Samantha Dennis, Director of Public Protection and Streetpride, Derby City Council, explains how the Council is reimagining the city and working with their communities.
Local government has faced many challenges over the last decade but the COVID 19 pandemic was certainly one of the greatest. Our communities responded in the most phenomenal way; supporting each other and working together to get through some really tough times.
As a council, Derby has been on a journey, changing the way we work with our communities. Recognising that local government is a complex interconnected but often silo-based system that does things ‘for’ or ‘to’, we are moving to a restorative practice approach of ‘working with’ communities. We recognise that we are not the council in charge of the city, but the council here for the city and our role is to create the environment for communities to thrive.
Working together through the pandemic has enabled us as a council to forge better relationships with our communities and gain a better understanding of the place, and the people living there. Our communities achieved some exceptional achievements through some of the most difficult times including creation of the Muslim Burial Council, Food for Thought Alliance, Youth Alliance and many more friends and support groups.
This, along with our work with Community Action Derby and Derby Homes, helped us to shape our Better Together programme. More of a culture than a project, Better Together is a way of staying connected, breaking down barriers and silos and working together to shape how people connect with the council and how services are delivered in places.
Together we have created platforms for residents, groups, and businesses to be heard by the council and partner agencies with Community Talks events, business round table events and youth voice events, we have also included community groups in funding bid applications such as the Safer Streets fund where we focussed on community needs to support the violence against Women and Girls Strategy.
Alongside this work we have been capturing data and information to help identify place-based demand which has enabled us to see that different localities have different issues, demands and skill sets. Drawing on this we are able to adapt our approach to ensure that our locality working teams are made up of the right people and partners, to help work with communities on the issues that matter to them. From waste issues to loneliness or more complex issues, the data provides the opportunity for bespoke and creative solutions to community problems.
Taking a restorative approach to ‘working with’, rather than ‘doing to’, will enable communities to build resilience. To promote and encourage collaboration the council has developed new spaces for officers, partners, and communities to work together: The Community Hub in the Shot Tower and a new public protection hub in the city centre.
Having now identified all of the people who work with communities in places, our next goal is to connect the teams with the communities in local spaces and to give them the freedom to work together in a creative way to solve localised problems. This could be in a library, housing office, children’s centre or any other community-based asset, it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we are ensuring the right people are in the right places, are listening to what matters and working together to develop lasting solutions to complex problems.
• Sam Dennis will be addressing the APSE Annual Seminar 2022 in Swansea. For more information about how your central region local authority can benefit from APSE’s rich suite of services, please contact APSE Principal Advisor Vickie Hacking on email@example.com