I will start a new role as CEO of The Peel Institute in January 2017. The Peel is one of the ‘community hubs’ that operate within the London Borough of Islington.
What problems should organisations like the Peel attempt to address?
There are many answers to this question. For example, some would say community cohesion or ‘placemaking’.
No doubt these are both important issues to address. We have to continue to build good relationships between people from different backgrounds and neighbourhoods that people enjoy living in.
However, tremendous strides have been made in both these areas.
The chart below shows the percentage of people who say that people from different backgrounds get on well in their local area
And this chart shows the percentage of people who are satisfied with their local area as a place to live.
As you can see from both charts, people are, by and large, happy with the neighbourhoods they live in and believe that people from different backgrounds get on well together.
Contrast that with the chart below, which shows the percentage of people who think they can influence local decisions (and the percentage of people who think it’s important to be able to influence local decisions).
The vast majority of people do not feel able to influence decisions, but think it’s important to be able to do so. What’s more, the percentage of people who do feel able to influence decisions has not increased at all in the last decade.
One of the reasons for this may be the focus on ‘involvement’. It’s often assumed that the way to give people a greater sense of control is to create mechanisms whereby their voice can be heard. These are often called things like “forums” or “panels” etc…
Actually, as the chart below shows, people are not that keen on being involved in the bureaucratic processes that surround council decision making.
The conundrum could be summarised as:
- People think it’s important to be able to influence local decisions
- People do not feel able to influence local decisions
- There is only minimal (and dwindling) appetite for one of the established solutions to this problem
Pioneering new approaches to solving this issue is as pressing a matter as building good relations and improving the quality of local places.