One of the most daunting parts of the Green Zone project was the part of the funding bid that said;
“The project aims to transform Bentley House estate into an exemplar, holistic, sustainable inner city Green Zone”.
Community development work often has extensive goals to try to achieve in a very short timescale. It is just part of the job!
“Green Zone shows that you can make changes to your estate. Not just talk about changes, but actually make them through planning and meetings and funding.”
To help you with your own challenges, we have some thoughts and guidelines on creating your own Green Zone.
Start wide and then focus
It may be that you want to find out what is of interest to people in the community. You may organise a series of taster events that appeal to a wide range of different kinds of people in the area. However at some point you may have to make hard decisions about where you should best devote your time. Which activities are likely to have legs and be sustainable after your project has finished.
Dealing with high expectations
One bit of advice we would have is that while it is a good idea to aim high, it is also good to try to manage expectations of what can be achieved in a short time frame. You can explain that this is just one year in the life of the estate and some of the connections and resources that have been put in place will only begin to bear fruit in the future. Try to be clear about what you can and can‟t do as part of the project. For the things that you can‟t achieve immediately, encourage the community to make it part of the future plan or master plan and try to make sure there is a group that takes ownership of that project. One problem we had was that working as a job share meant that although two people were working on the project, it was in reality only one role, and each person was doing half. Sometimes it did seem like people expected to see the work of two people.
Celebrate your achievements
It can be hard work to try to encourage people to make
positive changes. Make sure that you have a way of celebrating your work, this could be an event, displays, and videos or just about anything. You will be surprised how much you have done and achieved when you see it all in front of you. We celebrated with a great community event.
We showed films, had fun interactive workshops, had loads of displays showing all the events and work we had doneand had a local band and buffet.
Give the community access to resources, skills and contacts
You may not be able to solve all the problems yourself but you can put in time and effort to give the community access to resources they need to make a difference. These may be garden or DIY tools, storage for projects, communications tools and skills, contacts for local
venues and partner projects. Try to make these available to the wider community and encourage people to use them.