Making the most of our neighbourhoods in Oldham

Featured article - 17 July 2017
Karyn Kirkpatrick, CEO KeyRing

Head-shot of the author, Karyn Kirkpatrick, CEO KeyRing

In 2001 we at KeyRing were shown how communities get built by seeing the principal resource that people have for the task as being their skills, talents and capacities. Building strong neighbourhoods becomes a matter of everybody contributing as many of their gifts as they can to each other and to the whole. John Mcknight, from the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern University, USA, was speaking at an event - and he inspired us.

Our role is to foster all that John suggests, not to create needs and dependency.

So how well are we doing?

The Ancora Project is a non-profit collaboration between KeyRing, Christians Against Poverty and Oldham Foodbank, funded for five years by the Big Lottery. As the project develops, new collaborators join, for instance Side by Side Counselling, community allotments, faith groups and Fareshare.

In the first ten months we helped 510 people. The small staff team and volunteers provide immediate help and ongoing support for people who are experiencing hardship, strengthened by the support and contribution of the wider collaborations.

Some people, following support from Ancora, are thinking about what they can contribute, for instance, volunteering at the Lifeskills course or using IT skills to manage Ancora’s data. Participants are mobilising local resources, for instance securing local funding to develop a clothes bank to help people get back into work.

Community pioneers

In Newcastle, Chain Reaction focuses on the social isolation of older people. The Community Pioneers work with over 100 older people to connect with the community opportunities in their neighbourhoods and to find ways for older people to make their contribution. The Lunch Links project will use similar approaches to discover a wide range of lunch opportunities where people live.

For us, collaboration is the key to successful asset-based approaches, working locally, in neighbourhoods, helping people to find their gifts and skills and then knowing how to share them. Sometimes this includes working with people with particular skills.

The Oldham Recovery Network included two therapists, who have helped members understand and deal with their drug and / or alcohol addictions, alongside our usual combination of community connections, peer and mutual support and volunteers. The aim is the same, to find your place in your community. As Daniel, who has taken part in the scheme, says: “The way I have got to know myself inside out is absolutely amazing and the journey I have been on will stay with me forever. We are all good enough and we all can make a difference in other people’s lives.”

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