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Big Society Meeting Notes

‘Small steps to a Big Society’ SE Regional Meeting Overview

Date:     Thursday 24 November 2011 at 1pm

Arts development UK members met at the charming Fire and Iron Gallery in Leatherhead to share their experiences of the ‘Big Society’ so far and grapple with some of the big questions of a Big Society in practise.

 Fire and Iron

After a tour of the gallery discussions were kicked off by gallery owner Lucy Quinnell with a history and overview of the gallery. Lucy shared her experience of working with different communities and balancing the commercial operation of the gallery and the working with public sector and community organisations. She emphasised the importance of developing new audiences and collaborative working.

 http://www.fireandiron.co.uk/

 Making Surrey

Kath Holland and Jane Friend then took to the floor to present the Making Surrey project. This ambitious project worked across the county including partners from arts organisations, local authorities and community groups to bring people together through the creative activity. 

Between them the team had experienced the Big Society in action in various guises and offered the group these handy hints:

  • Be clear about your purpose and the ‘products’ will follow.
  • Build a team that are connected and willing to support each other.
  • Be ambitious and have faith in communities
  • Central Coordination is key to achieving economies of scale, effective branding etc but avoid bureaucratic systems if possible.
  •  Accept things will go wrong and try to understand why.
  • Leave something behind

More information on the project can be found at:

http://makingsurrey.wordpress.com/

http://www.leatherheadcommunitygarden.org.uk/the-garden.html

 General discussion on Big Society

 

After some much needed refreshments the group embarked on an open and frank discussion about their own experience, thoughts, aspirations and fears concerning the Big Society.

Key points:

  • The Localism Act will be changing and over the next few months with regulations and guidance will follow.
  • There will be new powers for local communities
  • It’s not all about cost cutting-outsourcing work is not necessarily cheaper.
  • Big Society and strategic commissioning can work together but are not necessarily the same thing.

 What needs to be done?

  • We need to capture outcomes better to inform policies
  • There is a lack of understanding of what arts development does – find your policy officer and TELL THEM!
  • Advocacy and proving outcomes- we need our strategic heads on Arts Development could be helping other departments to connect with their communities by showing them the process of collaborative working.
  • Practitioners need to communicate their true value and worth through legacy and evidencing
  • It’s all about telling a story and speaking in different languages to different sectors
  • Transfer of Assets – should more volunteering groups be managing assets?         

Capacity building

Arts Development professionals have to learn new skills to respond to the changing environment. These include:

  • Improved  business planning
  • How to set up independent companies, trusts and charities – advice on setting up companies can be found in the  Outside In Report  (AD:uk publication)
  • Contracting and Negotiation skills- Funding will still be subject to LA budgetary provision when services are externalised so it is important to ensure that contracts and service level agreements are mutually beneficial and protect the interests of both LA’s and independent organisations.
  • Relationship building is vital and should be ongoing.

News form AD: UK team

The meeting closed with news and updates from Arts Development UK before a visit to the Making Surrey Community Garden.

  • Fellowship programme. Please make sure you complete the online survey before 31 DECEMBER.                 http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ADuk-PFP . Fellowships will be awarded in   March
  • ‘Buddying’ service will be offered by AD: UK. Buddies will work through the information pack with new members. More information to follow
  • In the New Year there will be skills banks and we can share information

Notes by Mitch Robertson and Michelle Moubarak

www.creativecanterbury.com