 19th October 7pm-10pm
Join us for this unique fundraising dinner and heritage evening at St Sidwell’s Community Centre. Enjoy a delicious 3 course dinner and a heritage talk by Levi Roach, Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Exeter: “From Æthelstan to Æthelred: Exeter and the South West in the later Anglo-Saxon Age”
Tickets are £22 a head (BYO bottle) and can be booked by phoning St Sidwells Community Centre on 01392 666222 or by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Exeter City Council has transferred a number of its assets to other bodies in recent years and more are in the pipeline. The recent proposals to transfer the Valley Parks to Devon Wildlife Trust presented an opportunity to start the conversation about greater clarity for community groups on how that can happen.
So the question we asked and the Council’s reply is here:
“PUBLIC QUESTIONS RECEIVED for Place Scrutiny Committee – 8 September 2016
Question for Place Scrutiny Committee
Diana Moore Chair, Exeter Community Forum
Experience from councils across the UK, supported by work and evidence from the Treasury, LGA and community sector, has shown the role of transfer of ownership of land or buildings from a statutory body to a community organisation at ‘less than best consideration’ can achieve a public benefit for social , environmental and economic benefit. One of the key lessons learned from this work is that a ”strategic approach within the local authority provides for transparency, ensures consistency, and enhances the authority’s asset management Capability”. Section 7 of the report to this committee suggests that Exeter City Council’s approach to asset transfer would be enhanced by such a clear approach to policy on asset transfer. The Council signed up to the principles of community development in the Community Development Strategy in April this year, this strategy also highlights that ‘it would be useful to increase clarity’ on this matter of asset transfer.
Would the Committee recommend to the Executive to work as a matter of priority to progress the action point in that agreed strategy to “work with community and voluntary organisations to agree and implement a single policy and process for transferring land, buildings and other assets to community ownership or management or both and access to appropriate support and training to officers and organisations going through the process”?
Response by Councillor Paul Bull, Portfolio Holder Communities and Neighbourhoods
Councillor Paul Bull, as Portfolio Holder for Communities and Neighbourhoods, responded to the question. He referred to a widely attended public engagement event at the Corn Exchange in February 2014, asking community groups and other stakeholder to help us review how we looked at using our Parks and Open Spaces. As a result, Devon Wildlife Trust came forward with an *in principle* expression of interest on taking on the Valley Parks, and this approach was considered in a report that went through the Committee cycle, including Executive in 2014, where the principle of asset transfer to community organisations was endorsed.
The Council recognised that successful, sustainable asset transfer was dependent upon timing and opportunity, with the pace driven by the community, not the Council. At that time it was anticipated that the transfers referred to in the report, including that to Devon Wildlife Trust, could take place relatively swiftly, without the need to develop policies and procedures. However, since then the Community Development Strategy has been developed which highlighted the need for clarity on asset transfer.
Councillor Bull stated that he would be very pleased to recommend to Executive that a policy on transferring land, buildings and other assets to community ownership or management be developed. The timing of this piece of work would need to be considered amongst other priorities for the council but he would meet will meet with the relevant Officers to discuss a realistic timescale to develop it.
Ms Moore thanked Councillor Bull for the reply and referred to their work as part of the Exeter Community Forum Steering Group.”
The agenda for the meeting can be found here: http://committees.exeter.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx… it is item 7.
Find out more about asset transfer here :http://mycommunity.org.uk/res…/community-asset-transfer-kit/
Devon County Council, Exeter City Council and Exeter Community Forum and others are working together on a strategy to make sure that Exeter has the best possible opportunities for young people who grow up in the city.
We want to make sure that young people aged 11-19 have an active voice in deciding what the priorities should be, and this on-line survey is a chance for young people to tell us what they like and dislike about living in the city and what they want to see improved.
Of course the more young people who take part, the more useful it will be!
We need your help in reaching young people and encouraging them to take part in the survey, and would be very grateful if you could pass on this link to your networks. We want to reach schools, colleges and organisations that work with young people right across the city. The deadline for young people to complete the survey is FRIDAY 15TH JULY. The survey is anonymous and young people cannot be identified through their responses.
We will also be running some workshops for young people between July and September, but this survey is our tool for reaching the greatest number of young people in Exeter, so your help in distributing the survey is really important. If you would like to know more about the Exeter Youth Strategy process please get in touch with our co-ordinator, Gill Millar (email@example.com). We will be consulting with organisations who work with young people through a different questionnaire so there will be further opportunities for you to get involved.
Annual General Meeting: A reminder that out first AGM is on Saturday 18th June. Exeter Community Centre, St David’s Hill is hosting us. The AGM will be 10:00 -11:00 am. As well as a review of the year we’ll look forward to what we’ll be up next year and there is a chance for your Organisation to get involved on the steering group or on the grants panel.
You can see the agenda here. You will also find more about the steering group, the grants panel terms of reference and a nomination form for the steering group and grants panel on that page.
PLEASE CONFIRM IF YOUR ORGANISATION WILL ATTEND THE AGM AND THE NAME OF THE PERSON WHO WILL BE YOUR FORMAL REPRESENTATIVE
IDEAS INTO ACTION
The AGM will be followed by an open event ‘Ideas into Action!’ As we move from strategising (is that a proper word?!) to making things happen we’ll be focusing on how we’d like more community organising and more community planning to happen across the city. The priorities and ideas you have will inform future grants programmes for community organising and the commissioning of a third sector organisation to manage and develop a new role in the city to support community planning.
You can find more information and book here. Please do promote this event widely to your members and any local Councillor(s) that you may work with.
ICE – Integrated Care Exeter. This partnership project is bringing statutory and voluntary sector agencies together to work out how health and social care support can be improved across the city. Communities and community organisations are seen as really important to this. Exeter community Forum are supporting a an event (click on link to see draft agenda):
“Working together – supporting people and communities to take the lead in their own and their community’s well-being” to look at how this happens on Friday 1st July 2016 9.00 to 16.00 Coaver Club Conference Centre , County Hall, Matford Lane, Exeter, EX2 4PS. Exeter Community Forum has 4 places.
Please let Dawn Rivers firstname.lastname@example.org know if you’d like to attend on behalf of Exeter Community Forum.
YOUTH STRATEGY For Exeter: Exeter Community Forum has been invited to help in the development of a new Youth Strategy alongside Devon Youth Service, VOYC Devon, Exeter City Council and Devon County Council. The first activity will be a survey of young people and organisations are invited to host conversations with young people about their hopes and the challenges they face. Please let your member organisations know about the strategy development over the next 6 months. If anyone would especially like to be kept informed or get involved please email email@example.com. Exeter Community Forum has a place on the steering group – and Diana Moore attended the first meeting. If someone from your organisation would like to share or take on that role please email Diana firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 01392410624
We are moving from the listening and gathering information stage to the make sense of it all and presenting it stages. Some of the issues are clear – informed by the process to date – others matters will need discussion by the Forum. The Steering Group has tried hard to focus on it’s job of steering – so all the meaty decisions will need to be worked out among forum members themselves!
At the meeting at the end of January we will receive an initial draft of the strategy. This will set out the common themes, priorities and initial thoughts about outcomes which have emerged from the events. Our main discussion will be about the sort of programmes we want to support. We will also begin to consider the approach we want to take to community development and have a look at the options for investment – making the money go further. Some of these issues may carry over into February.
Community meetings: Thank you for helping promote and to those of your who attend the community meetings. These were really helpful to give more insight into the aspirations and issues affecting and of interest to communities across the city. All the workshop output is now on the website for you to have a look at and make comments on http://exetercommunityforum.net/what_you_said/ on the website or on the facebook page or via email to email@example.com Please let your members and community know and ask them to comment too.
We will be attending the Black and Minority Ethnic Forum next week to seek view of community organisations there and the Devon Youth Service will be facilitating a youth focused event at the end of this month.
Altogether we have involved a good range of community leaders, advocates and activists across the city. These processes are never perfect but the quality of contributions and insights gleaned have been really valuable and will inform the first ever strategy – and therefore commitment – the City will have to community development.
The steering group have tried to ensure that other organisations with an interest and work specifically with communities know what we are doing and talk about how what we’re doing fits with their plans. So we have met with Exeter Community Initiatives, Exeter CVS, Devon Community Foundation, Devon Youth Service and made links with the ICE partnership – focused on improving community care and wellbeing. Exeter City Council are also ensuring that Devon County Council are informed too. We are pleased that a team of students from Exeter University have been helping us too. If there are any other organisations that you think are directly relevant who should get involved, please let us know.
We are working too, to ensure that decision makers are kept informed and help shape the work and are pleased that Cllr Pete Edwards, the Leader of Exeter City Council, has continued to take an active interest. Both Christine and I have attended a meeting of the Exeter Board – which brings together Exeter City and Devon County Councillors. We have provided an update at our first attendance and answered questions. The steering group has begun to talk about how the strategy will be adopted by the City Council and as part of that process we will be attending the Exeter City Council Community Scrutiny meeting in March meeting to be, well, scrutinised about the work. This this the first stage in the Council’s adoption of the plan.
Do have a look at the ‘what you said‘ page to see what was discussed at the community meetings and if you have a comment – get in touch!
Join us to:
- Find out what’s going on in communities across the City: neighbourhood planning, community organising, volunteering, community buildings and more….
- Learn from other community activists and share our experiences and expertise.
- Consider how communities can meet the challenges and create opportunities as Exeter grows over the next ten years.
- Shape the plans for Exeter’s Community Strategy and the money we need to achieve this.
Who should come: people who live or work in Exeter who are community volunteers, committee members, community activists, those working with community organisations across Exeter – for example community organisers, community development workers, community leaders and local Councillors. Members of the public who have an interest in or want to get involved in their community are most welcome too!
Where: Exeter Community Centre Trust.17 St. Davids Hill, Exeter, Devon EX4 3RG
When: Saturday 17th October 10:00am -2:30pm
Practicalities: Please bring a packed lunch or you can buy lunch from the Mulberry Tree cafe on site. Please note there is no local parking please use public transport or park in the nearby car parks. If you are a blue badge user and need a parking space at the community centre please ring 01392 420549 to book in advance.
Booking: The event is free but please book your place here as spaces are limited!
You may expect any group potentially in receipt of funds would be keen to get on and spend, but communities in Exeter are planning for the long term. As Exeter grows over the next ten years fifteen percent the moneys raised from the ‘Community Infrastructure Levy’ are being set aside to benefit communities, especially in areas where development is taking place. Cllr Paul Bull, Members Champion for Community Engagement said: “Communities will change significantly as Exeter grows, and we recognize that local communities are best placed to identify what their community needs. Exeter City Council is right behind their efforts to shape their future and decide how the funds can benefit them.”
Community Associations and Fora from across the City have come together with the support of Exeter City Council to establish the Exeter Community Forum. The Forum has decided to work on a ‘Community Strategy’ – a plan to support community development across the City. Christine Fraser from St David’s Neighbourhood Partnership and one of Exeter Community Forum’s Co-Chairs said, “The first task of this community-led initiative, working in tandem with the City Council, is the appointment of a facilitator to help us draft a community development plan. This isn’t as dry as it sounds! It’s a significant piece of work which identify the needs and priorities in our neighbourhoods.”
Diana Moore, of the Alphington Village Forum and the other Co-Chair of the new Forum, said: “We’re pleased the Council recognises the increasing and important role that communities have in shaping planning decisions, delivering local services, supporting their neighbours, working with young people, organizing events, running community buildings and facilities such as parks and allotments. Community effort makes a real difference to the City and we’re planning to make the most of this £3.7million investment in community development over the next ten years!