We learned a number of key things over the course of this project.
- Face time is really important. Spend time actually speaking to people. Personally inviting people to stuff, telling people it would be great to see them at an event goes so much further than sending an email to an email list.
- Be flexible If you start on something that appears not to be working, have the perseverance to give it another go for a bit longer, but also don’t make that plan concrete so if it hasn’t worked out for a few weeks, you can back out and try a different route.
- Working to a consensus can be tough! We wanted there to be consensus
before moving forward with new projects. We found this was difficult due to a lack of face-to-face forums where residents could reach agreement. The estate’s main forum was an email list where discussions often became divisive
- If you want people to participate, you need to offer them a variety of ways of getting involved. In the first six months, we put on loads of different activities, based on what people told us that they wanted to do. This also got us out on the streets a lot and gave us the face-to-face contact that’s really essential.
- If you have a steering group, establish the terms of reference/governance early on. Our project was resident-led, and so the steering group was essential. However, clearer governance early on would have reduced time spent in meetings, and allowed the workers to work more autonomously. There were disagreements about information flow, and it was unclear as to whether the steering group were providing ‘guidance’ or ‘management’. These things are best clarified right at the start of the project.