A long-overdue word about Transforming Neighbourhoods at the Young Foundation. Geoff Mulgan and I sat down a year-plus ago and agreed that the government was likely to get excited about neighbourhood empowerment after the May 2005 elections. So we asked around, to see if anyone would be interested in our setting up a consortium research and innovation programme. Some key government departments, local government and community research umbrellas said yes, as did five (now eight) local authorities. And we got cracking...
Our first policy discussion paper, Seeing the Wood for the Trees, was published quietly in October and has had a decent impact in some places. While it's a bit "techie-institutional", and as we say, "the closer you get to street level, the less structures matter and the more what you do counts"... at the same time, structures set the frame for what is and isn't possible. Our civil servant partners are doing increasingly well-grounded policy work on a short timescale (why is that always the way it seems to be?), and we're doing our best to help them get it right.
At the same time, we've been doing fieldwork from Birmingham and Sheffield to Wiltshire, Surrey and Lewisham (where we're sitting down with some councillors this week to put on hats and thrash out what community advocacy might mean in the future). And we held a very useful seminar with Gerry Stoker and some eminent profs at Manchester University's Institute for Political and Economic Governance.
More reports soon. Kevin Harris of the Neighbourhoods blog has kindly been tracking our progress, a recent brainstorm we held with community activists (and my stumbling comments at events he organises) despite our quietness in public to date. We'll be making more noise now that our initial research is becoming clear.
P.s: my long blog absence, while clearly inexcusable, can be attributed to this and a number of other bits and pieces to be revealed shortly. Plus, fatherhood's a ball.