The hub of communities – where size sometimes matters

I had a lovely experience recently at a Settlement in Bristol when conducting a Theory of Change Workshop for an organisation in the City. The Centre was busy, with events, training workshops and regular activities – it appeared to be and is, thriving.  Set amidst the houses and people it serves, it demonstrated the importance of having a hub in communities.

I had an equally lovely experience a week later supporting a rural village hall in Devon, to consult local people on the services and activities they would like to see in a re-vamped centre for their village. The pleasure people get from coming together in that space was incredibly visible.

Both revolved around the very simple, but essential need for a ‘shared space’ for people to meet, greet, talk, laugh and learn – and they embody what a community is – the coming together of people who find they have much more than their geographical location in common.

Place Based Funding is nothing new but is currently being favoured again by many funders – for example, The Big Lottery Fund announced in March 20 partnerships taking part in the first stage of their Placed Based Social Action programme. The partnerships are based in diverse areas across England will work towards developing social action plans designed to address issues important to their local communities.

And I want to pause here…

Looking at the 20 partnerships many of them (but not all) are quite big, where ‘places’ are easily defined – some communities are not like that or they are too small to be of interest to the big funders – the numbers just don’t add up – where one city intervention ‘could’ impact on 10’s of 1,000’s of people, a small community of 100 houses is not as attractive and yet the impact of a small amount of funding I would argue is greater – looking at the figures a different way – the division of £’s per person supported certainly adds up better when the impact on individuals is counted.

So I am all for funding for places – just as long as we remember they come in all shapes and sizes.

Jacqui Wolstenholme