On 30th March 2018, a few Lyde Green residents met with Dick from the West of England Rural Network and Alv (our Community Development & Centre Manager). The aim was to discuss the purpose and potential of community plans, and to investigate if this would be useful in Lyde Green.

A community plan is a document created by a community and its stakeholders (people who care about the area), to reflect aspirations and goals, as well as issues that they would like to be addressed. The longer term aim, over a number of years, is to steer things in a direction that strengthens the community, and makes the area an even better place to live.

The exciting possibility emerged that a community plan in Lyde Green could be a way to unite different strands of thinking, effort and activity that are already taking place, and to identify potential others that would enhance community life. The work of the LGCA, Neighbourhood Watch and the Open Space group are examples of existing strands, but these alone cannot represent the voice of everyone’s concerns in the community.

Since the meeting Alv has introduced the idea of co-production to those involved. This is a process where everyone involved becomes a partner. It takes into account different skills, knowledge and abilities, and aspires to empower everyone involved to participate. It is a process that understands that we all start the journey from a different point, and so we need different things to help us take part. This can make the process take longer, but it does make it an authentic one. It allows for the direction to emerge through collaboration, and encourages listening, learning and cooperation. Fundamental to this is that it places the experience of those that matter at its core.

In real terms, this means identifying the themes that a community plan addresses. Quite often, these include children and younger people, healthy communities, older people, economic development and enterprise, environmental sustainability, access and transport and safer, stronger communities. It then means partners coming on board to lead on these themes – this allows existing expertise to be utilised, and crucially for those interested, for expertise to be gained and developed. It also acts as a beacon to community members and stakeholders with skills, knowledge or an interest when a theme is identified; it highlights gaps and shines a light on what is needed. Once work is underway, collaboration between strands ensures that it all knits together – communities are complicated things, but good conversations pave the way for shared learning.

Not everyone wants to take active part, but everyone is still important in the process. Who has the best expertise on their community? Those who live in it! This means that creating a plan depends on the contribution of ideas and perspectives of as many people in the community as possible. Regular communication creates a feedback loop so that things don’t run away in the wrong direction.

A community plan for Lyde Green is at the earliest stage possible, but it seems like an exciting prospect with an opportunity for everyone to be involved in some way. Once the community centre is open, we will have a base for activity, and I hope that this will enable the community to forge ahead with this, and steer a course for the best future possible!