Prospering partnerships

05 October 2017

In this piece, we hear from Mohammed Khan, from the Local Conversation in Highercroft about building relationships and the importance of partnership working.

“When we had the opportunity to get involved with the Local Conversation programme we jumped at the chance.

Blackburn and Darwen has experienced disadvantage but there’s a great sense of community and residents have always been committed to making a difference in their neighbourhood.

The project is giving local people the opportunity to create a shared vision for their neighbourhood, and a platform to turn their ideas into a reality.

The project has meant we were able to utilise local knowledge and some residents became, what we call, community research volunteers. They went out to speak to as many people as possible - we must have spoken to about 400 people in the area in the first few weeks – and we have carried on that engagement ever since.

As we spoke to people, our priorities for the neighbourhood started to emerge, which include trying to build a stronger community, creating opportunities for young people, and making the area feel safer.

From the beginning, we had to think outside the box when finding buildings for events and meetings. Luckily, a local councillor approached us because he had heard about the work we had been doing and came to us with the opportunity to take over the library, which was closing down.

A number of local councillors have given us their support because they believe in the difference the Local Conversation project can have to the community, and it’s great to build these partnerships.

It just makes sense to work with other agencies that are within the area to try and get the most out of everyone’s resources for local people – it can only enhance the project.

As well as partnerships with a children’s centre and schools, we have also started working with local housing groups. We’re even looking at developing spare land next to the library into a community garden space where people can come together.

One of our biggest partnerships is with the local churches, who have given us permission to use their venues. One of the churches in the neighbourhood - St James – told us we could use one of their spaces, which was completely empty. We wanted to refurbish it to create a youth base, so we looked at investing some money from the project to use it.

To refurbish the room, we partnered with Volunteering It Yourself, who help young people gain skills. In return for a small pot of funding, they sourced all the building materials and trained our young people to help build the youth base.

It’s a great benefit to the young people in our community, who have not only built their confidence but are also able to gain City and Guilds qualifications – in Health and Safety, employability, or whatever they choose. It is a good incentive for young people but also a good way to get the most out of our money.  

The main thing for us, when it comes to the Local Conversation, is always making sure local people are benefiting. It’s about how we can bring all the relevant partners together and make it easy for local people to access them. If we are all working together, it is only going to help local people – and that’s what really matters.

Mohammed Khan, Community Development Officer

 

To connect with the Local Conversation in Highercroft, click here.

To find out more about the Local Conversations programme, click here.

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