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Enabling Communities Strategy

The Enabling Communities Strategy is about how we work with other organisations in East Suffolk to enable local people to do more. This means that we will help to make it possible or easy for communities to do what they want to do, rather than doing things ‘to’ or ‘for’ them. We want communities to take advantage of the positive things (the assets) that already exist within their local area, and not just focus on problems and needs. This is called an ‘asset-based’ approach.

The Councils’ East Suffolk Business Plan (2015-2023) identifies three areas which we believe will be really important over the next eight years – economic growth, value for money and enabling communities. This Strategy explains what we mean by ‘enabling communities’ and how we want to work differently and better to make things ‘possible or easy’ for communities.

Communities approach us for support with lots of different projects – such as buying and running a community building as a hub for young people, securing a site for affordable homes for local people or setting up a project to support people with dementia and their carers. This Strategy shows how we, and our partners can help to make these projects, and many more, a reality.

We trust our communities and already work with them across East Suffolk to improve the environment, the economy and the social life of the area; making services, and life, better for everyone.

What do we want East Suffolk communities to be like?
Why take an ‘asset based’ approach – and what does ‘asset based’ mean?
What do we mean by ‘communities’?
The East Suffolk Enabling Communities model
How can communities support individuals and families?
How do we already do this?
What help and support is available to enable communities?
Delivering the East Suffolk Enabling Communities Strategy
East Suffolk Resilience Map

What do we want East Suffolk communities to be like?

We want East Suffolk communities to be vibrant, resilient and able to help themselves. A resilient community is strong and quick to recover when things go wrong.

National research has identified four things that make communities resilient:

  • Healthy and engaged people
  • People who feel included and proud of where they live
  • Looks after its land, food, water, energy, services, jobs and housing
  • Builds strong links to other places and communities

We want to ‘help communities to help themselves’. This means asking people what they most want to do and helping them to do it. We will also ask communities to tell us how well services are working and to work with us to make services better. Sometimes our views about what is most important will differ and so we need to talk about these differences and agree together what should happen first.

We will work with our partners in local government (this means Town and Parish Councils and the County Council), as well as health, education, police, businesses and the voluntary sector, to help communities to do what matters most to them.

We want to make things simpler for everyone, and use all of our resources (money and people) so that they have the biggest possible impact.

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Why take an ‘asset based’ approach – and what does ‘asset based’ mean?

This doesn’t mean that councils, health organisations and the police will not support communities. What we will do is build the skills and knowledge of communities so that they can do more for themselves, rather having things done ‘for’ or ‘to’ them. This ensures that skills stay in the community and can be used for future community projects.

Often communities and the organisations that work with them focus on ‘fixing’ things that are wrong, rather that looking at what is already in the community that could help.

Working in this way is called an ‘asset based’ approach because it starts with assets – what’s strong - not what’s wrong. Assets are people, groups and things in the community. A really important asset, of course, is the people in the community who have the knowledge, energy and enthusiasm to make things happen.

If communities understand what they have that’s good or strong, they can think about the gap between what they want/need and what they have, and what is most important to tackle first. This is better than trying to do everything at once.

Some communities will need more help and support than others, and some communities do not need or want our help at all. There are lots of places where communities have done things for themselves, spending less money and giving better end results for local people and places.

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What do we mean by ‘communities’?

People belong to lots of ‘communities’ at the same time. Within each geographical community (where people live), there are lots of communities of ‘interest’. Communities of interest are groups of people who care about similar things - for example farming, a church or an on-line forum - or have things in common, for example being lesbian/gay, a young mum or having impaired hearing.

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The East Suffolk Enabling Communities model

We think that there are twelve steps that provide a clear pathway for communities to follow. We have called this our Enabling Communities model. For each of the steps, there are organisations, people or things that can help to make things happen.

We have called these things ‘enablers’ and you can see what these are in the Delivery Plan that comes with this Strategy. We want communities to be able to access the right support (if and when they need it) from the right organisation at the right time. This way of working will hopefully help communities to be more resilient - strong and quick to recover from setbacks.

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How can communities support individuals and families?

Lots of support is needed by some individuals and families – sometimes described as ‘vulnerable people’. Some people struggle to cope, particularly when lots of things happen to them at the same time. For example a frail older person might be more vulnerable because they have a fall, have no local family and live in a rural area, or an unemployed young person might drink too much or take drugs because a close family member dies.

Communities can help find individuals and families who might need more support, and think about whether the community itself can give that support. This would mean that people can get the help they need sooner. We want communities to help us protect and support people; keeping them safe in their own homes and in the wider community.

People often do not ask for help until a problem is too much for them to handle on their own. We want people to get help earlier - before their problems get serious - and we will help people to ‘help themselves’ so that things don’t become more serious.

We also want people to look after their own physical and mental health. This includes managing what are known as ‘long term conditions’ such as diabetes, dementia, depression, heart disease and arthritis. We want to make sure that people make good choices, do not put themselves or others at risk and look out for and look after each other.

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How do we already do this?

Examples of how we already work like this include:

    • Support for neighbourhood, town and parish plans and village reviews
    • Transfer of Council assets (including play parks, allotments, buildings, countryside sites and common land) to community and voluntary sector groups. Recent transfers include Beccles Lido, the Marina Theatre in Lowestoft and Kessingland Play Park
    • Support for communities to list assets of community value under the ‘Community Right to Bid’. By July 2015, eighteen assets had been listed across East Suffolk, including the Tramway Hotel in Pakefield, Stone Common Allotments in Blaxhall, the Admirals Head Public House in Little Bealings, The Angel Centre in Rendlesham and the Police Station in Saxmundham
    • Support for Housing Needs Surveys to identify specific local housing needs in individual East Suffolk communities
    • Working with the County Council and other partners to support work in Lowestoft (Lowestoft Rising), Felixstowe (Felixstowe Forward) and Leiston (Leiston Forward)
    • Leading key ‘conversations’, for example to help different community groups to work together to develop the train station in Saxmundham as a community asset
    • Supporting more than 300 projects through the Suffolk Coastal Enabling Communities budgets
    • Work with young people (e.g. through the Waveney Youth Council), people with disabilities and older people (including through the Ageing Well Kirkley Navigators project in Kirkley)

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What help and support is available to enable communities?

Councillors (District, County and Town/Parish) will act as community leaders and engage, inspire and represent their communities. They will also support community champions - people who put time and energy into making things better in their group or their community (who are also sometimes called ‘fiery spirits’).

We will develop a Communication and Engagement Plan to agree which communities we will work with. We want to make sure that we do not just work with those who shout the loudest, but find those who need our help the most. Councillors can also make sure that all of the different voices within a community are heard.

Councillors can help communities to access ‘enablers’ when they get stuck on any of the steps in the model. These ‘enablers’ include paid staff who have ‘community development’ or ‘capacity building’ as part of their role, for example from the County and District Councils, Community Action Suffolk and other voluntary sector organisations, and some Parish Clerks.

Different departments within the District and County Councils, plus other organisations, can provide specialist advice and guidance, for example about economic development, planning, highways, housing, coast and flood management, tourism, public health, resort/countryside management, charitable structures, education, social business models and many more.

The East Suffolk Partnership (ESP) can help to coordinate this through its Board, the East Suffolk Resource Network and annual ESP Forum.

There are a range of national and local things that may help communities, including:

Tools

Powers

Resources

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Delivering the East Suffolk Enabling Communities Strategy

This Strategy is supported by a Delivery Plan which sets out how the Councils and their partners will work together to enable communities.

The Delivery Plan is supported by a Toolkit which provides information about ‘tools’ (things that can help) that could be used at the different stages of the Enabling Communities Model.

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East Suffolk Resilience Map

The East Suffolk Resilience Map can be used to check how resilient – strong and quick to recover when things go wrong – a community is at any point in time.

appendix one

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