Socially Connected Leeds: Innovative Communities
16 April 2020
This post is part of a series of blogs sharing good news stories, positive practice and the range of innovative ways communities in Leeds are remaining connected through neighbourliness.
In these difficult times, I feel prouder than ever to work in Leeds. I see hope and comfort in the neighbourliness and the kind, generous responses from communities featured previously in this series of blogs by Mick Ward, Hannah Bailey and Claire Graham.
Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) challenges traditional views of volunteering by seeing the more reciprocal benefit. It is great to see how focusing on the specific skills, location and immediate willingness of the volunteering drive is creating opportunities for different kinds of interaction and community building. This has potential to increase confidence and strengthen community ties and resources in the long term the future.
The Leeds response
There has been a remarkable response from individuals who have answered calls to volunteer and the support of commercial partners outside of the health and care system along with the coordination effort of VAL, the council and health partners have all played a significant role in enabling communities of Leeds to meet the challenges posed by Covid-19. At the centre of this effort are community-based organisations, organisations with long-term connections to their communities: dynamic and creative organisations run by people with a love and passion for people they work alongside. The opportunity we have to build on our existing third networks and Local Care Partnerships here is key.
Supported by VAL, the third sector has been front and centre of the Leeds response. Community-based organisations including Neighbourhood Networks, churches, community centres, environmental groups, a youth led organisation and a theatre company make up some of the hub organisations driving the efforts in each of our city wards. They have responded rapidly to meet the needs of those people needing to be ‘shielded’ for health reasons; coordinating emergency food provision and support to people with care and support needs; and linking with many other charities and faith organisations across the city providing food, friendship and support to people who are they already knew or are getting to know now.
A new Leeds approach?
Communities can thrive where people, resources and networks come together. Communities are able to build further capacity and to connect different people together. This restorative, ‘asset based’ perspective, which has been Leeds’s approach to civil society in recent years - doing things with not for people - may stand of us in good stead in these difficult times and take a new generation of volunteers with us into the future.
The acts of giving time and offering to share skills or resources correspond with traditional volunteering, seen often as one way, but with so much shared benefit and learning. Some of us may feel more asset-rich or be seen as contributing to a larger extent, but both volunteers and our wider system benefit significantly, especially in these times. Whilst helping some meet basic human needs for food, medicines and support the opportunity can help others reduce feelings of helplessness and gain new relationships and understanding. What could this blurring of the lines between us all mean as for our future way of living and work together as a city?
It is vital that we celebrate and support the ways in which ‘Communities of Interest’: those linked by experience and culture, as well as geography, are supporting each other. Such as local businesses supporting BHI; People in Action sharing sessions so freely; older people who have experienced loneliness themselves befriending newly isolated people in Bramley, and everyone at Friends of Dorothy embracing new technology together.
Sharing our learning
Leeds has long recognised the potential of neighbourhoods and communities to be at the heart of bringing about positive change. The side questions that as a city we have about definitions of asset based community development and co-production or who leads the collaboration and partnership, may suddenly seem less important if we can share our diverse assets.
Over the coming weeks I have no doubt that by working together for our city, our assets will further flourish and prove their value. My hope is that we can actively use opportunities to ensure that people from communities who are more marginalised or may face social or racial injustice in ordinary circumstances are not more adversely affected now or in the future.
To help us embed this work in our health and care system, enabling communities to meet future challenges we need to hear your stories.
There are lots of ways you can feed back including the #PositivePartnerships initiative; connect with our Communities of Interest Hub organisations or complete the Third Sector Resilience survey https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/B0QYOA/ and don’t forget to keep sharing the VAL Being a good neighbour pack
By Pip Goff
PSI -Voliton -Tenfold Director