Last Tuesday I was pleased to have the opportunity to attend Making Localism Work, Locality’s second symposium held at the RBS Auditorium in Bishopsgate. For me, the overall message was about doing things differently, being creative and having fresh ideas within communities in order for them to grow and flourish. It was particularly relevant for those of us working with Big Local in reaffirming the potential and opportunities that the 150 areas have to transform their communities. In our role working with the Local Trust representatives in each area, Renaisi is seeing these ideas emerge in reality across the country.
At the start of the day we were presented with the question – are you optimistic about the future of our communities?
Peter Holbrook, CEO Social Enterprise UK kicked things off in a typically passionate style with a talk on the Social Value Act which for the first time places a duty on public bodies to consider social value ahead of procurement. Due to be implemented from January 2013, the bill will require public bodies such as Local Authorities, NHS and housing associations to look beyond the price of a contract and at the collective benefit to a community when awarding a piece of work to a provider.
In theory this should lead to charities, social enterprises and community groups delivering more public services and with the positive changes we know they can bring, communities would be better off. It is very much in tandem with the localism and Big Society agendas and Peter Holbrook’s plea was for us to rise to the challenge, both as commissioners and social enterprises, community organisations etc. and make long term decisions to create lasting social change in our communities. Coin Street, HCT group and PM Training were all given as good examples of social enterprise success stories doing it already.
Karen Mellanby, Director of Programmes at Locality followed with a short talk on building resilient communities. The challenges faced and these new policy developments present an opportunity for communities to adapt, experiment and be creative in doing things for themselves to alleviate social issues. The examples discussed were the Brixton Pound, community owned shops, community food growing and Timbanking/lending and sharing schemes. A facilitated ‘ideas exchange’ session in the second half continued on the building resilience theme, with an interesting panel giving real examples of what’s happening in communities doing it for themselves. This was the work of the Selby Trust in Tottenham, Community Buying Unlimited and Creative Coop all inspiring and posing the question – how far can we take localism? As one of the panellist stated in conclusion, we can be optimistic since our creativity has no end.
See Steve Wyler’s post on the event can also be seen here.