East Cleveland Villages – We need to find some good listeners, is this you?

Lloyds Bank Foundation is  involved in long-term People and Communities work in Redcar and Cleveland (and five other communities across England and Wales). The Great Listeners approach in Redcar and Cleveland will be an essential part of the work, enabling residents to take the lead in researching local needs and views.

Supported by an independent community worker, Nick Beddow (Shared Places), the Great Listeners will be creating  a community-led research approach in Redcar and Cleveland, to find out what 600 local residents feel strongly about in their neighbourhoods: what do they currently like and wish to see continue? What do they dislike and want to see change? And what are their own ideas for making life better for all?

What difference will it make?

Consultation has become a dirty word in the past because communities can feel that they are being used by big organisations in a paper-exercise which leads to nothing changing and no further communication about what’s been discovered in the research.

The Great Listeners approach is tackling this head-on:  it is led by communities listening to each other, connecting and and learning about their different views, needs and priorities, and then using these conversations to create a long-term community voice on local issues. The Great Listeners conversations will be gathered into a report which will be available to communities and used at action-planning and decision-making events to guide everyone towards collaborating better on community priorities. The Great Listeners will be bringing together many voices from many backgrounds and perspectives.

These 600 conversations will be a starting point for learning what’s important to communities; we will be listening to people who often aren’t being heard.

In March 2022 the findings will be shared with communities, service providers and funders, to help them consider future actions to meet local people’s needs. We are ‘learning as we go’ and trying to evolve an approach to community engagement which will continue and be built on further. We hope that the learning from the Great Listeners work will inspire new approaches to how we involve communities in helping to shape local services and influence decision-making.

How it will work:

These conversations will be happening in three areas of Redcar & Cleveland: Grangetown, Redcar and neighbourhoods in the East Cleveland area. These sites were chosen because they offer different environments and we want to see if that creates different priorities for people who live there.

The research will be undertaken by ten residents who will be chatting to others in their neighbourhood from January to March 2022. We will be recruiting the residents from the three areas during November and December, and paying them in shopping vouchers for a couple of hours work each week, over three months. This ensures that people who are receiving benefit payments can be involved, as we will be keeping to a maximum of £20 payment each week in the form of vouchers. Anyone over 16 can be considered. The only qualifications required are that they are good listeners and care deeply about their communities.

How Can Residents Apply?

We will be sending our recruitment poster to communities throughout November and early December to invite people to express their interest in becoming our “Great Listeners” or “Community Explorers” (we’ll ask the recruited residents to decide on their own name).

The first step is for interested residents to contact Nick Beddow by phone or text (07985 570168) or email (nicksharedplaces@gmail.com).

Nick will contact each person to explain the project in more detail, and ask about their interests and social background – where they live, age, involvement in their community, etc.

As we have only ten places available, in mid December we will choose ten people who give us a good mix of backgrounds (where they live, and a mix of all social factors such as ages, gender, ethnicity, mobility, etc).

Everyone who applied will be contacted by Nick before Xmas: those chosen for the ten places will be asked if they still wish to go ahead, and everyone else will be asked if they are willing to be kept on a list of reserve places if any of the ten Great Listeners can’t continue.

In mid-January the ten Great Listeners will meet Nick in a local venue to train together as a team; a three hour meeting will look at their views on the issues locally and begin to use the chatting tools on each other. We will be deciding together the best ways to begin the local chats. Each Great Listener can decide when to use their own time each week (usually two hours to complete ten chats each week), and will be paid by Nick fortnightly at update meetings (usually one hour).  They will also be paid for the training and meetings.

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