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DIY Community Action

DIY Community Action: Neighbourhood problems and community self-help

Liz Richardson
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  • Book Info
    DIY Community Action
    Book Description:

    How people can be persuaded to take more control of their own lives continues to be a subject of policy and academic debate, and the contribution of active citizens to improving societal well-being is high across different policy agendas. But the promotion of community self-help raises a wide range of questions - for people working in neighbourhoods, for policy makers, for politicians, and for residents themselves - about how we promote engagement, what would motivate people to become active, and more fundamentally about the ongoing relevance and value of community activity. DIY Community Action offers thought-provoking answers to these questions, based on detailed real-life evidence from over 100 community groups, each trying to combat neighbourhood problems. It presents a lively challenge to the existing thinking on contested debates, and proposes ways forward for community building. This timely publication is an engaging resource for policy makers, practitioners, academics, students and general readers interested in exploring community engagement and active citizenship. Its insightful analysis will be of interest to students of social policy, sociology, community work, housing and regeneration, local government studies and public policy.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-086-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. List of tables, figures and boxes
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    This book is about what people in low-income neighbourhoods are doing to improve the places where they live. It is about why they put themselves forward as volunteers, what they are able to achieve and how. It is about how residents and service providers can work together. Most importantly, it is about how ‘Do-It-Yourself’ community action fits into the bigger picture of work by local and central government and others on neighbourhood renewal, community building and social inclusion. And it is about how more formal organisations can help support the creation and development of community self-help activity.

    The core material...

  5. TWO Talking to communities
    (pp. 9-24)

    The study covered groups of community volunteers working in low-income neighbourhoods in the UK. All of the people interviewed and visited had been involved in a five-year experimental national programme to stimulate and facilitate community self-help actions in low-income neighbourhoods – the Gatsby Training and Small Grant Project. The Gatsby Charitable Foundation funded the project for £1.25 million over five years, from 1996 to 2001.

    We used the interviews and visits with the community groups in order to better understand how communities operate, how services impact on neighbourhoods, how and why citizens decide to help themselves and how others can Support...

  6. THREE Why neighbourhoods and communities matter to residents
    (pp. 25-60)

    The groups in the study were all community groups with links to their neighbourhoods. They were led and run by people from a particular community, were created as a result of neighbourhood problems and aimed to deliver community benefits through their work. Neighbourhoods, or geographical communities, are places where local services and facilities are provided and consumed, and where people live and relate to each other, and these were the focus of the groups’ work. This chapter explores the problems and issues that the groups were tackling; the residents provided detailed examples of the things that had upset them, both...

  7. FOUR Community action: so what?
    (pp. 61-96)

    The community groups in the study were engaged in a huge range of small-scale activities, which included running community centres, organising parents and tots clubs, doing litter picks, organising barbecues, meeting with landlords and other public services and running youth clubs. While laudable enough as activities in themselves, it may be difficult at first sight to understand their role in tackling serious neighbourhood problems. Other writers have posed the same question in trying to explore the value of community activity (Hastings et al, 1996; Chanan et al, 1999; Ferguson and Dickens, 1999). And possibly even more puzzling is why a...

  8. FIVE The value of volunteering
    (pp. 97-130)

    Area problems may be distressing to those who live there, but they do not automatically trigger people to try and solve problems for themselves. There are many efforts being made by government, local authorities, voluntary organisations and others to increase levels of community involvement and volunteering, and the profile of volunteering and community participation has been raised within government over several restructures of government departments in order to push the citizenship agenda with more vigour. There is a cross-departmental government action plan calledTogether we canpromoting local people working with government to solve problems that covers 12 different government...

  9. SIX How the groups organise themselves
    (pp. 131-158)

    The majority of community groups in the study were informal associations of people, which were small and often not legally incorporated. The people active in the groups were nearly all volunteers, and the groups were not within formal systems of accountability or regulation (other than basic local authority registration criteria for tenants’ groups). So in order for the groups to operate effectively they had to organise themselves into a functioning team and create their own vision for their work, ethos and approach, organisational systems, structures and working practices. Any organisation, whatever its size, and regardless of sector, can be vulnerable...

  10. SEVEN What gives residents the right to take charge
    (pp. 159-192)

    It would seem a legitimate activity for the groups in the study to have taken it on themselves to organise, for example, a social evening of music and supper for people in the neighbourhood. It would have been clear from the number of tickets sold, and attendance levels at the event, whether other residents felt this was a legitimate endeavour for those organisers. If other residents were not interested, then nothing much more than a booking fee would have been lost.

    But often the legitimacy of community action is more controversial than this. What if this group was then used...

  11. EIGHT Obstacles and limits, supports and potential
    (pp. 193-238)

    As we have seen, organising community self-help evolved out of people’s concern for their communities and neighbourhoods, as well as their personal interests. It was a task that people volunteered for, and required a high level of self-motivation and organisational management to sustain. Community volunteers and the groups they belonged to contended with many obstacles and downsides to their community-organising work that made their task more difficult. In this chapter we look at how the ‘thankless task’ of volunteering made the volunteers feel frustrated, guilty and stressed at times.

    one key obstacle identified by volunteers was that of ‘apathy’, or...

  12. NINE Conclusions: championing community self-help
    (pp. 239-272)

    In this chapter we present our conclusions based on the findings from Chapters Two to Eight about what community self-help contributes to neighbourhoods and communities. We look at the links between tackling neighbourhood issues, tackling social exclusion and community building, and conclude with recommendations for how communities could be made more vibrant and further empowered.

    We start with the story so far, and position the Gatsby research in the wider historical context. We then outline two key definitions of ‘community’ and ‘social exclusion’. These theoretical underpinnings then help illustrate why and how community building is intrinsically linked to social inclusion...

  13. APPENDIX The Gatsby Project: further details
    (pp. 273-278)
  14. References
    (pp. 279-292)
  15. Index
    (pp. 293-298)