Archive for the 'Community development' Category

Co-creating impact: why universities and communities should work together

Kate Pahl and Keri Facer, authors of Valuing interdisciplinary collaborative research, discuss the value of co-production and collaboration between academic researchers and community projects. 

Valuing Interdisciplinary Collaborative Research will be launched at the Co-Creating Cities & Communities Summer Event today in Bristol #ahrcconnect #citiesandcoms2017 @ahrcconnect

Kate Pahl

Keri Facer

“Increasingly, universities are being asked to work with communities in more inclusive, collaborative and ethical ways, but their processes and practices are often overlooked, particularly within the arts and humanities.

University ways of knowing and doing are only one part of research and new conceptual tools are needed to make sense of this. This makes for a new and exciting research landscape.

“Impact isn’t just about academics doing brilliant, original research… impact is co-created.”

The ‘impact’ agenda needs to shift to recognise the nature of ‘co-produced impact’. That is, impact isn’t just about academics doing brilliant, original research which is written up in articles and then re-produced in different forms to a grateful community which draws on this research.

Instead, impact is co-created. People have ideas, in communities and in universities and they work on these together, bringing different knowledges and practices to those questions and ideas. This then produces a different kind of knowledge – richer, more diverse, more carefully located in real and everyday contexts and more relevant.

Connected Communities

The Connected Communities (CC) programme, headed by the AHRC cross-research council, has funded over 300 projects, worked with over 500 collaborating organisations and over 700 academics from universities across the UK, on topics ranging from festivals to community food, from everyday creativity to care homes, from hyper-local journalism to community energy.

‘Valuing Collaborative Interdisciplinary Research’ (Policy Press 2017), the latest volume in the Connected Communities book series, brings together a number of diverse and rich research projects that range from community evaluation, to how community values play out in collaborative research, how decisions on heritage should be made, and on what artists do when they work with academics and communities together with the role of performance in highlighting community concerns.

Many different people contributed to the projects ranging from people from the Heritage Lottery Fund and The Science Museum, to people working within communities as well as within universities.

facer-blog-pic

Some themes which emerge in the book include translation, co-production, dialogic modes of research and tacit and embodied knowledge. A key theme is the nature of knowledge and its production practices . Ways of capturing everyday knowledge, through stories, maps, material objects, conversations and performances, are discussed and considered.

In the book we attempt to map this new world out. We offer a set of helpful ideas and ways forward to articulate what is needed to do this sort of work. We argue that projects like this need to include an element of productive divergence.

“Perhaps if this kind of research was funded more often, surprises like the recent election result wouldn’t have come as so much of a shock.”

The projects are often grounded in the world materially and objects play a strong part. They often involve mess, uncertainty, complexity and a focus on practice and involve translating across different fields, as well as stories as a mode of exchange. Many of the projects draw on tacit and embodied learning that were informed by arts methodologies as well as ideas from sensory and phenomenological perspectives.

Perhaps if this kind of research was funded more often, surprises like the recent election result wouldn’t have come as so much of a shock. Universities need to become more attuned to the voices of communities, to their accounts of what is important and necessary to research. The Connected Communities programme and this book make a start in redressing the balance.

 

Valuing interdisciplinary collaborative research edited by Keri Facer and Kate Pahl is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Order here for £19.99.

Find out more about impact, influence and engagement at Policy Press here.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Transforming post-industrial cities: Anne Power on the impact of her book

In our next post on impact for Academic Book Week, Anne Power talks about how her book, Cities for a small continent has had international impact, uncovering the hope and opportunity to be found in ‘post-industrial’ cities.

anne-power

Anne Power

Cities for a small continent traces the fate of leading industrial cities in Europe and the US over ten years; 2006-2016. The collapse of major industries – coal, steel, ship-building, textiles, and machinery – across huge swathes of European and North American city regions drove extreme job losses, population decline and disinvestment.

The dramatic experience of deindustrialisation was particularly acute in Europe, the old, crowded, city-loving and war torn continent. As a result, city and regional governments, national leaders and the European Union all came together to form a City Reformers Group, based at the London School of Economics, to help our research team uncover what was happening to people stranded by unemployment, decay and economic turmoil. Were they in fact recovering as they claimed?

sheffield

Sheffield

Seven leading ex-industrial cities in six countries provided us with solid, grounded evidence, hosted workshops within their cities and organised visits to show us the devastation and dereliction, and to showcase their recovery efforts.

The cities most directly involved are: Sheffield, Belfast, Lille, Saint-Etienne, Leipzig, Bremen, Torino and Bilbao. This dynamic interchange at city level gives Cities for a small continent an immediacy and insight that would have been impossible without the direct participation of the cities and national governments.

Continue reading ‘Transforming post-industrial cities: Anne Power on the impact of her book’

JPP Editorial: Why Playwork is about much more than ‘space’

Today’s blog post is an editorial written by Shelly Newstead which featured in the latest issue of Journal of Playwork Practice. If you enjoy this and would like more information about the Journal of Playwork Practice or to take part in a free institutional trial please click here.

ShellyAt the time of this issue going to print, the backbone of the playwork profession in the UK, the National Occupational Standards (NOS) for Playwork, is under review.

Primarily created to qualify the burgeoning out of school childcare workforce the first NOS for Playwork were developed in the early 1990s by a group of playwork experts and the Sector Skills Council for Playwork, now known as SkillsActive (Bonel and Lindon 1996).

NOS for Playwork

The existence of a separate set of NOS for Playwork is crucial to distinguish playwork from other approaches to working with children within what Hughes (2012) called the ‘primeval learning soup‘ of the wider children’s workforce. However the original playwork NOS and subsequent revisions have been criticised by some playwork authors for being too functional and for not describing playwork as a unique profession within its own right (see Davy, 2007; Wilson 2008). The current review has raised some interesting debates, not only about the development of the NOS for Playwork but also about the nature and purpose of playwork itself. Continue reading ‘JPP Editorial: Why Playwork is about much more than ‘space’’

The darker side of volunteering

Volunteering is a good thing, yes? Perhaps for the organization being helped, but for the volunteers it’s not so simple. In this blog post, Adam Talbot from the University of Brighton, UK shares his latest work on burnout and stress amongst volunteers. This blog post is based on a article which recently appeared in Voluntary Sector Review.

Volunteering is often seen as a panacea for the various problems faced by society. Volunteers are thought to simultaneously contribute to the greater good of a society and gain personal benefits, including social capital and practical experience.

However, this perspective ignores various issues with volunteering, including the treatment of volunteers as free labour and the stresses placed on volunteers. In this blog post, I provide an overview of this darker side of volunteering, drawing on research conducted with a Scout group in northern England.

“many volunteers find themselves stressed and burnt out”

Leaders in the Scout association give their time freely, motivated by various factors, including enjoying scouting, giving something back (both to the local community and to a system volunteers have been part of as youths) and ensuring the “service” is available for their children. However, despite these laudable motivations, many volunteers find themselves stressed and burnt out by the demands placed on their time.

Once they are involved with the organisation, they know how much needs to be done and therefore end up putting in more work than is necessarily healthy in the long-term. They become entwined in a system that drains their free time, a problem exasperated by a neoliberal political system which leaves individuals scant leisure time in which to volunteer and treats volunteers as free labour, in this case as free childcare at evenings and occasional weekends.

Personal experiences

For some, such as Dean, a Group Scout Leader, this can be managed as his role involves the organisation of large events, requiring significant investment of time and energy, but also allowing him to take time away from Scouting when needed. For example, after a recent camp which he organised, he commented that he wouldn’t be doing anything to do with scouting for at least a couple of weeks.

For others though, such as Phil, an Assistant Scout Leader, the role they are in does not allow these periods to de-stress. He is required to run meetings every week (as well as occasional weekend camps), which is not only an inflexible time commitment but can also be a monotonous routine. This leads volunteers like Phil to feel burnt out, devoid of the energy, ideas and enthusiasm which characterises Scout leaders at their best. Hence, Phil is considering leaving the organisation, commenting that he feels “the system’s crap” due to the lack of support he has received.

This is symptomatic of a system straining under a lack of available volunteers, as more immediate concerns with other sections (e.g. Cub Scouts) whose leaders either had already left or were leaving without any replacement. Phil feels under these circumstances that despite the stress Scouts causes him, he is unable to leave as that would put much more pressure on others: “I feel like, not pressured, but I feel like I’ve got to do it”.

“the role they are in does not allow periods to de-stress”

During the research, a small number of interviews were conducted with volunteers. At almost all of these interviews, participants commented that while we all share these stressful experiences, we never really discuss them with each other.

While there is more to do to solve the problem, including challenging neoliberal policies which have a detrimental impact on volunteering, more collaborative reflection on practice would assist volunteers in managing their own time to avoid burnout. It is important to note though, in conclusion, that while darker elements of volunteering exist and certainly deserve greater attention from volunteers, policymakers and academics, volunteering in scouting was and is incredibly enjoyable and meaningful for participants (including myself), and the focus on negatives in this post does not fully reflect the experience of volunteering.

Read Adam’s VSR article in full here.

VSR 2015 [FC]For more information about the Voluntary Sector Review as well as link to free institutional trials please click here

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

An urban geographer’s journey through the changing landscape of gentrification

Writer, urban geographer and guest blogger Loretta Lees has been researching gentrification on and off now for 27 years. Her interest was triggered as an undergraduate student by a tour of the gentrifying Lower East Side in New York City. In her post Loretta guides us through the journey that has led her to research and publish numerous books and papers on the subject…

Loretta picturesAs an undergraduate student in the summer of 1988 I took a tour of the gentrifying Lower East Side in New York City given by the late Marxist geographer Neil Smith. There was community division about the recently introduced 1am curfew on the previously 24 hour access to Tompkins Square Park and the tension was palpable. A couple of days later the Tompkins Square Park anti-gentrification riots exploded, largely attributed to the heavy-handed actions of the NYPD.

NYC

The Lower East Side about to gentrify (photo: Loretta Lees, 1988)

Since then the gentrification process has mutated almost beyond recognition. Much of the gentrification we see these days is not the classic type where old houses are refurbished but rather new-build gentrification on brownfield or cleared sites. Gentrification is rarely small-scale and individually-led now, it is large scale and state-led. The social cleansing of Tompkins Square Park, that led to the riots, already demonstrated to me back then the increasing support the state was giving to gentrification.

Comparative urbanism

My expertise is in British and North American cities but I have shifted over the past 5 years to look in more depth at other European cities and processes of urbanization in the Global South and East. A longstanding interest in comparative urbanism and a desire to learn more about gentrification outside the Global North informed my collaboration with Hyun Shin, Ernesto Lopez and the late sociologist Hilda Herzer (University of Buenos Aires).

Huan Bang Shin, LSE

Huan Bang Shin, LSE

Working together we ran two linked seminars, one in London and one in Santiago in Chile. We asked questions like: Has gentrification really gone global? Is gentrification in the global south and east a new phenomenon or can it be regarded as part of a historical continuity of urban segregation and class-led urban reconfiguration? Should we call it gentrification at all? How does a gentrification blueprint anticipate the geographical and historical specificity of places? How do gentrification policies emerge in different countries? How does gentrification play out differently in the predominantly non-white cities of the Global South and East?

Ernesto Lopez, University of Chile

Ernesto Lopez, University of Chile

Drawing on conversations with folk writing about gentrification in the Global South and East, and from international reviews of pre-existing and emerging gentrification literatures we set out to answer such questions by giving voice to academics not usually consulted. What was required of us was no mean feat: a comparative imagination that could respond to the post-colonial challenge of unpicking the ‘Northern theoretical’ reference points on gentrification. And this will have implications for how gentrification is conceived and how research is conducted. It means paying attention to issues of developmentalism, universalism and categorisation. The way we did this was to use a relational comparative approach that, as Ananya Roy suggests, uses one site to pose questions of another.

Going Glocal

But, even though my interests went global, my concerns about gentrification also remained local. For a while I went Glocal! As someone who had lived in council properties at various stages of her life across the UK, and whose father was an architect who designed council houses, I became concerned about the gentrification of council estates. Although there are cases elsewhere in the UK, the gentrification of council estates has been especially prolific in London, where I live.

London

The Heygate Estate, London, socially cleansed (Photo: Loretta Lees, 2013)

Wanting to do something about this I teamed up with JustSpace, the London Tenants Federation and Southwark Notes Archive Group and together we worked on a project titled ‘Challenging ”the New Urban Renewal”: gathering the tools necessary to halt the social cleansing of council estates and developing community-led alternatives for sustaining existing communities’. After research into displacement on five council estates in inner London and workshops with tenants and others to identify alternatives to this ‘regeneration’ we successfully launched our handbook Staying Put. The handbook explains how the ‘regeneration’ of council estates is often  ‘gentrification’ and seeks to help tenants not just to recognise this but to fight it too. I’m really proud of the fact that the handbook has been adopted in a number of Swedish cities confronting the same issues.

I am currently extending this work in a new project titled ‘AGAPE: Exploring anti-gentrification practices and policies in Southern European Cities’. I am working with an Italian urban scholar, Sandra Annunziata, on the ways in which anti-gentrification practices have fed through to anti-gentrification policies in Rome, Madrid and Athens. The interface between gentrification studies and socially-just urban policy remains a tough nut to crack, but we must continue to try.

You may like to follow Loretta on twitter @LorettaCLees or get in touch with her via email.

Global gentrifications [FC]Global Gentrifications: Uneven development and displacement which details the results of the research conducted by Loretta Lees, Hyun Bang Shin and Ernesto López-Morales can be purchased at a 20% discount from the Policy Press website – here

See other Policy Press books by Loretta Lees

Sustainable London?: the future of a global city, Policy Press, edited by Rob Imrie and Loretta Lees, 2014.

Mixed Communities: gentrification by stealth?, Policy Press, edited by Gary Bridge, Tim Butler and Loretta Lees, 2011.

You may also be interested in other titles on gentrification by Loretta Lees

Planetary Gentrification, by Loretta Lees, Hyun Shin and Ernesto Lopez-Morales, forthcoming Polity Press, Cambridge.

The London Tenants Federation, Lees,L, Just Space and Southwark Notes Archive Group (2014) Staying Put: An Anti-Gentrification Handbook for Council Estates in London 

Loretta co-organises: The Urban Salon: A London forum for architecture, cities and international urbanism

Listen to Loretta’s TEDxBrixton talk on Gentrification and a podcast of her talk on Ruth Glass at the 50th Anniversary of the coining of the term ‘gentrification’.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Can we save our town centres?

The state of Britain’s town centres is back on the political agenda, as many of our towns and cities continue in their struggle to survive, regenerate and prosper as social centres. In his guest post author and researcher Julian Dobson, whose book Save our town centres publishes today, shows the failure of depending on market forces to ‘solve’ the town centre problem.

Julian Dobson 2Last month local leaders across the UK who had pinned their hopes on plans to regenerate landmark sites in partnership with Tesco had to bin years of planning and negotiations: the giant retailer pulled out of schemes to develop 49 sites, dumping promises to create at least 8,000 jobs, more than 1,100 new homes and nearly 2.5m square feet of retail space.

Wolverhampton’s Royal Hospital, derelict for 14 years, was just one of the victims. Less than a year ago the local council leader, Roger Lawrence, was hailing a £65m scheme to bring the site back to life, create hundreds of jobs and revitalise the city centre.

Yet last month, local MP, Pat McFadden called Tesco’s decision to walk away from the redevelopment: “a betrayal of the people of Wolverhampton and a clear breach of the promise made to the people of the city.”

Frustration

Frustration continues to typify the debate on the future of town centres. Local and national leaders place their faith in private developers and big retailers to rescue towns from decline, only to have those hopes dashed time and again.

Speaking in Parliament on 10 February Barry Sheerman, MP for Huddersfield, declared that town centres were: “threatened by all sorts of forces: not exactly evil forces, but forces of change.” His roll of shame included supermarkets, betting shops and takeaway food stores.

Two days later Northern Ireland’s minister for social development, Mervyn Storey, took up a similar theme at the Northern Ireland Town Centre Futures conference. He argued: “[there is an] urgent need to radically rethink how we regenerate and revitalise our town centres as multifunctional social centres.”

“The decline of our town and city centres has taken decades, exacerbated by…a naive faith that ‘the market’ will solve the problem it has created”

There are signs that this is starting to happen. In Bangor, Northern Ireland, artists have worked with the local council to bring a run-down parade of shops back to life. In Falkirk a series of festivals have created a buzz and sense of local pride.

But the real changes we need go much deeper than that. They involve rethinking how space is used, who has access to it and owns it, and where the economic, social and environmental benefits flow.

Naive faith

The decline of our town and city centres has taken decades, exacerbated by social and technological changes, unintelligent planning decisions, and a naive faith that ‘the market’ will solve the problems it has created. It may take as long to reconfigure town centres in ways that generate lasting local benefits.

Artist mural Stokes Croft, Bristol

Artist mural Stokes Croft, Bristol

But in the meantime there are powerful symbolic actions that can demonstrate the direction of travel that’s required. In Todmorden, West Yorkshire, local people are rethinking public space and creating a new narrative for their town by growing and sharing food. In Bristol, street artists have pioneered alternative futures for Stokes Croft, an area neglected for years by the city council and private landowners.

On London’s South Bank, Coin Street Community Builders has shown how creating affordable homes for local people rather than yet another bleak office city can bring lasting benefits for everyone, opening up the riverside as a public space and preserving a diverse community in a city that is increasingly the preserve of the affluent.

Such symbolic actions can signpost new ways of thinking of urban space as part of the ‘commons’, the shared resources from which we all benefit and for which we all share a responsibility.

The challenge of town centres is a microcosm of the challenges of 21st century society: how to create an economy that works for all, how to create good places to live in, how we construct our identity in a world in which life is increasingly commoditised. There aren’t any quick and easy solutions, but despite the continued angst over the future of our towns and cities I believe there are many reasons to be hopeful. That hope is found in the places where people have been ready to challenge the assumption that wealth will trickle down to localities from corporate activity, and where they have begun to define the value of places and spaces on their own terms and in response to local needs.

How to save our town centres [FC]How to Save Our Town Centres publishes today and is available from Policy Press. It can be purchase from the website with a 20% discount by clicking here.

You can also follow Julian on twitter @urbanpollinator

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

What is the ethical purpose of local government?

Ines Newman shares her thoughts on the ethical purpose of government

Ines Newman shares her thoughts on the ethical purpose of government

Ines Newman’s book Reclaiming local Democracy published in May.  At a launch in London on 10 June politicians, media commentators and the public debated some of the key issues covered in the book.  Ines Newman tells us more in her guest blog.

I wrote ‘Reclaiming local democracy’ because I want to generate a challenging debate on the ethical purpose of local government as well as more interest in local democracy. Brilliantly, that’s exactly what happened at the launch of the book earlier this month. Local vs central, financial independence and moving the agenda on from ‘what works’ to ‘what should an ethical local government do’ were all hotly debated.

Panel of speakers at Reclaiming local democracy book launch June, London

Panel of speakers at Reclaiming local democracy book launch June, London

Contributing editor to the Guardian’s Public Leaders Network, David Walker, raised the issue of a ‘postcode lottery’ if councils deliver different services in different areas. If, on the other hand, local authorities have an obligation to meet basic human need how can this provide scope for local decision-making? Such questions go to the heart of central/local relationships.

The basic human need for shelter places an obligation on governments to provide housing. But the form of the built environment and the variety of households in each area requires a discussion in each local authority area, involving residents, around what type of housing should be built and where.

My concern is how the local can influence the national

"I believe the central/local debate is misframed"

“I believe the central/local debate is misframed”

I believe that the central/local debate is ‘misframed’. We will always need strong central government to promote equality and facilitate redistribution. The question, therefore, is not just about which services should be devolved to local government.  More significantly, it is about how local government, together with local social movements, can help define basic human needs and rights at both national and local levels.  So my concern is how the local can influence the national. I see the Localism Act 2011, with its financial control of local government and minor devolution, as ‘hollow’ localism.

Financial independence

The lack of financial independence led to a debate on council tax. Council tax is highly regressive and has been made worse by its devolution to local government with reduced funding. This has resulted in many of the poorest households facing the highest cut in their living standards ever imposed by a government, as they now have to pay the ‘new poll tax’.

Hilary Benn shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Hilary Benn shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government engrossed in Reclaiming Local Democracy

I believe that if politicians have the ability to right an injustice, they should do just that. Hilary Benn, the shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, raised the political difficulties that will be caused by the protests from those who will lose out. Another contributor suggested that it was therefore essential for council tax reform to be in a party manifesto so that the democratic mandate could be used to support implementation. I would like to see local councillors campaigning now on council tax reform, to ensure the voice of poorer residents is heard against the more powerful, affluent residents whose interests are threatened. This is precisely where the local should be influencing the national, so we can develop a fair tax base for local government.

Ethical approach

In the book I argue that we need to move the agenda from ‘What works?’ to ‘What should an ethical local government do?’ Hilary Benn argued that these two questions are not necessarily in conflict and I agree with him. I believe the problem with the ‘What works?’ question is that it is usually asked in relation to a narrow output target which may fail to address the causes of the problem. The ‘best’ solution can then be determined by an expert. If such a methodology is to be combined with an ethical approach, the political questions should take priority. By providing a clear set of questions to ask in relation to the ethical implications of policy decisions, the book aims to support the political process and councillors who want to make a difference.

It’s great that the book has started to generate a debate. The green shoots of a new revival in local democracy are evident and I welcome feedback on the themes both of the debate and the book in general.

Reclaiming Local DemocracyReclaiming local democracy is available at a special discount rate on the Policy Press website.  Get involved in the debate by encouraging your local library to order a copy! 


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