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About this book

Building Strong Communities is an introductory textbook that contains practical tools, down-to-earth frameworks and useful methods, a valuable resource for working with communities. A key focus of the book is on empowering the grass roots – building people, groups, organisations, partnerships and networks.

In particular, it describes how strong communities might look with seven key features and introduces a new ‘Wheel of Participation’ as a useful planning framework. Written by a practitioner for both students and other practitioners, the book combines theory and practice, draws on recent research and is packed with practical examples.

This is key reading for Community Studies, Social Work or Youth and Community programmes, and will also be useful in many different settings, such as regeneration, local government, health and housing.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Abstract
In the current climate, many communities across the U.K. are facing increased tensions and divisions. This has been caused over the last few years by a variety of factors, including insecurities around Brexit, the implementation of austerity policies, the media’s focus on migrants and refugees, and a tragic series of extremist attacks (Jones et al, 2017). Although austerity is officially over as a policy of central government, in practice, public services almost everywhere are still facing reductions in budgets for front-line services or having to manage on recently reduced resources (LGIU, 2018). Associated with this, funding for the voluntary and community sectors has declined, for both front-line services and for the supporting infrastructure. Public sector grants to community groups and voluntary organisations have been widely replaced by competitive procurement, involving demanding processes for smaller charities and community groups (Select Committee on Charities, 2017).
Steve Skinner

2. Building People

Abstract
Building People is about developing skills, experience, abilities, ways of working and confidence of individuals so that they are able to take active and leading roles in their communities. Community-based learning and development will, for some people, also increase other life opportunities, such as gaining skills for paid work, but the focus here is on learning for community action and engagement. In order for the process of Building People to be an empowering experience, such support needs to be based on people’s own interest in their learning and development, rather than having it imposed on them. In Part One of this chapter, different ways in which people learn and develop in community settings are explored, focusing on members of community groups. Part Two looks at community leadership and how it can be more effective.
Steve Skinner

3. Building Organisations

Opener
Chapter Two looked at supporting individuals; in contrast, this chapter focuses on supporting community groups and voluntary organisations. Across the country, small-scale community groups and voluntary organisations provide the bedrock of community life. Many receive grants from public sources and also raise their own funds or generate their income; some are unfunded and informally organised. In combination, they provide a tremendous range of activities and services, often with little publicity or wider recognition. Building Organisations, one of the four central themes in this book, is a key part of the work of strengthening communities, so that voluntary organisations and community groups at the grass roots can be more active and organised. This chapter is about how practitioners can support and strengthen voluntary organisations and community groups, so they can be even more effective in achieving their aims, based on the key assumption that they want such help, rather than having it imposed upon them.
Steve Skinner

4. Building Involvement

Abstract
Chapter Two was about building people; Chapter Three focussed on supporting local organisations. This chapter looks at how people and community organisations can have more influence on decisions that affect them. It also explores how communities can get more involved in activities to improve the quality of life at local level. The process of Building Involvement will contribute to creating more active and participative communities, two of the seven key features used in the definition of ‘strong communities’.
Steve Skinner

5. Building Equality

Opener
The last three chapters explored individual learning, the development of community groups and how communities can get more involved in activities and decision making. These activities, programmes and initiatives need to be firmly based on a set of values. In this chapter, this issue is explored, looking at how principles of diversity, inclusion and equal opportunities can be applied by practitioners in their work on strengthening communities. Building Equality, as a short hand term for this process, is discussed here in its own chapter but, in practice, equality issues need to underlie and inform all aspects of strengthening communities. This agenda is all the more crucial in the current climate where, as described in Chapter One, tensions have been on the increase. Part One in this chapter explores Building Equalities with groups; Part Two looks at the art of developing networks.
Steve Skinner

6. A Partnership Approach

Opener
The four themes of Building Organisation, Building People, Building Involvement and Building Equality create a useful framework for the policy and practical work involved in strengthening communities. As discussed, these four themes are not silos but are best used in combination, with Building Equality informing the practice and activities in the other three thematic areas.
Steve Skinner
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