Communities in Berkshire are facing a number of challenges, but two that most often present themselves are the pressures of widespread housing development, and social isolation and the loneliness it can cause. Little local support is available to Neighbourhood Planning groups, and communities not covered by Neighbourhood Plans feel as though their local needs are not being taken into consideration. People living in many communities are at high risk of experiencing loneliness, with rural areas that have seen declining services (particularly bank, shop and pub closures) hit hardest.
We believe that a local organising Group for Berkshire will provide new opportunities for:
- Bringing people together from all parts of Berkshire to share their stories and learn from each other
- Promoting the opportunity to get more involved in bringing about positive change within their communities
- Giving people added confidence and new skills, through following the Community Organising Framework, to reach out into their communities, listen to those seldom listened to and take action on what matters most to people
- Creating a critical mass of local organisers who are accessible to agencies willing and able to listen to their concerns, offer them support and facilitate change based on their feedback
In the last 18 months, 73 people have attended one of five training events in Berkshire, facilitated by CCB: three Introduction to Community Organising, one Planning for Change Through Community Organising and one Listening Skills for Community Organising. At the Planning for Change event, most attendees were from Neighbourhood Planning groups. All found the concepts of community organising relevant and found the opportunity to network with and learn from their peers invaluable.
There is great potential for CCB to improve the quality of support we provide by working in partnership with Community Organisers.
Berkshire is a county that exists in name only, fragmented by the 6 unitary authorities of West Berkshire, Reading, Wokingham, Bracknell Forest, Slough and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. The population of the county is well below 1 million, which makes the local authorities small and poor, and leads to fragmented services that vary considerably from one end of Berkshire to the other. Services and support tend to be located in the more urban areas, and declining levels of public services, particularly in rural areas, is further exacerbating low levels of accessibility.
People living in rural communities are facing additional costs and complexities to their daily lives, simply as a result of living in a rural area.
There is a strong history of community-led action in Berkshire, but since the demise of community-led Planning programmes (Parish Plans) funded by central and local government, communities have faced difficulties in accessing opportunities for peer support, networking and services to help them develop the essential skills they need to make things happen in their areas.