Building communities for change

By Robbie Bates | 11 March 2020

For more than a decade, leaders across public services have been trying new things, adapting to the pace of change of the internet era and responding to people’s raised expectations, doing better and providing better, with purpose. But we know that sustainable and impactful change isn’t something anyone can achieve alone.

To create a vision for lasting change, we need to build strong communities for change. But what do we mean by ‘communities’? The NLGN describes communities as ‘any network of individuals collaborating more or less formally to achieve a shared, socially beneficial goal’.

We’re talking about more than individual activism, interest groups, businesses or local authorities working alone. Rather, networks of people deeply connected to the DNA of their local place, collaborating, sensing and acting collectively towards a shared outcome.

This is much more about taking a whole place-based approach, deeply understanding what each group within a network contributes, with unique goals and assets. Whether that’s public institutions’ democratic mandate, or citizens’ energy and adaptability, how can we combine all the resources available and think about how networks of people make decisions together, organise themselves around shared outcomes and find more effective ways to communicate?

Meeting in the middle and finding our shared ambition, we can begin to bring together the right combinations of people and groups, addressing together the different types of challenges we face. Where some challenges might be solved by transactional services provided by the council, others will be the highly complex social challenges that need the diversity of thought from the many. Whether that’s through the use of digital tools and platforms or reconfiguring physical spaces to enable better collaboration, applying 21st-century methods and ways of working can help us all more effectively organise for change.

Whatever the challenge, we need much more constant interaction, exploring new forms of decision-making that supports everyone to adapt. Ultimately, it’s about building the relationships and trust that empowers communities of people, using the energy, strengths and assets of all to achieve the best possible future.

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