Chief Executive's blog: December

This month chief executive Rosemary Macdonald looks at how communities have the power to change their environment

I HAVE been thinking a lot recently about how powerful and life-changing community development work can be for those who benefit from it.

I sat in on a meeting recently that discussed its benefits and it highlighted to me how it is really needed. Various organisations spoke about issues that had been identified in their particular communities and solved by the people living there.

We have embarked on a programme in Salisbury where we are funding a community development worker on The Friary estate who will work with families to find out what will make their lives better and help them bring it about.

We are considering a similar project in Trowbridge too.

This work is vital, particularly in communities where there is no residents’ association, to develop and sustain initiatives that allow people who care to tackle the problems in a sustained way.

Somebody based in a community working with residents in order to build a solution that residents want will achieve something that is so much more effective and longer lasting than identifying a problem and imposing a solution from on high.

Those solutions are never going to be resilient, they will be there for the life of the funding and then just evaporate. There is no legacy.

But if communities are engaged and involved, the legacy will be so much stronger. Just look at the voluntary groups in Bemerton Heath in Salisbury, that have been going strong for 40 years.

It’s important that solutions come from the community rather than being imposed from above. There must be funding to support that because it takes a long time.

Community development work is not glamorous, and it is underrated but the return you get if it is done properly is huge and long lasting, so it should be valued more.

 

AT THIS time of year lots of people are thinking about their plans for Christmas,they may be going home to their family and having a picture book festive celebration.

But there’s an awful lot of people who are alone and don’t have anyone to spend their Christmas with.

Let’s make this a season of neighbourliness, where everyone brings somebody who is on their own to part of their Christmas celebration.

It’s not just people who are on their own who are lonely around the Christmas holiday. There are a lot of people living in care homes who don’t have a lot of visitors or might see little of their family at this busy time. Many of us know a neighbour, or former neighbour, who is in a care home. Think how much it would mean for them to have a visit and someone to talk to.

It seems to me there are more and more people on their own at this time of year, which is whey it is so fantastic that groups like HEALS in Malmesbury work so hard to put on a Christmas Day lunch for those who would otherwise be by themselves.

I take my hat off to everyone who gives up their Christmas Day to make someone else’s a little better. My own niece always gives up hers to spend the day helping at a homeless shelter. I think what she and all those others do is amazing.

 

I WAS very pleased to see the launch of the appeal to save the Assizes Court in Devizes. I’ve been part of the project to buy the building back for the town.

To finally see that once beautiful building brought back into local ownership is wonderful. We know it is going to be a long road ahead of us but to see the Wiltshire Museum, which by the way is an amazing place with some incredible exhibits, making its home there will be fantastic.

I’d like to applaud Lord Lansdowne for his vision in driving this forward and getting the purchase over the finish line and all the others who will be involved in raising the £10 million needed to get it open.

I really hope the Assizes will eventually be part of the promised ‘cultural quarter’ visualised by Wiltshire Council, taking in The Wharf and bringing together all of the town’s cultural activities

 

THIS month I have been particularly delighted by two things, Firstly the great and high quality response to our appeal for new trustees for the Wiltshire Community Foundation. We have had 13 applications and now we are putting together a shortlist.

It is so exciting to see the varied backgrounds and experience among them. We are not a cause-specific funder and it will be very useful to have such diverse skills at our disposal.

Secondly, I’m relieved and pleased to have achieved an MSC in charity finance accounting from the University of London CASS Business School. It means I now have the letters ICSAdip DChA after my name, which is not a great hand at Scrabble, but it makes me feel stupendously magnificent. I really enjoyed all the learning, but I won’t miss the assignment deadlines.

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