Acting as a learning partner for the Community Hubs programme
Strengthening relationships across Redbridge
Communities are at the heart of better government, yet national and local governments often find it challenging to engage residents effectively. One place looking to change that is Redbridge, a borough in outer London.
There, the council has been exploring how to strengthen relationships with the local community. Through the Community Hubs programme, they are experimenting with new ways of listening, community engagement and sharing power. They are also co-designing six new community hubs with residents, to provide better services and facilities that improve the quality of life for local people.
What we did
To help keep learning central to community engagement efforts, Redbridge Council enlisted the support of CPI as a learning partner.
Our approach focussed on co-development and capacity building. We worked closely with the Community Hubs team to develop the systems, processes and culture to enable them to learn as they work.
The first phase of work involved insights gathering. We interviewed the team and partners inside and outside the council to discover what people wanted to learn from the Community Hubs programme and how they preferred to learn. We then ran sensemaking sessions to identify key themes and explore how the team could organise their work as experiments.
Tools for learning
In the second phase, we co-developed tools to help the team centre learning in their work and share their knowledge with partners, including the programme’s governance boards. This included developing a theory of change and a learning dashboard - a practical tool to help community organisers capture and analyse learning from their activities and share this with key partners.
Learning and evaluation
In the third phase, we supported the Learning and Evaluation lead to reflect on what the team had learned over the past year and we co-wrote a learning and insights report.
What our partners said
"The Redbridge Community Hubs Programme is complex building development and organisational change programme, focused on changing the relationship between local people and the council. We sought a learning partner who could help us better understand how we could bring this change about, working with a broad, diverse range of colleagues and partners.
"Working with CPI over the course of a year was a great experience. They brought rigour, creativity and challenge to our work together, taking our initial brief and developing it flexibly with us, in response to what we were learning as we went along.
"Their work was instrumental in helping us develop and refine our programmatic theory of change, which identified our core purpose, and the means by which we could achieve that purpose – in our case, to build trusting relationships, through effective and structured collaboration."
Ed Anderton, Learning and Evaluation Lead, London Borough of Redbridge
We are already seeing significant changes emerging from this work. The theory of change is receiving support across the council, and there has been strong engagement with the new approaches to learning. Going forward, the Learning and Evaluation lead is considering what is needed to fully embed experimentation into the community organising role and continuing to explore how to build learning cultures and approaches into the governance mechanisms.
Conversation, culture, and collaboration: building community hubs in Redbridge
Ed Anderton, Learning and Evaluation Lead at Redbridge Council, shares his reflections on their journey and some of the lessons they’ve learned so far.
Learning to Listen Again
What we learned about building better listening into everyday public services, the huge benefits that this can bring to both the services and the people who use them, and key questions that those in government who want to listen to the seldom heard should be asking.
Understanding what building and maintaining legitimacy means today through the eyes of citizens and understanding what governments can do to strengthen their relationships with citizens matters more than ever.
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