It’s been a bit of a whilwind month here at Preston FM. Since we learnt in mid-February that we’d been successful in the Neighbourhood Challenge, we’ve been working hard behind the scenes to put the wheels of a successful project in motion.
Along with our partners – Bespoke, CSV and Blog Preston – we’ve been working out timetables, tweaking budgets, planning activities and making sure that we’re ready to hit the streets with a bang come April, when the project kicks off in earnest.
We’ve been lucky in that the beginning of the project overlaps a piece of work we already had planned for this period, also based around community journalism: and we’re right in the middle of designing a new community journalism course, which we’ll pilot in early April with a small group of people. We’ve got a few “early adopters” signed up already – all from our Neighbourhood Challenge areas of Deepdale, Ribbleton and St Matthew’s – and we hope that they’ll give us useful feedback on the new course, as well as acting as champions for the project in those areas in the longer term.
There are lots of people to talk to and brief on what we’ve got planned – we want to be careful not to step on any toes where there are other agencies working in the neighbourhoods we’re targetting. Key to this is engaging fully with the City Council’s Neighbourhood Management Partnerships but, right now, these are in the process of being scaled down and re-organised (thanks to Preston loosing its Area Based Grant funding in the new budget round) so it’s a little difficult to know who to talk to. We’re sure that, once the dust settles, there will be good opportunities to work together with what remains of those teams – and we’ve been encouraged by their familiarity with the asset-led approach that the Neighbourhood Challenge is based on.
The project has been invited to take up the voluntary sector seat on the Inner East Preston Action Group; and we attended our first meeting in early March. The group covers a lot of the area that we’ll be working in over the next year – it will be another good place to find allies; and to help use what we learn to contribute to policy development.
We’ve also briefed our existing group of community journalists – some of whom have been with us for a few years, now. It’s going to be important that they are involved in the project – sharing their experiences and skills with others, and helping us to deliver the project where they can – even though some of them don’t live in the areas that our Neighbourhood Challenge will be working in. It’s been great to hear their enthusiasm for what’s coming up in the next year, and they’ve already started to work out where they can best be involved.
Away from Preston, it was great to bump in to Citizens’ Eye at a community media conference recently. They’re based in Leicester, and have been helping groups of community journalists in their area for a while, now. Their work is slightly different to what we have planned – but it was inspiring to see how they have made it happen.
So – lots of activity, but lots still to do before we plan to hit the three neighbourhoods with the first of our engagement and taster sessions in a few short weeks’ time.