The Southwark Rebuilding Trust Project is an exciting venture aiming to help Southwark Council and Partnership Southwark reshape their engagement with residents. Building trust, whilst working together to address the health inequalities experienced mainly by the borough's black and Asian minority ethnicities.
In this project, the Council contracted Centric and Social Finance to carry out the project on their behalf. We are entrusted with the community engagement aspect of the project due to Centric's engagement strategy, ethos and agility in amplifying the seldom-heard voices. Also, how we include them in research processes from planning to training and dissemination of findings.
As a result, our goal is to reach out to Southwark's black and Asian minority ethnic communities. This group is seldom involved or heard during community consultation and when making policies. With this in mind, Centric engages these residents in research by encouraging them to share their lived experiences through interviews and within community workshops and forums.
We achieved this by recruiting and upskilling six residents in research methodologies so they could help engage other Southwark residents within, and outside, their networks to shape the solutions to the issues they experience as residents. Some of the project deliverables and areas where the researchers engaged include:
The first sets of workshops, the Lived Experience Assembly Co-design workshop, are now concluded. Residents brainstormed on Southwark’s idea of a forum that can help address barriers to engagement and create a space for residents to meet, share ideas and feedback to the Council. In the other workshop, residents were encouraged to think about ideal recommendations and solutions to the issues they experienced in Southwark.
Further to the initial workshops was a sense-making forum where residents, the Council and project partners were invited to revisit the outcomes and findings from the workshops. The sense-making forum aims to understand themes and patterns emerging from these workshops and then link them to the Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy (JHWS).
The heightened distrust and scepticism in residents' minds is partly shaped by their poor experiences. Some of the challenges with this kind of community engagement is facilitating dialogues between residents and the institutions serving them, particularly hosting both in the same space. However, Centric enabled and managed those difficult conversations through our experiences, bridging the gap between communities and the authorities that serve them. One of the ways we prepared for, and handled, the difficult dialogue was by ensuring all parties (i.e. residents, partners and the Council) understood the values expected in the space.
Meanwhile, some of the critical lessons learnt from our engagement were the importance of clear communication. Having a cultural understanding of the community aids in engagement preparation. As well as making sure all parties involved in the dialogue attend with humility, particularly the authorities, coming to the space with a similar solution-focused mindset which helps in smooth conversation.
Finally, we learnt one of the vital roles refreshments play when hosting communities as they provide a welcoming note and the residents feel valued. There is positive feedback from the workshops, some of the quotes are listed below:
"Everyone contributed and spoke honestly; the Council and the community mixed well and I had participants message me saying they enjoyed themselves. Some people were shy, but they wrote it down on paper; instead, one of the women at the NHS was amazing and super kind."
"We are here; some of us are knowledgeable and with the right attitude, while others have less of both, but that does not make us invalid."
"The workshop is a great start to rebuild trust."
"Coming to these forums it's giving me hope. Where I am dealing with a lot… I am asking where the organisation is. It feels like it is here."
Centric is a community research organisation led by the community. We are engaged in a series of community planning and organising aimed at amplifying the voices of the seldom-heard, whilst helping institutions shape a better engagement strategy with the communities they serve. To partner with us or learn about what we do, please get in touch at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hover and click to download