Community spirit by Henry Hobson

Here’s my post for Care to Share Magazine:

Care To Share Magazine blog

What do we mean when we say we have an ageing population? That we are all getting older? This may be true, but they don’t amount to the same thing. The main reason for this of course is the birth and death rates. As time passes, we get older, some people die and others are born. So as we as individuals get older, we might expect the age of the overall population to remain the same. But it doesn’t; the population is ageing as we are repeatedly told.

Rising living standards and breakthroughs in medical science are the main contributors here, causing life expectancy in the UK to have risen by 6 ½ years between 1980 and 2011 according to the Office for National Statistics. That we are all expected to live longer and healthier lives is a cause for celebration, let there be no doubt, but it does bring…

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Happy Valentine’s Data

Call me an old romantic if you will, but I like nothing more than trawling through a good old data set on Valentine’s day.  There’s a simple reason for this and that is that good service delivery needs to be evidence based; nothing says “I love you” quite like developing services that actually address the well evidenced needs and desires of local people and capitalise fully on local resources.  Evidence and data in this sense are interchangeable.  A record of the fact that we have an empty community hall on Friday mornings is data, as is knowledge of a nascent voluntary group looking for a venue (hopefully you can see where this is going).  A more traditional conception of data is perhaps represented in this table derived from the 2011 census data which gives reported general health by ethnic group in Lewisham.  All three could be put to good use in developing a new service with a health-focus for the local community.

As a Community Development Worker, access to data and its effective interpretation and implementation are of paramount importance to me as a I go about my work.  But I want to stress that this doesn’t mean sitting down in front of spreadsheets all day long – it also means going out and visiting groups and venues, putting faces to email addresses and gaining a thorough and human understanding of who is working to deliver services, what their motivations and visions are, and how they go about it.

Between these two extremes there is a wealth of information available for free and presented in intuitive and accessible formats that can help people who are thinking about services and service delivery to work effectively.  This ward atlas by http://data.london.gov.uk/ is a great example.  A few clicks and you can generate a map of Lewisham indicating the population density of the over-65 age group:

lewishamwards65plus

(Note how the density increases gradually from the north to the south of the borough).

You can imagine for yourself how this kind of information could be put to use by a local authority or by local people working to support each other.  Powerful, wouldn’t you say?

We also live in the era of the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) produced by Local Authorities in conjunction with local NHS bodies and by which many priorities in terms of funding and commissioning of services are set.  Anyone thinking about a new service or developing an existing one would be foolish to ignore their local JSNA and the local priorities identified therein.  Having said that the priorities identified in the JSNA in Lewisham are wide ranging and could be interpreted to include almost any illnesses (“reduce the number of emergency admissions for people with chronic long term conditions”  and “improve mental health and wellbeing” are just 2 of the 9 priorities in Lewisham) – so organisations looking for funding can and should be considering how their projected outcomes fit in with these priorities.

And yes, here at Community Connections we are generating our own data sets.  Most interesting will be the work our facilitators have been doing to uncover the most significant unmet needs in the borough (see my previous post: Could you be a befriender? – and there will be more to come) but also on the development side of the project we are working towards developing maps like this that give a broad overview of services in one corner of the borough.

So what sources of data do you use that I could access?  Is there anything else available in Lewisham?  I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Post by Henry

A Neighbourhood Plan for New Cross

Here’s some information about an exciting development; a proposed neighbourhood plan for New Cross. The first meeting is at 7pm on Thursday 6th March at Goldsmiths, room RHB 137a on the ground floor.

Urban Patchwork

If you live, work, study or volunteer in New Cross, you may be interested in ensuring that New Cross develops for the better. There are loads of amazing aspects to the New Cross community that we want to protect. However, we also want to make the most of the opportunities that increasing investment in the area will bring.   My neighbour and I are both studying postgraduate courses in urban planning-related subjects and want to establish a neighbourhood forum in New Cross in order to develop a neighbourhood plan.

NX Rd

What is a neighbourhood plan?
A local community can shape new development in their area by forming a neighbourhood forum in order to prepare a neighbourhood plan. Within this plan, they can permit the development they want to see – in full or in outline – without the need for planning applications. These are called ‘neighbourhood development orders.’ (Local councils will however continue to produce borough-wide…

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All the way to the Timebank…

I’ve been thinking a lot about timebanking recently and the impact it can have on the lives of people and on communities. I think three things that really stand out about the timebanking model that set it apart from other models of volunteering and service delivery are that it is egalitarian, hyper-local, and bottom-up.  Egalitarian in the sense that everyone’s time is worth the same amount; usually one hour of anyone’s time is equal to one “Time Credit”. Hyper local in the sense that it operates at the level of very local communities – people volunteering their time to support their neighbours – which is something most traditional organisations and agencies struggle to develop.  And bottom-up in the sense that it is driven by the members themselves; they understand the assets in their own communities and how they can be best put to use in order to address local need.

Here in Lewisham we are lucky to have a dedicated team working at Rushey Green Time Bank (RGTB) who have also set up a number of local hubs in the borough.  We have already been working closely with RGTB to facilitate some person-to-person time exchanges which have benefited some of our service users and we anticipate this model of volunteering being an effective mode of support for people across the borough for a long time to come.

Of course, every timebank grows to be more effective and useful as more people get involved, and there is always room for more members, so maybe you could join in? Remember, for every hour you volunteer, you can get an hour back from another time bank member.  Maybe you need some help in the garden? Or someone to show you how to use your new computer?  The timebank could be just what you need…

You can contact Rushey Green Time Bank on 020 7138 1772 or email them at: rusheygreen@gmail.com.

Post by Henry

 

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