In the last year, a group of us from the Open University and the Glass-House Community Led Design engaged in a research project focussed on civic leadership. We teamed up with colleagues from other disciplines in the Open University interested in civil society and the voluntary sector, as well as a new non-academic partner, the Knowle West Media Centre in Bristol. We were all interested to explore the mechanisms and infrastructures needed to instigate collaboration between actors from different sectors involved in placemaking and to incubate civic projects and actions.
The Incubating Civic Leadership (ICL) project supported two pilot projects, one in Redbridge, East London, in collaboration London Borough of Redbridge and Muslimah Sports Association and one in Bristol, with the Filwood Broadway Working Group of the Knowle West Alliance in Bristol. Both projects had an element of seeking to engage different groups of people in the community in discussions about plans for the area and to empower them to take action and develop ownership of changes in their public spaces.
You can view this film summarising the project, the activities and the things we collectively learned:
Many of the challenges that the groups we worked with in this project faced, are not so different from the challenges that groups looking after historic faith buildings are facing; such as lack of time, lack of resources and lack of confidence in their own ability to lead change. But what we are seeing, time and again, is that with little support and encouragement, and by creating the space and time for reflection and mutual learning, community groups can achieve wonderful things benefitting their places and the people who inhabit them. Engaging in civic action projects can enhance people's skills, confidence and wellbeing and can help create and strengthen social relationships, culture and people's sense of identity. Projects that are rooted in communities and which also truly build on collaboration and partnership working, can help create more just and more sustainable environments.
As part of the ICL project, we went back to two groups that we worked with in Empowering Design Practices, to capture and celebrate their own journeys and to provide some inspiration for anyone considering a community-led civic action project. Enjoy the stories of Cemetery Road Baptist Church and the ISRAAC Somali Community Association, located within a small distance from each other, on Cemetery Road in Sheffield.