The *remarkable* power of Community dialogue: East Marsh People’s Assemblies

We’ve said it before and we’ll keep on saying it – the community is at the heart of United4EastMarsh, so here’s some feedback on our regular Friday evening community meet-ups, our East Marsh People’s Assemblies.

Come and join us, have your say from 7pm for the next two Fridays, sign up here: United4EastMarsh Online People’s Assembly

So, what has been ‘remarkable’ about the two assemblies we’ve had so far?

The process is remarkable for one thing. We have been fortunate enough to be supported by a number of rather wonderful and generous facilitators from Talkshop and Trust the People who have brought us a tried and tested way of doing things that is so good you are completely unaware of there even being a process – the only thing that matters is the conversation.

And what conversation. The key is to find the right question as an entry point to discussion – and it will be brief, clear, thoughtful and inclusive.

Week 1: Your Voice

Our question was What do you really care about locally? and our participants brought us the East Marsh’s affluent history and now decline and consequent loss of community spirit, county lines and the vulnerability of our young people, that there is nobody coming to save us so it’s up to us to do it. We then moved on to a key part in the process, building on these responses to lead into a conversation around how might we make that happen? One significant outcome of the discussion was a potential new project that would begin to address many of these issues: ‘Greening the Marsh’, which could be taken on by a progressive community group or a progressive council or – both TOGETHER:

Greening the Marsh: a potential project

Bringing nature to the East Marsh through engagement, education, greening and gardening – this could be an EMU project of course, but the Council has significant resources and knowledge to make this a great success.

Building on What is

Inspiring work on the Saltings allotments + the successful hanging baskets in the streets project

How might we USE spaces to give people hope?
  • People’s own back gardens
  • Hanging baskets on the fronts
How might we CREATE spaces to give people hope?

Allotments on:

  • The space where the multi-storey flats were
  • The docks
  • Adjacent the railway lines that run through the East Marsh

THREE practical things we can do to start a project

  1. Start allotments up
  2. Provide classes and training around food and gardening (WEA)
  3. Gardening help and clearance (Timebanking, EMU, EMC)

Here are the full notes for week 1

Week 2: Action not Words

Our question in Week 2 was What needs sorting out? and this led our conversation to a discussion of ‘the system’, social vandalism, stripping away resources, Parks and Green Spaces and Bins. The how might we? section of the evening was a free-flowing and engaging discussion on building around the edges, election as petition to establishment, people finding their voice, Time4Change is energising, finding moral centre, deadness of bureaucracy, the need for more of us – and the development of an East Marsh Anthem with an echo of The Singing Revolution.

A very important learning emerged, too. In any project the key criteria must be – would it bring more people in? What is the best way to go  about it to achieve that?

Outcomes for the parks and green spaces discussion were to find something inspiring for our neighbourhood, get some landscape architect projects to show what’s possible – and focus on the bandstand. As for the bins, the discussion was really about community responsibility – we have locales where neighbours do take responsibility, so how can we extend that? Could we facilitate a social contract for the east marsh – are there examples? Gothenburg communal living, an understanding – there are laws about it – two-way: the community with itself and the community with the They, the system.

Here are the full notes for week 2

Join the conversation! Sign up here: United4EastMarsh Online People’s Assembly

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