Branching Out – Part 2: The Barnwood Story
At that original event in Matson, there was a local Police Sargent present. Sgt Tim Wood, was keen to see how his local neighbourhood policing team could take an asset-based approach in the part of Gloucester he was serving. Tim picks up the story
Special Branch! – Tim Wood, Gloucestershire Constabulary
I was new to my role. Community Engagement Team Sergeant in Barton & Tredworth. No previous experience of neighbourhood policing. Looking for some guidance I could follow. And so, I walked into the 2-day event in Matson.
“This is it!”, I thought, this is how I can set about doing ‘Community Engagement’ with my new team. So, I took away some of the key principles and started feeding them into my newly formed team. A few strange looks, but given the great bunch they were they set about putting things into action. We experimented and we learned. We problem-solved anti-social behaviour by building relationships with and between communities. Things emerged, such as the Barton & Tredworth Cultural Fayre – an event run by the community, with our support, where a range of cultures and backgrounds from across the area were able to showcase and celebrate their food, dance, music and drink together. The positive effect was immeasurable.
At my final fayre before departing on promotion, I was approached by a local gentleman who reflected how much safer the area now felt and linked this to the way my team had gone about their work with community. It was one of those moments in your career that you cherish. This set a determination in me that I would take the principles I had learnt to whatever roles I would follow into.
As a result of my interest in ABCD, I was invited to take part in a Stewardship Circle with Barnwood Trust (more on this later in the blog).
I took part in the first Stewardship Circle and built friendships based upon common values. We grew a partnership into which we invested dedicated Police Community Support Officers to learn more about the practical application of community building. From this we have grown an evidence base that has put the principles at the core of the Constabulary’s approach to Neighbourhood Policing.
I write now as Chief Inspector in our Community Harm Reduction Team, leading a plan endorsed at the highest levels within the organisation, to proliferate and enable a community building approach across Neighbourhood Policing. A change in how we engage, a change in culture. This work has led to local PCSOs working with local residents to enable a community led youth club.
I write as a member of the Action on ACEs panel for Gloucestershire. Feeding my learning into this panel to ensure a community-centred approach to building resilience and tackling childhood adversity.
It is likely that I will be changing roles again soon. However, I will carry the last 9 years with me into whatever comes next for me, and I move on confident that there are good people continuing to lead and that change will continue, perhaps slowly, but surely.
Of course, throughout this journey, people have been supporting each other to learn. One of the most useful approaches that Barnwood took early in its journey was the development of a Stewardship Circle, which Barnwood co-developed with Cormac Russell at Nurture Development. The Stewardship Circle is a pioneering leadership development programme that brings together a cross-sector group of leaders including commissioners, charity CEOs, faith leaders, police officers, elected members and community activists to help them work collaboratively to mobilise community-driven change and to nurture greater inclusion across the county.
The Stewardship Circle is an invitation to reflect on the role of leadership in enabling a culture where communities can connect the strengths of local people to build neighbourhoods from the inside out. Through the programme people develop a deep understanding of how those who are working ‘in the gap’ between organisations and communities are often translators, bridge builders and joiners, navigating the messy middle ground. Rob Fountain, CEO of Age UK Gloucestershire now co-facilitates on the programme.
Branching Out – Rob Fountain, Age UK Gloucestershire
The Stewardship Circle was pivotal in influencing my thinking about social change and as a consequence has seen the direction of the charity I lead fundamentally shift. The Circle helped me reconnect with a true vision for the communities we operate in, made me see and value the gifts of citizens, and showed me that others active in the same ‘system’ also shared a bolder ambition.
The vision statement of Age UK Gloucestershire directly changed as a consequence: To make Gloucestershire the best county in which to grow older. Within that simple sounding statement are layers of commitment that took us much deeper in pursuit of our mission than the organisation had gone previously.
The ‘best county in which to grow older’ celebrates later life as being worthwhile and meaningful. It also recognises that unleashing the potential of older people is essential for giving older residents value and for the county in turn to benefit from all the gifts older people bring. We dropped negative and deficit-based language in favour of celebrating the opportunities of longer life and demanding the continued contribution of older people.
The ‘best county in which to grow older’ recognises the importance of the place people live on their experience of ageing. Our response is no longer about services that we provide, it is about how we can use our position and influence to enhance and support neighbourhoods to be responsive places to age in. We closed traditional services like day centres and home help and turned our energy to supporting citizens who wanted to organise activities that older neighbours could access.
Making ours ‘the best county in which to grow older’ could never be achieved by one small charity in isolation. It forces us to find partnerships – with individuals, groups, organisations, businesses, statutory bodies – encouraging the whole county ‘system’ to join us in thinking differently about ageing. We are not the owners of the ageing experience in Gloucestershire – we see ourselves more as a catalyst for change and as ‘community guides’ for those navigating their own later life.
Finally, ‘the best county in which to grow older’ wouldn’t have the biggest Age UK in it. It wouldn’t need a charity dedicated to improving the lives of older people. Growth has ceased to be a goal as we reconnect instead with an altogether more ambitious aim of doing ourselves out of business.
The Stewardship Circle made me question the very purpose of a traditional charity. I now believe there is an important role for organisations like ours to play in the development of our locality, but only if we shed a traditional ‘charity’ mindset.
These stories show how culture in organisations has been shifting towards supporting community-driven action, but of course it’s what happens on our door steps that really matters. Merethe, a Community Pastor in Pagenhill, Stroud shares how her community has changed in the last 2 years.
Cultivating Community – Merethe Dahl Turner, resident and Pastor, Paganhill, Stroud
I remember when I first started working in Paganhill in September 2015 (I moved into the estate myself in 2016). Paganhill had a bit of a reputation and I was struggling to join in with any activities, because of the simple fact that hardly anything was going on. Then I started meeting other people who wanted to see a change in the area, which included a mixture of residents, politicians, town council, Christian churches / organisations and the local PSCO. It was decided that we should do something fun to bring the community together and that’s how our first summer party started in June 2017.
Barnwood Trust gave us ABCD training and helped us in talking to people in the community and also gave us our first grant to help us get started. Suddenly our community started buzzing. Some people took up playing musical instruments again to help with entertainment on the day, others asked supermarkets for food and raffle prices, some offered to bake cakes and we even discovered that we had a resident who was a professional clown who came out and entertained people on the day. At our first summer party around 200 people in the community came together!
You can watch the film here.
From there on the community has continued to transform and change from within. We started a community group, which in January became a Community Interest Company. A few months after the summer party we started a weekly café at the Maypole Hall, our community hall. The café has an ethos were people “pay as you feel”. We get surplus food from Tesco, and different people in the community have come together to run different activities like arts, craft and crochet. It has also become a place where people can link up with other charities to get help with different life issues.
A gardening group has started up and has taken over some of the flower beds and green areas in the community. A couple of weeks ago Paganhill got its first orchard when five apple trees were planted. At the end of March, a youth group was started. The group was initiated by the young people in the area itself where they wrote their own rules and as a community group we have been able to help them set it up and support them. Now Paganhill is a thriving community where people are starting to feel that they have a voice and something to offer – and people’s life are being changed. Now I meet people who want to move into Paganhill and who love being part of this community. Myself being one of them, of course.
There are so many stories similar to Merethe’s, with amazing neighbours supporting each other and most importantly learning to love where they live. Whilst we don’t have enough time to share all of these, we would like to recognise the efforts and celebrate all those residents stimulating community-led change across Gloucestershire. We hope that the community roots we are nurturing, will withstand the winds of change and ensure future generations can thrive in these amazing places.
Compiled by Richard Holmes, with contributions from Ruth Saunders, Tim Wood, Rob Fountain, Meredith Dahl Turner and all the many other people and organisations who are making Gloucestershire a great place to live.