- seeking to engage the whole community in an inclusive manner
- offering a positive vision of the benefits of living in a well-connected area
- identifying and addressing barriers to participation
- ensure people feel as connected to others or resources as they wish to be
- know how to access community resources
Despite the fact that West Oxford is generally an affluent area, there are still areas of deprivation which are no less a part of West Oxford, and which can feel well hidden and closed off from the rest of the area. Our project would be to find out more about the needs and resources of people in those areas, what the association can offer them, and what they can offer the association. This is something we have considered for some time, but without the resources or people to follow this though.
The Jericho and West Ward boundaries of Oxford City Council (OCC) are changing to take in the area around the east of the ice rink. This would have quite a change to the demographics of our designated area and would bring in many more houses with quite different financial status than most of West Oxford or Jericho.
Some of the needs in those areas have been amplified in the four or five months since lock down. The centre manager, Keith Birnie, was seconded from March – June to OCC‘s West and Central Locality Response Hub, set up to support the Oxford Hub’s ‘Oxford Together’ initiative. Oxford Together coordinated ‘street champions’ around the city: volunteers who checked in with neighbours and flagged up any needs. Part of Keith’s role was to map the street champions and other resources that were available locally. He found that the most economically deprived areas often had few if any ‘street champions’, coupled with greater need. We know poorer areas also tend to have limited internet access / knowledge or the money to benefit from the connections which computers allow. So there was a general impression of less ‘connectivity’. However, there were also signs of informal connections (via common areas of interest like allotments, play areas, etc) that would benefit from more research.
The ongoing implications of Covid 19 and the time given to expand this project would bring to light many other examples which the association is unable to explore due to time and financial
limitations. As social distancing will remain for some time and the furlough scheme comes to an end there will be an increase in unemployment, further isolating many groups.
WOCA wants to look at developing its ‘offer’, as the current climate suggests that most community centres will have to adapt from the familiar ‘model’ and work in closer parallel with Oxford City Council to build a more connected community, around a ‘strengths-based’ approach.
This project may well find other ways WOCA could benefit the local area which may not necessarily be based at the centre itself: for example helping set up supports, linking others to funding opportunities, and signposting people to resources at OCC which they may not know about.
The project would offer the opportunity of working collaboratively with OCC’s ‘pilot hubs’ and other community centres within the city, and learning from good practice in other parts of the city (Barton/Headington Community Partnership for one has developed lots of innovative links). There will be the opportunity of visiting / discovering examples of regional and national good practice: for example by linking with The Oxford Hub (Oxford Together) and other voluntary and statutory sector partners such as Community Matters; OCVA (Oxford Community and Voluntary Action); ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England); Age UK, Oxfordshire County Council etc.
Key lines of investigation
- to what extent is WOCA achieving its aims and objectives in relation to ensuring the centre provides for the needs of the community?
- analysis of current use of centre
- gathering of information on unmet need
- analysis of social inclusion data
- resource mapping of neighbourhood resources
Analysing and Using the Data
- Production of a short, simple and accessible report to trustees on the management committee.
- Further presentation to local activists: eg Low Carbon West Oxford, West Oxford Pantomime Association, Botley Larder, church groups, Councillors - potentially followed with a workshop
- Resource information for future analysis – community mapping
- Publish report as a newsletter delivered to all within our local area (and online)
3 months (FT or PT), starting date around the end of October 2020
Essential and desirable skills and qualities
- Good communication skills
- Understanding of data analysis
- Enthusiasm for engaging with people at a very local level
- Commitment to community development with a ‘strengths’-based approach (eg Asset Based Community Development; Local Area Coordination etc)
- Outreach and engagement skill
- Ability to recognise and access support and supervision
- Good knowledge of social media and digital platforms
- Drive, enthusiasm, strong personal commitment to equality, diversity and inclusivity