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An update from Leeds Community Anchor Network (LCAN)

Added: 12/05/2022

Voluntary Action Leeds

It feels timely to give an update on the work of the Leeds Community Anchor Network (LCAN).  Building on all the partnerships and knowledge gained through working together during the pandemic, LCAN seeks tocontinue those connections.   

Up until last week we had met as a network only online, whilst our operating agreement remained a bit of paper that each organisation has signed, scanned and emailed back to us. Everything was in place, work on the ground had been building, but as a network this was the first time we were to meet in person.    

The aim of a half day workshop was to ‘lift the operating agreement off paper and into real life,’ and I believe we managed that. Hosted by Richard Dimery at the fabulous Pusey parish church, it was a perfect venue as the spacious historic building provided ample room and the well-tended grounds looked beautiful in the bright spring sun.   

There is a level of interaction in a meeting that is impossible to reach virtually, and the network certainly benefitted from a morning together in person.  LCAN members now number 19 organisations, some big some small, but all working to their own particular strengthens and with their own knowledge of the communities they work with.  

We agreed and actioned lots of things, but some of the most powerful and binding moments came from having time to discuss the values of the network. 

It is not rocket science, and its nothing new either. I was part of the formation of the Leeds Solidarity Network when I worked at Leeds GATE. The principle was simple, that marginalised communities, however different they appear often experience the same barriers to accessing services. Rather than operate in ‘silos’ when a sole voice is easily ignored, by standing together highlighting systemic injustice then change is more likely to come.  

LCAN is not a radical change to the way charities operate, but it draws on some key values that we need to hold to. “Collaboration not competition” is one of one of these values, and I’m sure many charities will agree with me that the way contracting of services works is often to pit charities against each other in an unwieldy and unnecessary battle over delivering services to the communities that we all hold most important and for whom we all want to thrive.  

Ultimately, we agreed that we have to think beyond our current boundaries, we have to aim high and look at system change. We are developing a tool for the experiences and voices of community members to be heard at the top table.  LCAN will not reach these aims in a short space of time and some of the work will be a slow burn, but it is important that we hold as an ‘end game’ a fairer more just society of thriving communities and equal access to services.    

Something that has been asked of the network is ‘are you not just duplicating what is already out there?’ but while it is true that  there are lots of forums and networks already in existence, I don’t think they serve the same purpose. The partnerships forged through the Covid response have accelerated connectedness – in the words of one Community Care Hub, “it took us 6 months to make partnerships it would otherwise have taken 6 years to establish”.    

Many of the 19 anchors have a foot in different camps, from ABCD Pathfinder sights, through Local Care Partnership involvement to Neighbourhood Networks, and the fact that we are such a mixed group of organisations will ensure that the Networks activities don’t duplicate what is already established.   

There is room for everyone at the LCAN table. What has started out with those that were directly involved in the delivery of the Community Care Hub work is expanding and in the coming months we hope the network will expand further.  

A list of Community Anchor Organisations can be found here and will be regularly updated.   

For more information about the network contact Claire at VAL or your local Community Anchor. 

Voluntary Action Leeds

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