Whilst decision-makers are increasingly well networked at local authority level with demonstrable advantages such as increasing mutual understanding and common aims, these benefits are not available to locally based decision-makers and community activists.
Delivered for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Common Purpose, Local Links sought to promote community networking and information sharing to generate capacity at the neighbourhood level. The project was delivered in four West Yorkshire areas, Todmorden, Heckmondwike, Shipley and Bradford. Through a series of workshops Local Links brought together people active in community groups, voluntary sector bodies, businesses, and public-sector workers in order to:
- Investigate the proposition that local networking will support better governance and civil engagement within disadvantaged communities;
- Pilot a process of networking, support, skills development and information sharing for locally based decision-makers and active citizens.
- Build stronger and more active community networks in the areas where the
programmes took place.
An evaluation of the research project found that Local Links was successful in:
- enhancing networking in local communities. For many participants this was the key benefit – meeting others actively involved in the area, taking opportunities for working together and forging stronger links.
- building knowledge and improved understanding of the local area and how it works. Participants felt better informed as a result. They also learned the value of diversity within their community, seeing the world through others’ eyes and breaking down barriers.
- increasing confidence and reducing barriers to participation, particularly among those with less experience of public meetings.
- building up group rapport and trust to enable sensitive issues to be discussed and debated.
- strengthening knowledge of and support for local projects and organisations.
The full report is available on the JRF website here.