Memorandum by Groundwork (GRI 12)|
1. Groundwork is a federation of 48 locally
owned Groundwork Trusts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland,
between them working with over 100 local authorities to deliver
"joined-up" solutions to the challenges faced by our
most deprived communities.
1.1 Groundwork has twenty-one years' experience
of engaging and involving communities in practical projects to
improve quality of life and promote sustainable development. Last
year Groundwork supported 4,500 projects encouraging volunteers
of all ages to give up 300,000 days of their time, provided 43,000
weeks worth of training and created 1,300 jobs.
2. Groundwork began as a Government-backed
experiment initiated by the Countryside Commission in the late
1970s. The aim of the "Urban Fringe Experiment" (UFEX80)
was to find new ways of improving the environment on the edge
of industrial towns and cities.
2.1 The first Groundwork Trust was set up
in 1981 in St Helens and Knowsley on Merseyside and quickly produced
two guiding principles: get local people involved and work in
partnership, running practical projects in conjunction with the
local councils, local businesses and other voluntary bodies. Within
two years there were five more Trusts in the North West and Groundwork
soon spread to other parts of the UK. This rapid growth led to
the establishment in 1985 of the Groundwork Foundation (now Groundwork
UK), to co-ordinate the expanding network. Responsibility for
Groundwork passed from the Countryside Commission to the then
Department of Environment. It now lies with the Office of the
Deputy Prime Minister.
2.2 As Trusts grew in number and scale,
so the range of work diversified. Groundwork became increasingly
successful at delivering not just environmental improvements but
also social and economic benefits and began working with small
businesses, young people and the long-term unemployed. By the
time of the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, there were 30 Trusts engaging
in " local sustainable development" and no longer just
on the urban fringe.
2.3 Twenty-one years on from those experimental
beginnings, much has changed, but the guiding principles of community
involvement and partnership remain as strong as ever and have
been adopted as mainstream practice in many Government regeneration
initiatives. There are now nearly 50 Trusts in the UK, working
together as a federation, and the Groundwork approach has also
been adopted in other countries.
2.4 Groundwork is a local delivery agent
for Government policy and currently receives £7.7 million
p.a. grant in aid from ODPM, which is used to lever in around
£76 million of extra investmentnearly ten times the
core grant. One of the reasons for Groundwork's enduring success
is a unique structureit is effective because each Trust
is locally owned and managedand yet this network of local
entities has strategic connections with Government which serves
to connect top-down policy with bottom-up needs and aspirations.
Groundwork believes that there is clearly potential for capitalising
on this model and develop its own role in delivering the Government's
3. Groundwork has always capitalised on
the value of practical environmental action as a means to deliver
a wide range of social and economic benefits in disadvantaged
communities. A recent study conducted by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation
which focused on Groundwork's role in neighbourhood renewal concluded
that: "The environment is a powerful tool with which to commence
activities in deprived and neglected communities: it is relatively
uncontentious, an issue on which everyone has a view, an area
which offers relatively quick and visible wins, and can contribute
massively to the restoration of community confidence".
3.1 However, environmental concerns were
largely absent from the Government's neighbourhood renewal strategy.
The Government is beginning to redress this balance through its
work on public space. However, Groundwork believes there is huge
scope for promoting local community-led environmental action as
the route to delivering key anti-poverty targets, for example
public health, employment, education, fear of crime etc.
3.2 What's more, the local environment is
the forum within which joined-up thinking can become joined-up
action. The connections between the environment and poverty have
been recognized at a global level, but a commitment to environmental
justice must begin at home. This requires a stated commitment
from the Prime Minister and, as the key funding department, the
Treasury, to environmental justice, in order to ensure the environment
is central to the Government's anti-poverty strategies at home
as well as abroad.
4. Groundwork works with a clear area focus,
establishing a long-term presence in deprived neighbourhoods.
Much of its activity is focused on building links between different
area-based initiatives and supporting community groups in the
process of securing funds, building partnerships and reporting
outcomes. Government and other public sector funders such as lottery
distributors are rightly concerned about ensuring regeneration
funding reaches grass roots groups by the shortest possible route.
However, it is important not to overlook the importance of intermediary
organisations, which have a successful track record in helping
communities and other local agencies benefit from the wide range
of initiatives and funds available.
4.1 The Joseph Rowntree Foundation study
noted Groundwork's capacity to act as a "neutral intermediary"
and suggested that it "may have a valuable role to play in
helping broker the difficult partnership issues that will be faced
in many areas as LSPs are established."
4.2 One of the Government's main aims is
to give local authorities more freedom to respond to local needs
and priorities through deregulation and greater independence in
relation to local taxation and investment. Another is the rationalisation
of area-based initiatives and funding streams. Groundwork feels
that there may potentially be implications for non-mainstream
activity that currently meets the needs of local people and builds
community capacity as a result of funding being directed principally
through local authorities rather than area based programmes. An
example of this is the winding-down of the Single Regeneration
4.3 Groundwork has a proven track record
of working with local communities and accessing funds to support
local projects that produce multiple benefits for local communities.
We feel that the Government should be aware of the possible effects
on this type of activity from these proposals in terms of reduced
choice and flexibility of community response.
5. Groundwork operates as a catalyst, developing
local capacity within the community rather than creating a dependence
on the Trust. This includes involving local people in all stages
of project development, planning early on to transfer responsibility
for projects to local organisations, building and developing local
organisations as part of a succession strategy and helping to
identify funding streams to enable projects to continue in the
5.1 For example, Groundwork Black Country's
role on the Wren's Nest Estate in Dudley, involved working with
the Wren's Nest Tenants' Association and the then Countryside
Commission to convert a derelict site into a small park, the Jack
Turner Memorial Millennium Green. This was mainly funded by the
Millennium Commission, with support from English Partnerships.
To be eligible for Millennium Commission funding, an independent
charitable Trust had to be established. Groundwork dealt with
the necessary procedures and requirements, and the Green, once
completed, was handed over to the local Trust. A resident and
Trust committee member agreed to take on day-to-day supervision
of the Green and the improvement of a prominent site and the involvement
of local residents helped to boost community confidence and capacity.
5.2 The JRF study of Groundwork emphasised
this role as a catalyst, as an agency that develops local capacity
rather than cultivating a dependency culture. Groundwork Medway
Swale has adopted a formal "exit strategy" procedure
to shape its dealings with community groups. This includes a discussion
within the community group of its aims, objectives and mission
statement, the meeting structure, a work programme, to include
detailed 12 month proposals, a five-year plan and information
on Groundwork's future commitment; fundraising, training, contacts,
monitoring and evaluation. Groundwork believes that it is crucial
for all regeneration projects to include an exit strategy that
takes into account the ability of the local community to ensure
that initiatives are both sustainable and manageable.
5.3 In another example, Groundwork Dearne
Valley has developed a stewardship model to help ensure the longer-term
maintenance of environmental improvements in ex-coal mining villages
like Bolton-on-Dearne. Maintenance plans are initially developed
through community based steering groups. These may involve key
holder arrangements whereby groups of local residents agree to
open and lock improved facilities. Planning and maintenance are
usually carried out by a village caretaker with a remit to maintain
physical improvements under supervision from the Stewardship group.
Village caretakers are likely to have undertaken previous Groundwork
organised Intermediate Labour Market training and are also provided
with more general supervisory assistance from the Trust. Support
has been secured through the Single Regeneration Budget and other
resources. Critically, Stewardship groups seek to develop legal
agreements with the local authority concerned. Barnsley has proved
especially interested in developing such agreements, which cover
obligations by both parties, liability insurance, funding, review,
etc. The advantages are that the commitments of different parties
are made explicit, added value is provided by local volunteers,
local ownership is encouraged, competition between different providers
is reduced, and there is a longer-term integration of environmental,
social and economic goals. These agreements have a role in encouraging
and guiding the longer-term sustainability of community based
5.4 Providing training and support to enable
residents to stay involved in voluntary activity has always been
a central element of Groundwork's approach to sustainable regeneration.
Groundwork's Changing Places millennium programme, for example,
involved establishing a network of Friends Groups to oversee the
regeneration of 21 areas of post industrial dereliction. Groundwork
was able to organise learning and networking activities for these
groups, many of whom are now playing an active role in the management
of the new facilities on their doorstep.
5.5 A common characteristic of local community
regeneration projects is that voluntary groups came together around
a specific issue, but then dissipate once the immediate issue
has been resolved. The Groundwork Millennium Awards were
established to tackle this by providing training for volunteers
to continue working together and move from project to project.
The Groundwork Millennium Awards programme was supported
by a grant of over £1 million of National Lottery funding
from the Millennium Commission. The scheme aimed to make sure
individuals and groups have the skills and abilities they need
to continue to make a difference to the quality of life in their
community. To date 411 volunteers have participated in the GMA
programme and in addition, approximately 130 staff have been trained
to support and train volunteers.
5.6 Anybody over the age of 16 with ideas
about how to improve their local environment were eligible to
apply for an award, which entitled them to a six-month package
of training and support. The type of training on offer ranges
from picking up practical skills to learning how to use computers,
raise money for projects or organise a voluntary group. Additional
support was also available for those people who need help with
basic skills such as reading and writing. Each award recipient
was allocated a mentor whose job it was to encourage and support
them as they undergo their training and put what they have learned
into practice in their community.
6. It is now widely accepted that attempts
to improve deprived areas should not be judged just on whether
houses are better kept, streets are cleaner, the number of trees
planted or the number of people involved, but on how people living
in these areas feel and act. Most regeneration organisations and
funders are now beginning to understand the need to move away
from measuring purely outputs to considering how peoples' lives
have been affectedthe outcomes from regeneration initiatives.
One of the most important of these outcomes is social capital.
6.1 Social capital rarely gets counted in
evaluation and certainly not in any systematic way. While priorities
often appear physical, behind these lie much more human concerns,
such as trust, confidence and friendship. A Harvard University
study demonstrated that violent crimes were 40 per cent lower
in neighbourhoods where residents willingly mingled and worked
together, compared to areas where no such interaction took place.
6.2 The desire for evaluation of the social
capital resulting from neighbourhood renewal projects was the
starting point for collaboration between Groundwork, Barclays
and New Economics Foundation (NEF). In 1998, work began to evaluate
Barclays SiteSavers, a national programme launched in 1996 which
helps communities reclaim lost ground by turning derelict areas
into dynamic and useful places for play, education, relaxation
and fun. The aim of the evaluation, called Prove It!, was
to go beyond measuring visible differences like the number of
trees planted and to capture invisible impacts. The evaluation
was particularly interested in capturing changes that have a lasting
impact on communitiessuch as confidence and trust.
6.3 The Prove It! approach makes
invisible aspects of renewal visible. It has three basic characteristics:
It involves local people in evaluation
to contribute to project aims
It captures the impacts of projects
on people and their sense of community
It contains a tested menu of indicators
to guide the measurement process.
At the heart of Prove It! is a participative process
of measurement which highlights and rebalances relationships between
local people and institutions, drawing in local expertise to area-based
6.4 The Prove It! model is currently
being developed, to develop a replicable framework that will enable
effective measurement of value added whilst building local capacity.
Prove It! will be adapted to capture impacts for programmes,
communities and institutions as a wholebuilding social,
environmental and economic capital. This adapted model for programme
evaluation, called Prove It Plus!, will be carried out
in six pilots across the UK.
Groundwork has a proven track record
of working with local communities and accessing funds to support
local projects that produce multiple benefits for local communities.
The Government should be aware of the possible effects on this
type of activity from the potential mainstreaming of funds available
for neighbourhood renewal and regeneration projects.
Environmental concerns were largely
absent from the neighbourhood renewal strategy and it is now down
to the Government to redress this balance, particularly in the
light of the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development, by
promoting local community-led environmental action as the route
to delivering key anti-poverty targets.
It is crucial for all regeneration
projects to include an exit strategy that takes into account the
ability of the local community to ensure that initiatives are
both sustainable and manageable.
Evaluation of the social capital
gained through neighbourhood renewal projects is a crucial and
often an integral aspect of Groundwork's community engagement
work and this model should be explored as a potential template
for all Government regeneration initiatives.