June 18, 2008
English Community Empowerment White Paper
The UK Government has announced that a Community Empowerment White Paper will be published in the summer. The DTA in England has expressed concern that government thinking on empowerment seems to have switched its focus to the role of the individual citizen rather than communities
Community organisations in our membership feel very strongly that the approach to community empowerment set In the Department for Communities and Local Government’s (CLG) paper ‘Unlocking the Talent of our Communities’ does not go nearly far enough.
We note with concern that CLG’s views as expressed in that paper are not consistent with the more ambitious approach which the Department has been taking over the last year. The strategy appears to have narrowed to a focus on the role of individual citizens in their relationship to the state, and on tackling worklessness. While important, these do not represent a community empowerment programme sufficient to generate the change that government wishes to see.
Our experience is that community empowerment works best where there are resilient multi-purpose community vehicles (of which development trusts are an example), that are community led, generating some of their own income, owning assets, and able to tackle problems and deliver a change-agenda themselves and through partnerships.
Furthermore, while we welcome a focus on worklessness, the recent paper does not offer a specific strategy to harness the vast potential contribution of community-led social enterprise in helping people towards positive activity, training, volunteering, and paid employment.
1. The Community Empowerment White Paper should introduce an incentive scheme linked to the Working Neighbourhoods Fund to make this happen.
2. We do agree with the Department’s view that participatory budgeting could be a useful way to empower local communities. We also welcome the Department’s proposals for community petitions.
But above all we believe that a community empowerment programme must include a strong focus on community anchors, community assets, and community enterprise. In our experience this Is the single most effective way to achieve long term sustained community empowerment.
3. We therefore urge CLG to invite tenders to deliver the community anchors investment programme without further delay.
4. We hope that the conclusions of the second phase of the Quirk review on community assets will be fully reflected in the Community Empowerment White Paper.
5- We recommend that the White Paper includes proposals for enhanced development finance, knowledge and skills exchange, and business mentoring, for community-led social enterprise.
We have the potential to achieve high quality community anchors, community asset ownership, and community enterprise, in every neighbourhood in the country -and therefore we do have the opportunity to truly unlock the talents in our communities.