Creating Change in Longbenton

07 April 2016

One of our Local Conversations partners, Justice Prince, has recently been named in the Fortuna 50 – an index of the UK’s fastest growing women-led small businesses, initiated by Downing Street.

Justice Prince is a small community interest company and social enterprise set up in 2007 by sisters Karen Clark and Julie Cruddas.

In this blog they explain how Justice Prince has grown in the last nine years.

“We grew up on the Longbenton estate, North Tyneside, so the area means a lot to us. For many years, we both worked in various roles in different organisations, supporting people in disadvantaged communities across the UK, Europe and Africa.

“It became our dream to use the skills, knowledge and experience we had gained to set up a community development organisation to support people in our home neighbourhood. Then, in 2006 we both found ourselves at a cross roads in life and took the decision to follow this dream. The following year, Justice Prince CIC was formally registered.   

“We wanted to improve the quality of life on the estate. Local people were fed up with the way things were going, so we talked to residents about what they felt was wrong and what was needed.

“By working alongside residents, Justice Prince has gone from strength to strength - with an outstanding successful track record in community development, social action and empowerment initiatives which place local people at the heart of the development process. We work with all sectors of the community and have developed a wide infrastructure of partners including public, private and third sector organisations.

“We’re really passionate about our work; strong social values underpin what we do and most importantly why we do it. We firmly believe in the fight for social justice and this is what keeps us going when things get tough.

“One of the main measures to bring about change has been the creation of the Oxford Community Garden on the site of 18 derelict allotments on Chesters Avenue. The garden has about 30 volunteers, who help grow vegetables and fruit, learn skills, build up their confidence and self-esteem and become part of a supportive social network.

“We have also been involved in a range of work with young people including Barriers to Employment; a project engaging long-term unemployed young people in a peer research project to identify and tackle barriers to employment. This formed the basis of the innovative Working Roots programme, a new full time work based training and learning pathway for young people aged between 16 and 18.

“Through the North Tyneside Neighbourhood Management Pilot, we worked in the seven most deprived neighbourhoods in the borough, actively engaging residents in development of representative, resident-led structures to increase resident influence over local service design and delivery. 

“These are just three examples of the ways we are trying to create social change, and our partnership with People’s Health Trust is enabling us to expand on this.

 “It’s unusual for a funder to put residents at the heart of design, development and delivery of local initiatives, so working with the Trust has been a really refreshing experience.

“The Local Conversations project has been a great fit for us because Justice Prince is all about working with communities to improve the quality of living for the most disadvantaged people in North Tyneside.

“Right from the start of the Local Conversation in Longbenton, there has been such a great level of enthusiasm - residents are really keen to realise their vision for the local community. Everyone has got really stuck into the project and people are forming new, stronger, friendships.

“A steering group has been set up, made up of local residents, and we’ve been working really hard to identify common concerns, strengths and opportunities on the estate. This all started with small steps; chats in the streets and events at schools, pubs and local churches.

“The Local Conversation has been very successful in including people who do not always get involved in community events such as young people, people with mental health issues and people with disabilities and we are hopeful that this will continue throughout the project.

“During the engagement process, residents identified initial themes including; unemployment - particularly affecting young people, the need for support for older and vulnerable people, lack of activities for children and young people and the need to improve community cohesion. It’s these issues that have formed the basis of our Local Conversations project and now we are working together as a community to address them.

“Since the launch of the Local Conversation, the Centre for Entrepreneurs identified us as one of the most inspiring women-led companies within the UK in their Fortuna 50 Index. The Index aims to highlight this achievement and promote the diversity of successful businesses that are being run by women, as well as inspire other women to follow the route of entrepreneurship.

“This was totally unexpected for us but a really nice surprise. It just felt brilliant because we had no idea we were going to be included; it’s not something we had actually applied for, it was all done totally independent of us. It’s an amazing boost to our confidence and morale to actually realise we’re part of one of the most successful small women led businesses in the country. Not bad for two sisters from Longbenton.

“The grant we received from People’s Health Trust has a big part to play in us getting this recognition; it’s this funding that has helped us to grow.

“Developing Justice Prince hasn’t been an easy journey, it’s been a steep learning curve and required real determination and resilience but nothing worthwhile is ever easy. We’ve come a long way in nine years, but the work we’ve done so far is just the beginning.

“As the Local Conversation in Longbenton progresses, we can’t wait to see local residents becoming more confident in their abilities to influence change and shape the estate’s future.”

Karen Clark and Julie Cruddas, Justice Prince CIC

Find out more about the Local Conversation in Longbenton here.

Read more posts from the Trust blog here.

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