How do you bring the reality of place-shaping closer to the rhetoric?
PlaceShapers Chief Executive, Catherine Ryder, blogs...
Almost as soon as I joined PlaceShapers, I visited Community Gateway in Preston, the first of a number of visits to our members in my first few months. As well as being inspired by the work our members do, these visits sum up what place-shaping organisations are all about and helped me understand three critical things:
The place-shaping model – working with residents and partners to build resilient communities – is attracting huge interest. There is, including in government, a focus on place, communities, and people. All the evidence shows the need for what we do as community-based housing associations has never been greater.
Our members doing all they can to protect and maintain their role in building resilient communities and places and supporting their residents, but the challenging economic environment we find ourselves in does not make this easy.
So taking one and two together, the rhetoric and reality just don't match.
These visits and conversations with members left me feeling more determined than ever to ensure politicians and stakeholders understand the impact organisations like CGA have in areas like Preston.
So I was delighted to join our Chair, Matthew Walker, in launching our PlaceShapers 2023-2026 Strategic Plan – Helping Communities Thrive, last week. The plan is based on insight and feedback from members on what they want most from PlaceShapers.
Harnessing the interest in what we do and turning it into the policies and support that will enable our members to do more is central to our new plan. To be successful in our mission to put place-shaping at the heart of decision-making, particularly in the run-up to a general election, we need to do three things:
Better demonstrate the impact of what we do as place-shapers. We need a robust evidence base on the difference we make to lives and communities and we need to be able to explain this in a way that resonates with politicians and stakeholders.
Mobilise our members. We talk about the four key aspects of place-shaping – physical, economic, social and democratic – but this will look different in different places. We need our members to be out there showing what place-shaping looks like in action and how responsive we are to the needs of our communities.
Make the voices of residents central to our work and share stories that show the impact of what we do from a personal perspective. We need to build trust and respond to the challenges on quality and diversity in order to bring more resident ambassadors with us.
At the same time, our new plan also sets out how we will continue to support our members through our networks, events and access to expertise, case studies and the opportunity to learn from others.
But none of this will be possible without the support and input of our members. When we say PlaceShapers is ‘by members, for members’ we really mean it. We will be asking members to help shape our general work, to help develop a new campaign, and to lead conversations about the issues that matter across our membership.
At last week’s launch I was heartened by the positive reaction from members and the enthusiasm for working with us to deliver the outcomes we’ve set out for the next three years. If we deliver the outcomes in the plan then I am confident we will have brought the rhetoric and reality much closer together.