I’ve not had enough time to really read the new report from the JRF which looks at whether the ‘soft’ regeneration agenda that has been effective, but it looks interesting.
There’s a focus on three areas, including Honor Oak in Lewisham. Where they say:
the PICs [Partnership Initiative for Communities] project of community development and resident empowerment might have been expected to make a useful, but modest, contribution to social regeneration on the estate. What was not appreciated, however, was that the estate itself was at a tipping point in terms of its own internal social relationships. The PICs input tilted it decisively by giving a voice and power to residents who had hitherto been excluded from participating in decisions about their neighbourhood’s future. Once empowered, these residents wrote their own script and did things differently:
“When I first went along to the tenants’ association, all they did was talk about their own repairs. We wanted to talk about crime and anti-social behaviour. With the help of the JRF workers, we set up meetings directly with the police.”
When this previously untapped energy was released on the estate, things started to happen and old excuses were not accepted:
“Sometimes we had to confront people on the tenants’ association. They had a choice of either moving out of the way or coming along with us. Now we have black and white people working together, which never happened before.”
When PICs began, the tenants’ association and other estate institutions were seen as all white organisations. Within a few years, and peacefully, they had evolved into organisations that were open to people of all ‘races’ and colours.
This reminds me, somewhat, of the relationships that developed on the Heathside and Lethbridge estates where I was quite heavily involved in supporting residents to take more control over their affairs.
There the problems were much less about race, although that came up occasionally, but about power. Once the residents started relying less on the Participation Officers and developing their own ways of working they started to feel like they could change things.
Of course its never linear, but overall by the time I lost the election in May I felt they were on the way to making sure the regeneration of their estate was going to work as well for them as for those who might come and live there in the future.
Anyway I’m seeing a number of them this evening at their Christmas ‘do’ so I’ll be able to get an update on how things have progressed.