Thursday, 19 July 2007

The role of street reps 'Tell your neighbours the truth as you know it!' - a jotted note for a 'job advert' for street reps, contrived during a workshop exercise I ran with a group yesterday. This was in an area of intense and complex regeneration, so perhaps it was not surprising how often the notion of truth and fact came up. In this locality, street reps see themselves almost entirely as conduits of information, flowing in both directions, between residents and agencies. Notions like 'positive gossip' and 'squashing rumours' highlighted the importance to them of information quality. Unfortunately, the nature of the renewal issues - housing allocation, demolitions, relocation, developers' timescales, planning regulations etc - means that hard facts are hard to come by. The role therefore risks becoming a thankless one and even confrontational, with local people getting worked up about change especially when they think their homes are threatened, and the street rep becoming the lightning conductor for their disquiet. You might therefore think there'd be something to be said for the reps getting involved in positive initiatives like border planting or barbecues or street parties or similar. The fact that they felt this to be beyond their remit suggests to me that the pool of people to whom this role will appeal is likely to be quite small - limited to the kind of person who likes to be the first to know what's going on, ready to commit time and energy to finding out and sharing the information with others, comfortable with going to meetings and committees, and willing to put up with some irritating and irritated neighbours. And just because we all know people who fit that description, it doesn't mean there are ever likely to be enough of them. So perhaps it's worth trying to broaden perceptions of the role a little. Meanwhile, I'm looking at how the role of street rep has evolved elsewhere, and hopefully there will be a chance to bring some of the variety together to see what's common and what's transferrable.

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