Shining a spotlight on Institutional Resilience – Greater Bedminster Community Partnership
13th January 2016
The Resilience Spotlight is an initiative of the Bristol Resilience Network, which is part of the Bristol Green Capital Partnership. Every month in 2015, the group invited nominations for someone in the city who demonstrates how we can work at a local level to develop Bristol’s capacity to respond to shocks and stresses.
The spotlight theme for October was Institution. We were looking for organisations that are taking a long-term view in planning for shocks and stresses, as well as improving current social, environmental and economic systems.
This spotlight blog was written by Kim Dowsett – Climate Change Advisor at Environment Agency.
“I met Ben Barker at the Southville Centre – what seems like a real ‘hub’ of the community and of the Greater Bedminster Community Partnership (GBCP). The Partnership is a result of the formation of Neighbourhood Partnerships across the city in 2007. Bedminster already had a network of community groups before this, so expanded this to form GBCP. It is a Neighbourhood Partnership plus a lot more!
Ben explains how he was the secretary of the Partnership until recently, but is still heavily involved in everything the Partnership is doing (which seems like an awful lot!). With a background in further education, Ben, who is also a local resident, has been working in the community for over 20 years.
The Partnership is incredibly far-reaching, bringing together the roughly 25,000 people living in Bedminster and Southville, with around 100 partners including the Council, statutory organisations (such as the police) and many, many businesses and voluntary organisations. Ben describes the idea of the Partnership as a ‘dating agency’. By joining up partners, more can be achieved for the community through supporting each other, and projects can be created with multiple benefits. Ben’s role is to link these groups up, support collaboration and spread the word through newsletters and other means.
Ben explains how he sees the Partnership as working on two levels. The first is project level work, such as improving biodiversity and supporting isolated older people. The second level is to get neighbours to know and support each other and build links at a street level, for example through street parties and the arts trail.
Since the Partnership has begun, residents have had a say in what they would like to see in their community, and what needs to be improved in the future. When asked, residents explained how they thought there was not enough green space and there were too many cars in their community. This has lead to a wealth of projects and initiatives to address these concerns, plus others.
Ben reeled off examples of projects that the Partnership has been involved in – far too many to mention them all! These range from community level projects such as the Mary Portas high street project in Bedminster, a green capital funded project to enhance walking routes for older people in the community (letswalkbedminster.co.uk), to street projects such as ‘playing out’ (www.playingout.net)
A recent example of the Partnership’s work is the walking project. This seems simple at first but has so many multiple benefits. Ben describes how the old and young in communities are particularly impacted by poor walking environments. Solutions to tackle this include bigger initiatives such as signposting and art work, through to small things such as encouraging residents to move their bins if possible to remove obstructions on the pavements. The partnership approach can achieve both these outcomes. You can find out more about these in A Good Transport Plan for Bristol, launching on 21st January 2016.
The major benefits of this type of collaborative community working are clear to see. There is strength in numbers and in getting groups and organisations to work together and pool resources. The Partnership is also able to apply for funding, therefore allowing small groups and organisations to address issues that would be too big to tackle on their own. Lastly the Partnership is working hard to create a stronger and more resilient community at a street level through getting neighbours to know and support each other. This all makes it a great example of a resilient institution – providing the means for a community to come together to jointly tackle current and future issues, whilst at the same time improving the social, environmental and economic wellbeing of the area.
The message is clear from meeting Ben – more can be achieved by working together!”