Monday, 24 January 2005

Neighbourhood governance To the Institute for Community Studies, soon to become the Young Foundation, for a group discussion about neighbourhoods. In the context of continuing policy focus on localism, and with talk about government proposals on neighbourhood governance in the air, this was about trying to get in front of some of the issues - the risks of disillusion and the potential for genuine neighbourhood empowerment. Much talk about optimal demographic scales for governance structures, about going through or going round local government, whether we can get away from structures that are designed first and foremost to fit service delivery, and so on. It all felt very top-down but at this stage perhaps that’s inevitable. But I worry a little that whatever we end up with over the next couple of years, it may not take due account of the extent to which in most localities, local people are actually already doing a lot of ‘community governance.’ Of course, community activists will often be reluctant, justifiably, to take on any wider remit; and I accept also that many community organisations could not be described as representative, perhaps not democratic, and would not necessarily seek or claim to be. But this is one of the key environments where the confidence and skills and experience are built up. I think it’s one of the fundamental places to start: if a viable level of community activity isn’t taking place, it should be, and with a dash of community development, it could be. The other area where we should be planting the seeds of this future is in establishing a stronger ‘habit of participation’ – trying to ensure that no-one goes through life having little or no part to play in the decisions that affect their lives, from family life, through the classroom and playground, to the workplace and leisure activities. The schools I know about are, in this respect, a massive improvement on the ones I went to, and we have the citizenship curriculum as well to bolster this principle. But it is left open to claims that ‘youngsters only communicate in monosyllables’ and parents don’t invest enough time in chatting to their children. Hence for example the Basic Skills Agency’s latest well-publicised initiative in Wales on ‘Talking with your children can make all the difference.’ Neighbourhood relations, and neighbourhood governance, starts here – ‘Round and round the garden…’

Recent Comments