Monthly Archives: February 2013

Clarke, S, Mendola Byatt, A, Hoban, M, Powell, D (eds.) (2002) Community Development in South Wales, University of Wales Press: Cardiff.

Can’t believe this is now over a decade old. A must for any community development worker working in Wales (even north Wales!).

Surely it is time for a revised version or a collection of new perspectives?

Communities First entering a second decade; the publication of a national framework for community development; a much expanded and trained community development workforce; government recognition of the need for and funding of ongoing development of the workforce; recession and forced austerity; continuing divergence of UK and Wales regeneration policy; advent of primary legislative powers for the National Assembly for Wales; the Children and Families Measure in Wales.

All have surely re-shaped the community development and tackling poverty scene in Wales?


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February 22, 2013 · 10:00 am

Street Ambassadors in every street in Wales?

It was the ever-excellent Participation Cymru that brought to my attention recently an imaginative, yet simple and low cost proposal to:

“establish a new vehicle ‘Street Ambassadors Wales’ with the aim of establishing and supporting a street ambassador in every street in Wales.”

Wales Council for Voluntary Action, Timebanking Wales and Blaengarw-based Creation Development Trust are the proponents of the proposal and a paper, Creating another piece of the jigsaw – Street Ambassadors / Creu darn arall o’r jig-so – Llysgenhadon y Stryd,outlining the proposal in more detail can be found here or yma. What appeals to me is that the proposal sets out broad principles that can be adapted to suit neighbourhoods.

For instance, it suggests the idea being adopted in ‘areas’ where an area might be defined as any from a “local authority, sub-local authority, Communities First cluster, Community Council [or] ward”. And that a ‘development agency’, who identifies and recruits the street ambassadors, might take the form of a “County Voluntary Council, development trust, housing association, church, community council, rotary [or] volunteer centre”. 

The paper sees street ambassadors as key in being able “to mobilise people at the very grass roots, street level” and in so doing facilitating through co-production the transformative change required of public service. Such radical and large scale change requires a robustly constructed framework of political, policy, organisational and financial imperatives. Yet clearly without the consent, effort and energy of residents the street ambasadors idea will wither on the vine. As Hoban (2002, 218) accurately observes:

“It is the ownership of the action that increases involvement”

The paper’s receptiveness to a number of different spatial scales and range of potential development agencies is to be welcomed. The non-prescriptiveness of the what constitutes the ‘canvas’ across which ambassadors operate allows for residents and neighbours, perhaps via a process that is animated by a Community Development Worker, to take ownership of the ambassador role, the information it shares and how it networks. The paper even suggests that

“street ambassadors can develop their role…by networking with other street ambassadors to form other neighbourhoods”

The key to the extent to which, as the paper aspires, neighbourhoods become the “building blocks of organising” – of local services, different programmes and initiatives – will depend on what happens at the ‘seams’ where areas meet. But as the above quote suggests it could well be the ambassadors and the development agencies who will have the ownership and autonomy to decide.



Hoban, M (2002) The same old story: implications of current government policy for the involvement of residents in neighbourhood regeneration, in Clarke, S, Mendola Byatt, A, Hoban, M, Powell, D (eds.) Community Development in South Wales, University of Wales Press: Cardiff.

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Urban Librarians Unite Plants Mini Libraries, Plans Conference

Urban Librarians Unite (ULU) collected more than 20,000 children’s books to help replace library collections damaged by Hurricane Sandy. The library advocacy and support group, founded by 2012 LJ Mover & Shaker Christian Zabriskie, also placed Mini Libraries in front of libraries that were closed by storm damage. Locations include Queens Library branches in Broad Channel and Seaside, and Brooklyn Public Library branches at Redhook, Coney Island, and Gerristen Beach.

The mini libraries hold about 100 books at a time, and ULU doesn’t expect any of them back.

“Our Mini Libraries will suffer from the same limitations as any little library,” ULU said on its website. “They could never be mistaken as an alternative to the branch libraries they substitute and intended to support. They do offer some comfort and succor, especially to kids and families, and they remind people that libraries–and their librarians–are nimble, caring and quick to respond to the needs of their communities.”

ULU rules. Give them your money.

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February 18, 2013 · 1:30 pm

Interesting thoughts on constructing ‘Space for Delight’. Space that is free from creativity-stifling bureaucracy; is free from pernicious market forces; that helps mobilise and collectivise, no matter how briefly; and which allows for people to explore and experience new areas.

This article (also via @theRSAorg) on pop up shops in Bedford is along similar lines. Communities are awash with empty and vacant space that can meet the temporary needs of groups (formal and informal). So it is interesting to see the pop-up shop as a prominent and key methodology for engaging with residents in disadvantaged communities in Cardiff/Caerdydd. It is refreshing to see the conscious shift away from committees and similarly formal structures as a means of promoting engagement, participation, consultation, and decision-making. Frankly it sounds more fun as well.  And what’s wrong with that?

Space for Delight

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February 13, 2013 · 12:23 pm

When ‘Community Development’ becomes a pejorative term?

I recall starting a community development job in Merthyr Tydfil on a small, predominantly social housing estate in early 2003. Within a couple of days of starting I noticed a house scarred by an apparently recent house fire. It turned out that a parent with three young children lived in the house in which a chip fan fire had extensively damaged the kitchen and downstairs. It had happened no more than three weeks earlier and fortunately there were no injuries incurred other than minor smoke inhalation on the family’s part.

Within a couple of days the estate had had a whip round and raised over £250 for the family to help with the costs of repairing the damage. It didn’t seem a huge amount of money but for households with limited incomes the sentiment was obvious and the donation was heartfelt.

In order to take up this role I had relocated from north Wales to Cardiff and was renting a flat in what was very tenuously Cardiff Bay. We lived in Windsor Quay which was one of the first housing developments in the south Cardiff regeneration scheme on reclaimed land on Ferry Road.

As time went by and my wife and I saw so few of our neighbours, let alone interacted with them, an irony struck me. That in Merthyr a neighbourhood had demonstrated very clearly a greater cohesion, solidarity and sense of community and belonging than the one from which I commuted every morning. Yet was a community that was in need of ‘developing’ and intervention.

I previously blogged on how the concept of Civil Domestic Product helps redefine affluence in a way that considers, among other things, social connectedness (see Timebanking Wales for further information). The Merthyr estate may not have been home to as many graduates as Windsor Quay was, and there are presumably stark health inequalities between the two neighbourhoods but the two would swap positions in a notional league table if social connectedness was assessed.

There is a danger that Community Development becomes a pejorative term in that it becomes associated with areas that are labelled in other pejorative ways: deprived, disadvantaged, run-down, unambitious. On a  number of measures Windsor Quay is not deprived or disadvantaged but its reservedness and insularity made it a very disconnected and incohesive community; even isolated and isolating.

The term community development ought not, of course, be taken so literally. Rather it is the name of a specific approach to challenging inequality and redistributing power in communities, but more needs to be done in order to convey this. The experience of living in Windsor Quay might suggest that it is also a component that has been lacking in property-led regeneration that has proliferated in Cardiff with the expansion of high-rise city centre and Bay living, much of it privately rented. Sadly, there is little doubt in my mind that though the land and property values of such developments are considered a virtue and the areas do not figure prominently on indices of deprivation, these communities fail to fulfill some of the fundamental social and emotional needs that many of us would wish our communities provided us.

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From PPS, Brendan Crain writes:

Looking at cities from what Jan Gehl calls the “airplane scale” is what allows proponents of cut-and-paste urbanism to do what the Modernists did, using lifestyle instead of architecture. Rather than suggesting that the city be reorganized into tower blocks amidst grassy lawns, today’s one-size-fits-allers call for cafes and artisan markets. They are presuming that the city as a whole will benefit from the indiscriminate application of a specific set of amenities. It won’t. Neighborhoods need to define their priorities for themselves; in so doing, they often discover that there are untapped opportunities to grow their own local economies, without needing to import talent from elsewhere. Even if your city’s brand is busted, your community is still capable of re-building itself. As Jane Jacobs once argued, “the best cities are actually federations of great neighborhoods.”

Opportunity is local

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February 8, 2013 · 2:38 pm