Connecting Communities Angela Cristofoli Communities and Neighbourhoods Manager Oxford City Council The Leys • Oxford is often viewed as one of the most affluent parts of the United Kingdom yet Blackbird Leys and Greater Leys in Oxford City is an area of marked deprivation. • It is the largest estate in Oxford City with over 5,000 properties and nearly 8,500 residents on the electoral register. • It has been identified as an area of multiple deprivation in Oxford by the Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), 2007 and seven of the eight Super Output Areas (SOA) in the Leys are among the 10% most deprived areas in England for education, skills and training. • This pilot project explored residents’ views of the estate, the local facilities and services as well as the general opinion of the area. As a result of this project it is hoped that further research will be undertaken Connecting Communities • • • • • • • • Develop an understanding of the needs of the local community, through meetings with stakeholder groups and discussions with key professionals Develop and deliver a myth busting programme for local professionals to dispel myths and signpost effectively Setup and facilitate a Leys Forum for professionals, and scope the capacity for neighbourhood management Setup and facilitate a network of local voluntary groups Coordinate engagement events with local people aimed particularly at low incomes families, Develop links with the local media and disseminate accurate information Support the development of a Leys-wide residents group Run a range of activities in the community Residents’ Research Project • February/March 2010 - aim of recruiting local residents to participate in an Oxford City Council Connecting Communities pilot resident research project. • Sue Funge, a resident of Greater Leys and the author of the ‘Community Development in Action’ Open College Network Level 2 course, delivered the course to the recruited residents. • The course is designed to provide participants with the opportunity to gain confidence and acquire the practical skills necessary to enable them to effectively work in their community. Residents’ Research Project • 1000 copies of the questionnaire were distributed amongst the ten residents participating in the course • Streets were selected by a process of randomly distributing all the street names to the researchers and then randomly selecting eight streets from this list. 10 households would be contacted in each street to complete a questionnaire. The remaining 200 were to be distributed via other services and projects and events • The final number of completed questionnaires is 117, which represents approximately 2.3% of the total number of households on the estate. Residents’ Research Project Participants had the opportunity to learn about: • the values and principles of community development work • the opportunities and barriers to community involvement • ways of gathering information and involving people in community action. By learning the appropriate skills and approaches to community development they were able to benefit from real ‘hands on’ research and action that can make a difference in the community in which they live. 1. Number of respondents who value the opportunity to learn in their local community 2. Respondents who would like more opportunities to learn in their community Not interested Might be Value learning in Community 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 No Yes 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 Responses to statement ‘I am extremely proud of my community’ 1 Strongly disagree 1 Disagree 1 agree 1 strongly agree 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 Responses to statement ‘I feel safe in my community’ 2 strongly disagree 2 Disagree 2 agree 2 strongly agree 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 Responses to statement ‘The strength of our community is how well groups and individuals from different backgrounds and ethnicities get on with each other’ 4strongly disagree 4Disagree 4agree 4strongly agree 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 Responses to statement ‘I think the image of Blackbird Leys/Greater Leys is extremely negative but it does not reflect my experience of living here.’ 10strongly disagree 10Disagree 10agree 10strongly agree 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 Conclusions This pilot project has demonstrated the benefits of undertaking a more in-depth research project using local residents to conduct the research. They will be more likely to encourage other residents to participate as they live in the community and now have greater skills to use to assist further development of this approach and gain greater resident involvement in the future. Developing the community in line with the principles of community development could bring about lasting change and perhaps an end to the negative perception of the estate as a result of its exposure in the press two decades ago. Commitment to taking forward the findings and developing action plans with the community is essential to bring about positive change and a break away from the cycle of deprivation.