Rural Action Yorkshire (RAY) works with communities to enable development – whether that be broadband access, housing, good neighbours, community development plans or hubs for older people. As a Time to Shine delivery partner, they are creating activity hubs at underused village venues in rural Leeds, based on an Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) model.
They have followed five basic stages to bring out the full potential of these local communities:
Stage 1: Finding People Who Care
RAY contacted parish councils, village venues in north and east Leeds with an overview of the project. Loose parameters enabled them to identify two hub co-ordinators who shared our vision. The chair of Swillington Parish Council had already ring-fenced some funds to spend on older people in the village as she felt there was a need, and the village hall was the idea location as it was underused and was a central location. This was a perfect match, as it meant RAY was not imposing an idea on a community, but rather partnering and fostering a spark that already existed.
Stage 2: Mapping Assets
Following a central tenet of ABCD, “you don’t know what you need until you know what you’ve got,” the team then put pen to paper and explored the other assets in the area, whether they be other people, businesses, existing groups or local facilities. The neighbouring primary school has proved a good connection for intergenerational activities.
Stage 3: What do people want?
The steering group (made up of older people) discussed and decided what people would actually like to do, and have designed the structure of the programme according to this input. Musical entertainment and exercise classes featured as popular suggestions and have been folded in to the menu of activities.
Scholes had a taster session as a way to find out what people would be interested in doing.
Stage 4: Everyone has gifts
People who participate can also volunteer easily, due to the informal nature of the structure. Bill, an ex-miner (and chief pot washer at Swillington!), has formed a connection with Stephanie from Lotherton Hall who makes regular visits and is contributing photographs, documents and oral history for a mining exhibition she is curating.
Stage 5: Sustainability
An essential element of ABCD is sustainability; how do the connections continue even when the initial support has taken a step back? Currently in Scholes and Swillington, the steering groups are taking more and more responsibility for the structure and day-to-day running of the groups. RAY project Worker Becky Bracey has the goal of making herself obsolete so she can move on to sparking the set-up of other community hubs, which will in time also become self-sustaining.