Learning about the ethic of engagement in my neighbourhood

May 12, 2011 at 4:46 pm Leave a comment

by Raj Cheema

I’ve recently become a committee member of the Tenancy Association in my neighbourhood. Having lived in the area for three and a half years – I thought it was about time I got involved and found out more about the place. Plus – what better way to learn about Localism – than getting involved locally!

Here’s a little about my small neighbourhood in Rotherhithe. There are a handful of large housing associations operating in my area providing housing to a large number of people. You have young professionals, young families and people who have been unemployed for a long while all living next door to each. It’s diverse in a lot of senses, offers a clean, convenient and safe lifestyle – and makes you feels like you’re not in London even though the City is only 20 minutes away on the bus. There is a lot of modern developments – the dockland’s history isn’t that visible.

Our local Tenancy Association has been dwindling in the last year – engagement from the neighbourhood is at an all time low – in fact for the last six months it’s been pretty redundant and if they hadn’t found some new members – they would have got rid off it. In the past, the TA has done some tremendous work in campaigning for the interests of the residents against the Housing Associations. And realising the benefits of having a TA – the Housing Associations are keen to back the TA and maintain the bridge of communication between them and their residents.

The interesting thing is that people in the neighbourhood ‘want’ to keep the TA but don’t really want to get ‘involved’ or engage in matters that TA deals with on their behalf. Previous members have found that people aren’t interested in engaging and turning up to meetings even when the local MP is in town.

For me the TA reflects the level of apathy inherent in most neighbourhoods. And I want to find out why this is – rather than make presumptions. Is it because:
a) Residents don’t really understand their relationship with the TA – or the TA hasn’t been good at cultivating the right kind of relationship with residents
b) There aren’t any real issues of concerns that residents think the TA could deal with
c) If there are issues of concern – then residents think the TA can’t ‘act’ on these

In the next couple of months – I’ll be knocking on the doors of my neighbours to find out what they think of the TA, whether there are issues that concern them and what they think the TA could do. My goal is to get people involved and engage with the TA so that it channel its efforts to dealing with problems that concern residents. I reckon it’ll be a learning curve – I don’t know yet whether it’ll be a steep one or a small one. But I have a feeling I’m in for a bumpy ride – it’s OK, I have my seat belt on.

Stay tuned if you’re interested in finding out what progress I make in my new role as a ‘localist’.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

The World’s Most Innovative Schools: HSRA, St. Paul, Minnesota (“Hip Hop High School”) Keri Facer’s thought-provoking piece in the TES

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