Communities and neighbourhoods

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Improving Empowerment practice

As set out in the white paper Communities in Control, real people, real power, the Government wishes to generate a vibrant local democracy, giving real control over local decisions and services to wider pool of citizens. At the heart of this, we are promoting and helping facilitate good practice within local government.

Duty to Involve

The Duty to Involve came into force in April 2009, side by side with the new Comprehensive Area Assessment. Involving local people is now the expected approach that every authority will be taking and will become business as usual, mainstreamed across their partnerships. The core aim of the duty to involve is to make it standard practice for a local authority and their partners to empower and engage local people through their delivery of local services, and local decision-making.

See the statutory guidance in Creating Strong, Safe and Prosperous Communities, page 19, paragraph 2.10 onwards.

See also the practical guide, issued by the Community Development Foundation, including advice and suggestions, from a sector point of view, on how authorities can meet their responsibilities (external link) under the new duty.

A large number of top tier local authorities and their partners (85 Local Area Agreement areas) have committed themselves to engaging with their communities more effectively through a specific target: "to increase the numbers of people who feel they can influence local decisions".

We have put in place the following to support local authorities and their partners' community engagement practice, comply with the Duty to Involve and help achieve their empowerment targets.

National Empowerment Partnership

The NEP was launched on 17 September 2008 to improve the quality, co-ordination and evidence of empowerment at a local level across England. It is a partnership of third sector organisations which works to help improve empowerment practice at the national, regional and local level. This includes support for local and regional empowerment activity that helps councils meet their targets in engaging and empowering local people, including learning, identifying and sharing best practice, networking activities and champions for mutual support.

Further information on the National Empowerment Partnership is available from the Community Development Foundation website (see link on right).

Regional Empowerment Partnerships

We are supporting Regional Empowerment Partnerships (REPs) in each of the nine English regions, to bring together all the main public and third sector bodies with a primary interest in empowerment to promote improvement in community engagement and empowerment practice. The REPs work with the Government Offices and Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnerships to identify priorities for the region, and to target support accordingly.

Network of Empowering Authorities

Eighteen local authorities showcase community empowerment through examples of excellent practice, promoting peer learning, and providing a mechanism for authorities to influence the national debate on ways to improve practice. The Network has produced a "Framework for an Ideal Empowering Authority" to support authorities' empowerment practice, including benchmarking performance and diagnosing ways to improve it.   

CLG funds IDeA to facilitate the network's programme, and more information on the Framework tool and other aspects of the programme can be found on IDeA's website (see link on right). The Framework is on IDeA site under "Evaluating your empowerment performance".

The Civic Pioneers Case Study Review, a review of 12 community empowerment case study projects, was published on 30 December 2008. This Review presents case studies of each of the 12 funded projects, together with a simple analysis of the lessons learned from these experiences and is available under 'Related Publications below'. The work of the Civic Pioneers is now being taken forward by the Network of Empowering Authorities.

Other useful empowerment sites

  • People and Participation.net (see link on right) provides an interactive tool to those who work to provide empowerment opportunities, both nationally and locally, to help them select appropriate participatory methods for their specific circumstances. The site contains a library of information and case studies, helping to promote the exchange of information on engagement activities. The site is funded by Communities and Local Government in partnership with the Ministry of Justice and the Sustainable Development Commission.
  • A variety of resources can be found at the Together We Can website (see link on right). The Autumn 2008 Issue of the WeCan! newsletter (see link on the right) included an article on the Network of Empowering authorities. Each edition of WeCan! is packed with latest news and features on empowerment activities around the country.

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