Doing Social Change Differently through Community Ownership

Introducing a new research collaboration between Cheshire West and Chester Council and Keele University, laying the groundwork for the development of a ‘routes out of poverty’ community-based social learning programme for unlocking community wealth and community ownership amongst the communities that have borne the harshest economic injury through the crisis across our borough.

What the Poverty Emergency Declaration says about our commitment to working more closely with universities and providing support to the communities that have borne the harshest economic injury from the crisis with community education and support to explore collective ownership models:

Within the Poverty Emergency recently declared by Cheshire West and Chester Council, a commitment was made to ‘Take a collaborative and evidence-based approach, working more closely with health, universities, trade unions and poverty-related community groups to improve our research and intelligence’ (resolution 10). Our declaration states that we will build stronger communities through our recovery by ‘Providing a means for new groups to meet and build confidence, to collaborate, educate, experience a sense of ownership and influence and to build democratic participation, in order to root necessary responses within the heart of low-income communities’ and through ‘Developing further council strategies around Community Wealth Building, including supporting communities to consider routes to community ownership in order to create jobs and share local wealth. Fostering education, awareness, skills and culture-shift at all levels that provide the precursor to meaningfully explore and expand community ownership as a route out of poverty and forward through the crisis’. Resolution 6 in the plan states that we will ‘Work collaboratively with partners to provide space for community-led ‘hubs’ where solutions to low income and crisis impacts can be explored by local residents and support provided’.

Progress so far:

· £4950 funding secured from ‘Keele Institute for Social Inclusion’ by the Leaders Champion for Poverty and Inequality

· Research team assembled blending a range of insights and skills to enable an impactful programme design and robust evaluation of the outcomes of that programme.

The project aims are:

· To design and deliver (online if necessary) a community-based social learning programme, drawing together collective ownership sector expertise, local business insights and peer to peer support and inspiration

· To create a model for unlocking community wealth, community ownership and peer to peer support amongst low-income communities in Cheshire West and Chester as part of a more socially just, empowering approach to low income crisis recovery

· To bring a new dimension of awareness and confidence in relation to social justice and collectivised, democratic responses to the crisis to local residents engaged by the council to influence policy and change, through their lived experience of poverty (Community Inspirers)

· If successful, to share the programme wider with other parts of our borough, with other councils that have declared Poverty Emergencies and wider, to influence larger-scale positive change