This #ChallengePovertyWeek, we publish a guest blog by Paul McColgan, CEO of Community Renewal Group.

Community Renewal has some radical ideas about lifting poor neighbourhoods out of poverty but they are radical in their simplicity.

These ideas go against the grain of “wicked problems need complex solutions”.

My name is Paul McColgan and I’m the co-founder and CEO of Community Renewal Group.

I’d like to share with you what I believe to be the key ingredients of lifting a neighbourhood out of poverty and tell you about a radical test of change we are about to launch called Lifting Neighbourhoods Together.

The current situation in poorer neighbourhoods

Over the past 20 years I’ve worked in 17 of the poorest neighbourhoods in Scotland, and what I have mostly observed is that frontline public services are trapped in their own wee silos.

In or near a typical poor neighbourhood you might find services such as:

– employability
– community safety
– youth work
– children and families
– primary care
– Sure-start
– health promotion  
– mental health
– financial inclusion
– children and families
– older people’s services
– community education and development
– housing wider action
– community addictions team  

Despite all this investment, there is little impact over time on the overall level of poverty in a neighbourhood – even when each individual service meet their annual targets.

Some neighbourhoods have had several waves of regeneration efforts going back to the 1970s.

So many government policies – all aimed at the same families

We have a multitude of different policy messages – all competing for the same families’ attention…

We believe it’s time to test a simpler solution.

Lifting Neighbourhoods Together

is a radically simple approach to attempt to lift an entire neighbourhood out of poverty by listening to individuals and families and reorganising existing resources around what they need to lift themselves out of poverty.

Ingredients of Lifting a Neighbourhood out of Poverty

If we get right down to the level of a household then the ingredients are:

  • getting them a job or better, more stable work than they have at present
  • helping young members of the household identify an aspirational career and support them to achieve it
  • ensuring people are in receipt of all the benefits to which they are entitled
  • offer residents the chance to get involved in community activities and participate in local decision making
  • identify the changes the community would like to see to make their neighbourhood a better and safer place to live and generate a vision statement
  • support people to find out about and participate in local social activities or develop these activities
  • help people reflect on their wellbeing aspirations and support them with steps to improve it
  • ensuring they have adequate and affordable housing

How we will use existing resources differently – breaking out of silos

Rather than organising services and activities around specific policies we will organise resources around the needs of the families and the community as a whole.

Existing public and third sector workers will be invited to join our Neighbourhood Team bringing their expertise into the team but working from a set of principles and holistic working methods that look at the whole person or whole family rather than leading with their specialism.

Every household engaged in a listening conversation

The neighbourhood team will work street by street, systematically engaging every single household in a listening conversation.

Each household that needs support to lift themselves out of poverty will be supported by the same team member for the 4 years of the initiative. That team member will case manage the need to bring in the specialist knowledge of colleagues to support as required.

Evaluating Success

We are interested in measuring the success of this test of change in a range of different ways:

  • are residents of the area better able to get the right support locally at the right time?
  • has the community become more involved in influencing key decisions at a community planning level?
  • has the community begun to achieve some of its aspirations set out in its vision of a better place?
  • does the neighbourhood feel like a safer and better place to live where people who improve their income are more likely to stay in the area?
  • For Neighbourhood Team members how does it feel to be less incumbered by strict service boundaries and be more able to respond to people’s actual needs?
  • does working this way prevent people falling into crisis and requiring less crisis intervention support in housing, mental health and social care?
  • have we managed to support jobless people into work and people experiencing in-work poverty into better work, building a bridge to the best employment opportunities in the city?
  • Have we supported older people to become more connected and less isolated?
  • Have we bridged the educational attainment gap for young people?
  • Have we ensured that every young person achieves a positive destination when leaving school?

October 2020 Launch

Lifting Neighbourhoods Together launches in October 2020 in Edinburgh and Newcastle with funding from a National Lottery Community Fund UK Grant.

Please get in touch to find out more or become a partner – we’d love to hear from you.

Further information: Community Renewal – Twenty Years of Transformation

– Paul McColgan