Cultural markers in the East of England

Month: May 2015

Unlocking local capacity – revisited

unlockinglocalcapacityPic-mIt has been a couple of years now since OPM published Rob Francis’s report Unlocking Local Capacity. However, with a new government and a fresh round of cuts in train, the content of the report around how and why unlocking potential is of interest to Local Authorities, remains highly topical.

The detail of the report looks at three key areas…

  • Unlocking individual capacity
  • Unlocking community capacity
  • Unlocking Council capacity

When looking at the individual the report examines the issues of trust, how both residents and elected members perceive each other and the veracity and effectiveness of creating new types of conversation in the local arena.

pdfIcon4 View, print or download this report here…

‘These questions are central to discussions about localism, empowerment and what central government calls the Big Society; but they are being asked with such urgency because acute financial pressures demand it’.

It is perhaps a sign of how difficult these issues are, in dealing with relationships with the local state, regardless of political tone, as much of the observations in the report can, to those of us with long memories, sound a long echo back to the heady days of the New Deal for Communities programmes. (This set of Wikipedia links make for an interesting historical narrative about community change…Ed.)

There is an interesting debate established in the report about the subject of ‘incentives’, or rather about the carrot or stick approach to behaviour change. This will always be a thorny issue to wrangle with, not least because with any positive reward programme some will be rewarded for establishing behaviours that others consider the norm.

Another issue is the perception of ‘deviance’, an uncomfortable psychological nomenclature, when used to describe residents who may have been disenfranchised socially and economically by the state for some period of time.

This video of a recent RSA lecture nicely bridges the first two chapters in the OPM report. Alienation, lack of reality and individual empowerment are all part of this reflection by Sir John Elvidge

See the movie on YouTubeThis RSA video freely available to all here…

The second chapter of the OPM report looks at collective responses through volunteering, in the context of changing landscapes with joint, collaborative action. We found it interesting, in revisiting this report, which makes much mention of the then current Big Society idea, that volunteering was seen as something new.

This despite a long, long history of community collective action through the charitable sector, arguably dating back to the early Victorian era two centuries ago now. Newness and efforts to stratify and comodify volunteering persist in the thinking of central government still, as seen in the refreshed election promises to incentivise the company volunteer.

The third sector of the report looks at how councils have and are changing in this redefined landscape. New sources of funding for community projects, new discussions with residents about core budget allocations as a means of establishing recognised community priorities and how to avoid ‘resource capture’. That is to say, those who shout loudest get the most!

‘This report makes the case that when it comes to local people doing more for themselves, it is not enough for councils to simply get out of the way; that capacity in most cases needs to be unlocked, not unleashed’.

This summation of the report is telling. It urges Councils to ‘…have a different conversation’. To shift the local authority debate away from ‘what do you need’ towards a focus on ‘what can we all do that would make things better?’

We particularly liked the urgency of the demand that Councils should ‘…keep hold of the boring stuff’. Governance and the workings of the committee are not everyone’s dream aspiration.

Where the tree will be planted, where the tea and cakes will be served and what colour should we paint the container…much more engaging questions in socio-political landscape change?


Eastern Region Conference
UCS, Ipswich – June 20th


Book your place here…

The Conference:

As the conference season gets under way, here is a key date for your Fellowship diary. Our Eastern regional conference is taking place athe UCS Waterside Building in Ipswich in Suffolk.

You can see the conference details and book your place on the Society’s usual Eventbrite pages here.

See more conference detail here.

Location: Waterfront building, University College Suffolk, Neptune Quay, Ipswich IP4 1QJ       

The Market Place:

marketButton4 (copy)

See more!

The Market Place forges connections among the regional Fellowship and has become a lively feature of the annual conference.

interneticon  Visit the dedicated Market Place web pages here.

If you are interested in having a stall/conversation point at conference please make contact with the Market Place team here..

emailIcon4  helpmarket (at)

Stalls are set up for a variety of projects which fit well with the RSA mission. They may be community based or extend across the region but the common feature is that they are a great way to connect face-to-face with Fellows and others who are engaged with the Fellowship in pursuit of their social change and support aims.

Stallholders invariably have a passion for their project and are looking forward to showing how they are empowering people to apply their creativity to emerging opportunities and challenges.

The principal Market Place activity will be in the main Foyer (where lunch is also available) from 12.30 until 2.00, but conversations will be taking place with exhibitors all day we are sure.

So either avoid the initial queue for lunch or grab your lunch-bag and graze the stalls.

You’ll find plenty of highly nutritional ideas and stimuli in The Market Place.

See you there?




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