This morning saw the launch at NESTA of the Neighbourhood Challenge. A chance to pitch to become one of 10 organisations to be given 18 months and £150k to galvanise communities to respond to local priorities.
Much talk of hyperlocal websites, community organisers, big society, radical shifts in power and areas of low social capital. All good stuff. But not the kind of things I hear when I am talking with people in communities in Leeds about their priorities. These things are not their concerns. They are the concerns of policy makers and funders.
It reminded me of the launch of the Local Enterprise Growth Initiative. A very sage colleague of mine said to me at the time,
Mike, I have concerns about this programme. These people don’t understand enterprise. I think if the minister had stood up and said that ‘The future of our communities lies in duck farming, and so today I am launching a major new programme to promote duck farming in our most deprived communities’ we would have had much the same audience nodding and clapping. These people know how to write bids. They know how to manage projects. But do they really know about enterprise?
I hope that this mornings audience was more versed in community organising, social capital and community.
And less versed in snaffling up money on behalf of the communities that they serve.
I am sure many communities will put forward bids. And I expect that people from outside of their communities will sit in judgement and decide.
And there is the rub.