What we did
In January 2013 the RSA and Wiltshire Council began a three year learning partnership to stimulate new ways of working between communities and public services, supporting communities to be increasingly resourceful in meeting their needs. The development of new integrated service hubs – Campuses – in different parts of Wiltshire, provided an opportunity to explore how local communities could be empowered to be more active in designing and running the services that mattered to them.
During the first phase of the project we interviewed a cross section of people who were either involved in the campus programme, or who could be important to its future potential. We worked with local artists to reflect on and communicate the messages emerging from this research. On the basis of what we learnt we agreed a work programme with our Council partners that had four elements: understanding and mobilising social assets, including arts assets; exploring forms of decision making and control for campuses (their governance); culture change between diverse public service professionals, community leaders and citizens; and support for shared learning between people actively involved in the campus programme.
The programme’s main outputs included the following:
- Reviewing evidence of impacts from co-location, and reporting on this and sharing experience at a national workshop
- Supporting a leading campus through mapping of formal and informal voluntary groups and interviewing a cross section of group leaders
- Convening and supporting regular meetings for chairs of the community-led groups planning for campuses
- Designing and facilitating an intensive learning set for a group of campus representatives with an active interest in approaches to community engagement. The group was called Common Knowledge.
- Developing a series of cross-sector events – Creative Gatherings – that used arts based curation techniques to bring people other than the ‘usual suspects’ into practical discussions about civic decision making
- Bringing an arts commission to the town where the first campus was being opened. The Pass it On arts commission ran in Corsham from 16th – 27th September 2014 and involved citizens in seeing and experiencing their community in innovative ways. Walks, talks, workshops and displays used the natural environment and local heritage to explore identify and connection.
- Holding a series of events with national practitioners and thought leaders during the project’s final year to identify how learning from Wiltshire can inform and be informed by other approaches to localism and citizen empowerment.