Coseley-–-What-we-see-and-what-we-think

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					Neighbourhood Management
Dudley MBC and Coseley Community
Education Network
Shortlisted – Contribution to cohesive
communities
Summary
As part of International Women‟s Week 2005, women from Coseley captured their everyday
lives on film. Their next project, „What we see and what we think‟, involved four groups of
local people using digital cameras to record changes that needed to happen in their area,
and culminated in an exhibition in February 2007. Environmental changes resulted – but in
addition, isolated, disparate and unconnected groups of people from across Coseley were
brought together into a cohesive whole which now forms half of the North Dudley
Neighbourhoods Strategic Partnership.

Background
After a review in 2002, Dudley introduced a neighbourhood management approach in the
borough‟s most deprived wards. This involves working with communities and partner
agencies to make sure the services that people need are easier to reach locally, and local
problems are tackled using a systematic planned approach.

In order to foster genuine community involvement and leadership, a number of local
partnerships have been established which can agree consistent priorities for action plans
directly linked to the delivery of local and national Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy floor
targets. Community members can also choose to be involved via communities of interest and
via single-issue groups, for example litter or sports. Neighbourhood management is seen as a
vehicle for community cohesion, and this case study is a particular example of how a
sequence of projects can form a whole greater than the sum of the parts.

The first link in the chain was a project – „Girls on Film‟ – for International Women‟s Week
2005, run jointly between North Dudley‟s neighbourhood management and Dudley Council‟s
adult and youth services. The second was an exhibition, „Coseley our Community in Words
and Pictures – what we see and what we think‟. This was a joint project between
neighbourhood management and Coseley Community Education Network (a registered
charity composed of local community groups and statutory and voluntary bodies), which was
funded with the help of a grant from Dosti (the Local Empowerment Network).
Each of these projects required around £1,000 of funding, including the specialist tutor‟s
time and the materials used. Officer time was not included in these costs. For „Girls on Film‟
it would have amounted to about a week‟s work covering the planning meetings, the initial
launch lunch, advice and guidance to participants, workshops and the exhibition. For „What
we see and what we think‟, approximately 80 hours was spent on the funding bid, the
purchase of equipment, recruiting individuals, neighbourhood meetings, supporting and
encouraging the teams, workshops and the exhibition and launch of the North Dudley
Neighbourhoods Strategic Partnership.

Case study detail
Staff from Dudley council worked with community groups to bring local women together to
capture their everyday lives on camera. Twenty women from the Dudley north area (including
Wallbrook, Coseley and the Oval and Tudor), aged 17 to 70, teenage mums, working women
and grandmothers, were each given a disposable camera and asked to capture their lives on
film. After a week of taking photographs they then attended digital editing workshops,
mounted the images and wrote captions describing their pictures. The results – entitled „Girls
on Film‟ – were exhibited at the Dormston Centre, in Sedgley, during International Women‟s
Week.

The project built citizenship, confidence, social networks and community cohesion, and
recognised the contribution of women to their communities.

Many of the participants wanted to carry on learning – they had received recognition from
Dudley Learning Partnership as learners of the year. They were also eager to involve more of
the community in something which was being used as a way of encouraging service providers
to respond better to their needs. They hoped to inspire local people to work with politicians
and service providers to improve their community. Showing service providers what effect
their services have on local people could encourage them to consider altering services as a
result.

The neighbourhood manager, working with Coseley Community Education Network, received
a grant from Dosti to purchase digital cameras for use by four different groups of residents.
Each street or neighbourhood group listed what they thought needed improving in the area,
selected three or four issues and captured them on film. The groups then took part in an
editing workshop and added words describing what they saw as they went about their lives in
Coseley, how they felt about it, how it affected them and what they wanted to see done. Their
work was exhibited at the local community centre.

Evaluation and performance measures
The „Girls on Film‟ exhibition was attended by 60 people, and „What we see and what we
think‟ by 30 local residents plus a local councillor who was able to encourage action on some
of the points raised.

Among the positive outcomes so far, the public toilets in Roseville have been refurbished, the
fence has been reinstated after a four year wait, and the bus stop – used a lot by pensioners
– has been upgraded with a hard standing to prevent the elderly from slipping.

Because the exhibition materials provided hard evidence which could be used with and by
council contacts to get results quickly, the participants felt encouraged to carry on pressing
for change. Several „private viewings‟ of the exhibition have been conducted, including one
with the local MP who expressed interest when he was informed of the project‟s shortlisting
for the RegenWM prizes.

To quote the neighbourhood manager: “This project has brought together rather disparate
and unconnected groups of people many of whom were isolated by virtue of age, location, life
experiences, lack of education, lacking in self-confidence and self-belief and demonstrated in
a very visual and dramatic way how they could make a difference to themselves, their
neighbours and to where they live.”

What has worked well
Using the medium of photography to bring people together to capture people‟s imagination
resulted in a permanent pictorial record displayed in the local community centre of how
things were and what needed improving. Local people from across the neighbourhoods in
Coseley felt less isolated when they realised they were not alone in their concerns and that
there were others who also had the same concerns. The project brought people together
because they began to realise they could have a stronger voice if they worked together to
make change happen in their locality.

Participation was enhanced using the principle of going to the people rather than expecting
them to come to you, and Participatory Appraisal techniques were used to encourage
participation in the first exercise. Instead of forcing residents to show their interest by
attending formal meetings, meetings were held in people‟s homes, back gardens (in
summer), and even their craft class. As long as they gathered a few neighbours together, the
neighbourhood manager joined them to explain the idea of what she thought could be
achieved.

The challenges
The neighbourhood manager already knew most of the participants, having worked with
them on an individual case basis, for example on housing repairs, community safety issues,
or graffiti removal. This meant that they had already built up a sense of trust that she could
help them bring about change. Without this, it would have been difficult to persuade them to
believe they could make a difference by being involved in this project.

It was also a challenge to keep the interest going when some members drifted away from the
project – for perfectly valid reasons such as ill health (depression is a major health issue in
this area), neighbour disputes, and friendship tensions. The work involved in encouraging
those who doubt their own abilities, who lack self-esteem, self-worth and self-belief to stay
with a project should not be underestimated.

Learning Points
   The potential of seemingly unlikely starting points to engage people
   A project may be successful due to building on previous work – outcomes can take time
    to become evident
   The power of short-term gains to encourage people to work towards a common goal.
Contact
Janet Foster
Dudley MBC and Coseley Community Education Network
Saltwells EDC
Bowling Green Road
Netherton
Dudley
DY2 9LY

01384 812 289
janet.foster@dudley.gov.uk

				
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