Neighbourhood interventions … and the definition of madness

Neighbourhood interventions … and the definition of madness

Here in the land of Myopia, we are forever trying to support local communities to improve economic circumstances and quality of life for residents – especially in neighbourhoods regarded as relatively disadvantaged.
The trouble is, we are sure that we are doing something wrong – but for the life of us we just can’t work out what it is!
You see, we know that 15% or more of the UK population lives within neighbourhoods where there is little or no sense of enterprise … as reflected in negligible rates of business start-up, volunteering and social enterprise.
We also know that some 23% of the UK population is in absolute poverty … in terms of income measured after housing costs (Institute of Fiscal studies – Poverty in UK 2014).
We have tried all kinds of neighbourhood interventions and regeneration programmes to get to grips with these issues: the Community Programme, the Urban Programme, New Deal for Communities, Neighbourhood Renewal Fund, Sure Start, Excellence in Cities, the Housing Market Renewal Programme, Neighbourhood Management Pathfinders, Communities First, Priority Estates Project, City Challenge – and many more besides!
Sadly none of our neighbourhood interventions to date seem to have really worked!
Usually it seems they work fine for a few years and local confidence and engagement levels seem to improve. But strangely, when we stop the funding, the communities just revert back to what they used to be – or worse still local residents become even more disillusioned and difficult to engage when we come up with our next quick fix.
We just don’t get it!
So try as we might, we don’t seem to be able to release the untapped reservoir of potential enterprise within communities. Likewise we seem to be unable to make any headway in reducing poverty levels. On both fronts, the situation actually seems to be getting worse despite significant policy input and substantial financial investment.
We even came up with the bold idea that all of society should take some responsibility for improving conditions for those in need, rather than just expecting government to step in. We called it ‘Big Society’ – and charities, social care organisations and the voluntary sector generally all loved it! But for some reason it fell away and we don’t seem to talk about it anymore. Or did it fall away because we seemed to stop talking about it?  I really can’t remember now!
 Anyway, we are not downhearted! Here in the land of Myopia, we live day by day in the hope that if we keep doing exactly the same things in exactly the same way again and again, one day we will eventually get a different outcome.

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