The idea for the Lightmoor Summit came to me during a discussion about Neighbourhood Planning at the Talk About Local conference in Birmingham in April. The session I was in was really interesting and the discussion had moved onto how best to engage the community in planning for the future. Various ideas were put forward about official meetings with posters and minutes and citizen engagement plans. I pulled a less than impressed face and several people laughed at my face and one said “You clearly don’t like that idea, Ben”. I didn’t, it didn’t sound fun, it didn’t sound like something I could easily sell to my neighbours as being something they should give up their free time for. At the best of times it can be difficult to engage large numbers of people with community planning and priority setting because community planning and priority setting don’t sound exciting, they can sound like activities that other people get involved with rather than waste their valuable time.
One of the people in the session was from Digbeth Is Good and was talking about a successful event they’d run to engage local business leaders and help drive forward development in Digbeth High Street. In the run up to the event local residents heard about a “summit” for local businesses and wanted in on the process, they saw an opportunity and hijacked the process a little.
The conversation moved away from a summit idea and back onto the more serious part of the conversation but the idea of a Summit for Lightmoor was in my brain and stayed there.
At the next Lightmoor Village Residents Association Meeting the resident involvement officer from BVT, Kath Hughes, talked about a new scheme to gather ideas from residents. Each month a £20 voucher would be given to a resident for a good idea to benefit the community. The suggestion wouldn’t be guaranteed to happen but would be considered. I outlined my suggestion for a Lightmoor Summit where residents, representatives from community groups, parish councillors, borough councillors, local MP and anyone who has an interest in life in the village could come along and help shape the future. I got a £20 Amazon voucher for that idea (more books, yes please).
A little time passed and I had an email from Kath saying that she’d like to hear a little more about the idea for a Lightmoor Summit. I met up with Kath (and Fleur from the Oak Tree Centre) and chatted around what I thought the summit could do, who it’d be for. I was really keen for the event to step back from some of the usual infrastructure discussions that we have and take a forward looking positive approach to what the community can achieve. At the end of the conversation Kath surprised me a little by saying she loved the idea and wanted to make it happen. Make it happen soon. A Saturday in September was picked, a hashtag for twitter was picked, rooms at the Oak Tree Centre were reserved and it was advertised on twitter, the blog and in the community newsletter. I quite like that before all the speakers were booked and confirmed the event was being advertised.
Kath and Fleur came back saying that they’d like to use the event to help shape part of the annual report to BVT Trustees, there’d be a session as part of the summit around budget setting and residents would be able to help choose what the budget would be spent on for the next year. Then a bit after that they came back and said they’d like to end the summit with some community awards, they weren’t entirely sure what the categories would be but they were certain there’d be one celebrating a young person in the village. Each time I nodded and said that sounded like the kind of thing that would work at the summit and each nod felt a little weird because the summit didn’t ever feel like “my” event, it was something for the village and the right people would turn up and then we’d know the shape of what had been organised once it had happened.
Categories for the volunteer awards were picked, a beautiful logo was created for the summit and a great tagline for the event was suggested: “Celebrating Our Community”. Invitations were sent to every house in the village, the event was being chatted about on twitter- people were excited about the event, about nominating groups and individuals for awards. I must confess to being a little excited and scared about the event but these quickly melted away when I arrived to the Oak Tree Centre on the Saturday morning. All the detail about the summit, from the lanyards to the information pack with the community award nominations, from the presence of two of BVT’s trustees (and a Cadbury to boot) and the number of villagers told me that people cared about what was happening, this was something that was being taken seriously.
I must confess that my emotions overwhelmed me at the start of the day as I flipped through the list of reasons why people had been nominated for the various community awards. It was a strong reminder that Lightmoor is far more than a bricks and mortar project for residents and BVT, it’s about building a community.
Duncan Cadbury opened the summit by talking about some of the history of Bournville and how that informed decisions about the creation of Lightmoor. Then the attendees split into a couple of groups and discussed budgets, events ideas, potential ways forward for the residents association and how to get a better understanding about the management charge. All through the sessions I was impressed by how engaged everyone was, passionate and generous with their ideas.
The session on event planning was really interesting because we were given a hypothetical budget of £1000 and then given little slips of paper that had the real cost of various bits and pieces of kit, advertising etc that go into putting on an event. It was interesting to skip some of the “we’re not sure how much that’ll cost” and get into some of the haggling over “we can afford this” or “we can’t afford that but we could apply to X for a grant/sponsorship”.
After the event session I moved into the session discussing the future with the Lightmoor Village Residents Association. The session was really well led by Vice Chair Sharon and Secretary Chris; the discussion felt big enough to be inspirational and aspirational but rooted enough in reality to feel like there was a realistic vision for the next 12 months. I can’t wait to see how the LVRA push these discussions forward.
The Community Awards.
The day rounded off beautifully with the first set of Lightmoor Community Awards. The community awards is a great opportunity to celebrate the local community members and community groups that make Lightmoor the great place it is (and will continue to be). It was a real coup to have David Wright the local MP for Telford attend and present the winners with their trophies.
Best Volunteer Award: Jake B.
Good neighbour award: Julie B.
Young Person in the Community: Emily J.
Best Community Group: Lightmoor Village Youth Group
Pride of Lightmoor: Mark M.
I was unexpectedly presented with a beautiful bouquet of flowers by Duncan Cadbury on behalf of BVT for having the Summit idea. He quipped that he’s more used to giving chocolate roses out to people rather than actual roses.
I think the summit was a success. Certainly the buzz in the room after the event closed was good and I heard a number of people say “can’t wait to do this next year”. The feedback from BVT was that some of the things raised during the sessions by residents have turned their thinking upside down. My hope is that people who attended will talk to people who weren’t there and share their thoughts (you can even use the comments section below to talk about how it went & what you think).
Stuff I liked:
- I liked that there were young people taking part in the discussions, next year I’d like to see more, perhaps the youth group could be persuaded to facilitate a session during the summit.
- I liked that the event was wrapped up by 2pm, it made the event a significant length without completely consuming the whole of the day. Perhaps the next summit could start just after lunch and run into the early evening with the community awards finishing before a bring and share supper. (For a number of years I’ve been of the mind that profound community change can happen when people sit down together and share food)
- I liked that the trustees from BVT were present for the whole of the summit and people didn’t stand on ceremony for them, there was a real feeling for me that honest dialogue was happening and no one was wincing or shying away from what was being said.
- I liked that real decisions were given to residents to give their views on and these have been taken away to be acted on.
- I liked that the nominations for each of the community awards were shared in the Summit booklet. What better way to recognise someone’s contribution than by telling them what it is you love about them.
- I liked that there was a real feeling of quality and unity to the day. The lanyards (great quality) tied in with the logo and the pens and that tied in with the display boards. I really liked that you could tell real care and attention had gone into the preparation and execution of the day.