The relationship between councils and communities is changing. In the context of reducing budgets, growing demand pressures and shifting public expectations, the traditional role of the local authority as solely a service deliverer has diminishing impact. To have impact in the future by embedding prevention and harnessing people’s desire for more influence, councils increasingly need to shift their role towards that of an action enabler .
In Rebalancing the Power, a research report by NLGN and supported by Local Trust, we set out five guiding principles for successful relationships between councils and communities. We carried out the research through the lens of the Big Local scheme, funded by the Big Lottery and managed by Local Trust. The scheme involves grants of at least £1.1 million given directly to 150 communities which have previously typically been overlooked for Lottery and other funding – so these neighbourhoods are a unique microcosm in which the new dynamic between councils and communities was catalysed.
The experiences of residents, volunteers, councillors and officers in Big Local areas provide new insight into how the relationship between the citizen and the state can be recalibrated in practice more broadly. This means a shift away from a traditional paternalistic role with the council as provider and community as recipient, to one which involves communities themselves playing a more active role.
To achieve a successful new relationship in practice, the research distils five operating principles for councils and communities establishing effective partnerships:
- Be inclusive and treat all parties with respect from the start.
- Find ways to reflect a changed relationship which clearly set out the roles that different parties play, mutual priorities and areas with some level of flexibility.
- Agree how different parties would like to communicate in the future and build this into the relationship from the start.
- Seek to develop empathy for each other’s position and be prepared to compromise on certain issues to achieve the best outcomes for the whole.
- Foster a shared sense of endeavour by agreeing small actions that can be delivered together to build trust, and then scale up successes incrementally.
You can read a blog giving an overview of the research by the report author, Dr Pawda Tjoa, HERE