SO18 Big Local – the story so far
Today we announce a further 50 areas in England receiving funding through Big Local. They join the other 100 areas already awarded at least £1 million to improve their communities.
In this guest blog, we hear from Jo Proctor, a representative of the SO18 Big Local area in Southampton. As she reveals, the thoughts and feedback of local people has been key in bringing about real, lasting change.
I’m a resident of Townhill Park in the SO18 Big Local area, Southampton and also work for Training for Working in the Community (TWICS) who are working to support Big Local in this area. I wanted to tell you a little more about what is happening through Big Local in my area.
SO18 (previously known as Big Local Harefield) covers parts of Townhill Park, Midanbury and Harefield estates, in the Harefield ward of Southampton. We were one of the first 50 areas to be announced for Big Local funding and are now in the second phase of “Getting People Involved” on our pathway.
With help from our locally trusted organisation – Southampton Voluntary Services (SVS), a steering group was set up, and an initial series of consultations were held to get people involved. These included use of a video pod (residents answered questions on a TV).
The results from these early consultations were then developed by a group of residents from across the SO18 Big Local area, supported by SVS and TWICS. SO18 Big Local has also taken the decision to employ two part-time Assistant Community Development Workers (both local residents) to help progress the project.
The group involved in Big Local have, using feedback from the consultations, developed a questionnaire to get residents’ views on the areas as they are now, what they think can be built upon going forward (as well as local challenges faced) and their personal visions for the future.
One of the biggest challenges faced by the SO18 Big Local area is that the area itself covers several different neighborhoods, and includes two different geographical areas that are not linked (physically, nor by public transport) and have no real connection to each other. We have therefore been careful to cover as much of these areas as we can when holding our GPI events.
Events we have held so far include several bulb planting activities (both in pots to take home, and on the green areas of the estates themselves), a scooter and bicycle workshop, a clear up of a local pond in Townhill Park and small-scale walkabout sessions to give local people information and ask them their thoughts.
We have visited existing community groups, set up our own website, Twitter feed and facebook page, and given an assembly at a local school to spread the word about the project, and get initial ideas from local people.
Having collated all the information we have got so far, we then held 3 feedback sessions in November, where we presented the themes of what has been said so far (what people do and don’t like about the area, and what they think is needed) and gave people the chance to “vote” and show their priorities. The next step is to take this prioritised information to an away day, where local people interested in joining the partnership will begin to develop the plan.
My hope is that SO18 Big Local will give the people of Townhill Park, Midanbury and Harefield the skills and confidence they need to move forward and help make the areas better places to live in the future. I see Big Local as being the platform to enable local people to engage more with the area, allowing them to build a real sense of community and to feel proud of where they live.
For more about SO18 Big Local please go to our website, or find us on Facebook or Twitter.