Involving the council
This week the focus is on the Transition Ingredients from the Connecting stage. One of these is called 'Involving the Council' something we have done a fair bit of in Finsbury Park. Our area covers three London boroughs: Haringey, Hackney and Islington. Probably because of this we've never really got much of a handle on all three councils in any comprehensive way, but have managed to achieve quite a lot with their support. Not only have they been great at giving us money for festivals, food growing projects, home insulation workshops and cycle training, but they've also invited us along to events they've organised. We've made efforts to talk to key councillors and they've invited our input on a policy document, at a Neighbourhood forum, and at green events. All three councils also have effective ways to point volunteers towards our projects and we could perhaps use these services more.
As it says in the online description of this ingredient,
It won’t initially be easy; relationships need work.
It won’t happen overnight; be patient.
It often ends up about being about the relationship with people and it does take a while to build up credibility. I definitely think groups need to start doing things under their own steam for a good while, before approaching council officers and councillors, or expecting to be consulted. Think long term.
Our recent successful £1 million funding bid to the National Lottery (Communities Living Sustainably) involved employees from Hackney and Haringey councils and I got the chance to see council officers doing their thing most efficaciously. I had already picked up on this potential source of funding and was toying with applying when I received a 'heads up' email from Fran Bury at Hackney Council. A quick email to Adam Parvez at Haringey Council and to a few other local organisations and we set up the conference call which led to the formation of a consortium of interested organisations. They are all quite big organisations: Hackney Council, Haringey Council, Manor House Development Trust, Groundwork London, London Sustainability Exchange, London Wildlife Trust, Berkeley Homes and Genesis Housing. We first of all won £10,000 to put together our plan Doing the consultation and writing the bid took about three months. We had numerous meetings, (never boring ones!) and it was hard hard work. Throughout this process, the council officers were supportive and helpful, tracking down and sharing data, offering feedback, making suggestions, turning up at consultation events and helping get questionnaires completed, and making sure things were running smoothly. They were really brilliant. The final bid document included statements from Fran and Adam emphasising each council's commitment to the proposed project and explaining why cross-borough work was so important in that particular area. I really believe their input was critical in our winning the bid. So here's to those hard-working council officers. As far as I'm concerned, they are worth their weight in gold!