Lochside Neighbourhood Group
2 Years on… Lochside Neighbourhood Group: a community led multi-partnership forum bringing together a common vision for the improvement of Lochside and its community.
In 2012, local residents from the Lochside area identified a need for a more co-ordinated, meaningful approach to involving local people in improving the neighbourhood. At the same time, South Ayrshire Council gave a commitment to work together with local people and third sector organisations to design services together in the area.
“A previous approach in another area, Wallacetown, had shown tangible improvements so we thought that a similar approach in Lochside could work. Lochside was a good scale for the Council to take a locality focus and was a priority in terms of deprivation levels shown through SIMD statistics.” Head of Housing and Facilities
Three local residents came together with the Head of Service and community development/engagement staff. Over the past 2 years, the group has developed into a multi- partnership forum with representation from local residents of all ages, third sector organisations, faith groups, the private and public sector organisations.
Adopting community development values and principles was crucial in the development of the partnership and the co- production approach. The group is community-led where local residents identify issues or interest and concern as well as skills, knowledge and strengths which lie within the community.
“In Lochside we approached Colette, Community Engagement Officer, who was the catalyst for getting people involved and for us to turn things over to them, providing them with senior management support and giving them credit for changes and improvements to their area.” Head of Community Health and Care
This foundation enabled the group to work together in a meaningful, effective, efficient and productive way with a broad range of services including roads, waste management, community safety, housing, parks department, neighbourhood services, local churches and housing associations.
From the priorities identified by the local residents who were involved, the group developed a number of small projects and initiatives. Building on this the group carried out wider community engagement activity to capture the views of local residents of all ages.
“It was not just about housing but brokering or facilitating other staff to attend where the issue concerned their department or service.” Head of Housing and FacilitiesThe role of the council senior management was to attend meetings, listen to community concerns, ideas and recommendations and act upon them. It was also about working with the Community Engagement Officer to maintain contact with the group between meetings.
A community action plan was then developed, based on what local people said mattered to them. This action plan included:
- developing a Keep Lochside Tidy campaign;
- inter-generational projects;
- developing creative play areas;
- new housing developments;
- promoting active citizenship and community pride projects;
- supporting community-led health and well-being initiatives; and
- progressing with parking and traffic management issues.
In the Keep Lochside Tidy campaign, local children were invited to design a poster of their ideas and suggestions to keep the area tidy. The contest promoted responsible citizenship, pride in the community and the importance of looking after the local environment. Winning designs were developed into posters and local residents led the campaign to encourage friends, family and neighbours to promote a united approach. A number of clean-up days have also taken place where local residents came together with support from partnership agencies.
“We try to get others involved to help themselves. We have also raised money and ran events to help local projects. We also represent local views to the council, putting pressure to do more things in the community. It’s about making sure that what happens in the area is putting stuff in that we need.” Members of Lochside Neighbourhood Group
“A key role for me is also to lever in support from the health board as the problems in the area go beyond housing issues. I also worked with the local community safety teams as an “in” to the local community.” Head of Community Health and Care
The Group worked with local children and families in workshops to co-design a new play area in the local community, based on what they liked and wanted for the area. A proposal and project plan was then developed and the new community inspired play area was opened in the Lochside area in 2013. Feedback has been positive from a range of stakeholders:
“I love the hopscotch and my friends and I play on it most days.” Local children
“Activity play for children provides inclusive areas and facilities for children of all ages and abilities which promotes healthy lifestyles and social interaction as well as being fun!" South Ayrshire Council
“We developed drawings based on what our children have said and drawn. The space will be used for play, expressive arts, sports and fitness, outdoor games and family leisure. Local play groups and nursery schools can also use the space for education and learning. We have now had groups from other parts of South Ayrshire showing a great interest in our achievements.”
Local resident / Member of Lochside Neighbourhood Group
One of the biggest challenges was managing local community concerns against the council’s wider strategic concerns. The most crucial factor was the commitment made by local residents and the Head of Service for Housing and Facilities and the Head of Community Health and Care.
Getting people involved at the start and ensuring the group was working for the wider interests of the local community was very important. Thereafter, the shared vision and goals of achieving a more equal and socially just society ensured that everyone involved in the process supported the development and the nurturing of a strong, meaningful co-production partnership where the views, ideas and suggestions of everyone involved are respected and considered. Members of the Group described the challenges and their experiences as:
“it was a bit daunting at first. I didn’t know what to expect. I was surprised at how many people were involved – I had never seen that before as my impression was that people didn’t care about the area." Group member
“There have been challenges but they are not insurmountable. The clean ups were a challenge at first – people didn’t want others getting involved and sticking their noses in but the area is now cleaner, goods are getting picked up and kids are getting more involved in looking after our own area.” Group member
“The hardest thing is to getting people involved at the start. You need to set up a group, get good representatives from the community and make sure you feed back to and from the wider community. You need to give others their say through the group.” Group member
Involving local people in decision making and service development was the main priority and key outcome for the group. There is a broad range of projects and initiatives which are improving the overall health, wellbeing and quality of life of local people of all ages. This has led to much better links across the community and a strengthened community which are actively involved in making the future of their area a much better one.
Specific outcomes from the work of the group include:
- As a result of consulting with local residents, architects revised plans for a new housing development, making changes suggested by group members and providing an opportunity to improve the design and appearance of the area.
- Improvements in community safety, with a 35% reduction in youth-related anti-social behaviour since 2012 resulting from positive diversionary activities. Community Safety officers helped to set up the Lochside Girls Group who have been learning about the dangers of alcohol with their parents. Lochside Church has also provided activities for children and young people of more than 100 families over the last year through the weekly Monday evening children’s club and regular holiday clubs.
- Increased community involvement with 138 local residents involved and informed of all developments via email, word of mouth, meetings, one to one interviews, focus group discussions, Facebook updates and events. 210 local children have been involved in active citizen initiatives and promotion of community pride in the area. Over 1000 households now receive community newsletters about good news stories and information and guidance to encourage people to get involved in local opportunities.
- Development of a local Community Action Plan
- Community Capacity Building programmes have increased local people’s skills in participating in committees, governance and management, promotion and marketing, funding and social enterprise
“In the community, local representatives’ self-esteem has improved – they have access to officers who follow through on issues they raise and respond to their ideas.” Head of Housing and Facilities
Why is this co-production?
The way in which the group works displays a number of features of co-production, from co-designing improvements to the housing development to co-delivery of campaigns and initiatives such as Keep Lochside Tidy.
Assets – unlocking the talents and capacities of local people, both those who form the Group and those in the wider community has been essential in achieving the outcomes outlined.
Capacity – through a range of supports both from the local authority senior management and members of the community, local capacity has been developed.
Mutuality – the development of the local Action Plan has provided a framework through which local people can undertake specific roles alongside professional staff to jointly design and deliver better outcomes for local people and the area.
"When the group started off it wasn’t much but then senior bosses got involved. The biggest improvement is the way council people look at us – much more positively now. We also changed the way we look at them.” Members of Lochside Neighbourhood Group
For example, in the play area project, the neighbourhood group organised local workshops to develop the concept and overall design, used children’s drawings to help shape their own design ideas and developed a formal proposal and project plan.
“The way in which the neighbourhood group has worked has made my job easier. Our services in the area are more cohesive and joined up as a result of listening and acting upon community concerns and recommendations. Solutions are more centred on community concerns and there is greater shared ownership of local resources. Housing officers are taking a more receptive approach to working with the community and responding better to their concerns because their knowledge of the area and local concerns has improved.” Head of Housing and Facilities
Networks – The neighbourhood group has become a key method of enabling mainstream service staff to engage with a wider set of community members and organisations. It has also been able to collate and represent community views into wider neighbourhood service developments.
Catalysts – Public bodies have been able to work in more enabling ways with and through the Neighbourhood Group rather than retaining complete control over how they plan and deliver services. This is about leadership as much as about working together.
“My role is not to do it myself but to link to other key developments, get staff involved and let it happen. We have improved the co-operation and co-ordination amongst council officers and created a means of direct access to them for the local community representatives.” Head of Health and Community Care
The role of the Community Engagement officer is crucial to get everybody involved and provide support to make the right connections and work together better with the council.
Lessons and learning
Real and meaningful community development support is invaluable in order to value the skills, knowledge and experiences which already exist within all communities and helps to unlock the assets and potential of communities. Person centred skills, emotional intelligence and co-ordination skills have also been helpful in the development of the partnership/group. The following quotes illustrate some of the key lessons from this way of working.
“The neighbourhood group is a means of connecting with the wider community but more importantly doing it in their name, not the Council’s. Avoid jargon – quite simply, community representatives don’t like that language [...] We need to ‘piggy back’ on this experience when we develop our joint health and social care localities and appreciate that in every local area the issues will be different. The key message is to listen, understand and act, quickly if possible, on what people tell us and continue to provide support over a long period.” Head of Housing and Facilities
“It is important to allow and enable people to develop their own places. The most important stuff, that is information about issues and possible solutions, comes from local people, so go at the pace of the community and don’t offer what you can’t deliver.” Head of Health and Community Care
“You have to look at what people want and not just what you think they need. Officers have to come to people first and show that at least the interest is there in helping them…
The Council are realising that if they involve the community then things will get done better than just telling people this is what you’re getting. It’s a hell of a difference from before the group existed.” Members of Lochside Neighbourhood Group
This case study was produced as part of the resource ‘Co -production – how we make a difference together’ , developed by the Scottish Co-production Network, the Joint Improvement Team, the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland and Governance International.
More information can be found in the Group’s annual report 2013-14 on www.coproductionscotland.org.uk.