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We can, you can

We can, you can

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Published by Julian Dobson
Lessons learned from the Renew Northwest exemplar learning programme 2007 - still relevant today but difficult to find elsewhere!
Lessons learned from the Renew Northwest exemplar learning programme 2007 - still relevant today but difficult to find elsewhere!

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Published by: Julian Dobson on Jan 06, 2011
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RENEW Practice Paper 
February 2007 
We can,youcan
Lessons from theRENEW NorthwestExemplar LearningProgramme 2007
 Julian Dobsoneditorial director
New Start
The context 
hen asked about thehistorical impact of theFrench Revolution, formerChinese premier Zhou Enlai isreported to have replied: ‘It’s too soonto tell.The contemporary approachto evaluation is often the opposite: towant to know the lessons before theevent has been completed.RENEW Northwest’s ExemplarLearning Programme aims to avoid bothpitfalls by taking a considered approach,recognising the complexities and nuancesof creating sustainable communitieswhile seeking to distil learning that canbe shared and applied now.The programme, now in its thirdyear, does this by encouraging peers topresent to each other what they havelearned in a wide variety of projects,from massive housing reconstructionschemes to small community-basedbasic skills programmes. By focusing ondifficulties overcome and knowledgegained, it has been possible to draw outthemes applicable in a variety of arenas.In the 2007programme, 14schemes fromacross NorthwestEngland wereshortlistedas potentialexemplars andpresented theirachievementsat a series of three events inNovember andDecember 2006.Of these, five havebeen chosen formore detailedfollow-up over thecourse of 2007.The ExemplarLearningProgrammeties in closely with the work of theAcademy for Sustainable Communities,which seeks to promote the skillsneeded to build and nurture places thatare physically, economically and sociallysustainable.Eight elements have been identifiedas vital in building sustainablecommunities. They are:
Governance: a sustainablecommunity is well run.
Transport and connectivity: it is wellconnected.
Services: it is well served by public,voluntary and community services.
Environment: it is environmentallysensitive.
Equity: it is fair for everyone.
Economy: it is thriving.
Housing and the built environment: itis well designed and built.
Social and cultural activity: it is active,inclusive and safe.These elements are commonlyknown as the ‘Egan principles’, as theywere identified in the Egan review of skills
, published by the UK government in2004, and subsequent policy documents.They were given an internationaldimension in December 2005 throughthe Bristol Accord of EU ministers, whichagreed the benefits of creating sustainablecommunities and fostering place-makingskills across Europe.This report seeks to identify keythemes that have emerged from all14 shortlisted projects that will helppractitioners and policymakers to applythe Egan principles in real-life situations.
The exemplars
he following five exemplarswere chosen in the 2007programme:
Castlefields RegenerationProject,Runcorn
A comprehensive programme torevitalise an unpopular 1970s housing
In compiling this report on RENEW Northwest’s 2007 Exemplar Learning Programme, I am grateful for the helpand observations of all the participantsin the programme, and especially thestaff of RENEW Northwest and themembers of the programme’s judging panel: Pauline Davis, Stephen Gleave,Charles Green, Neil McInroy and Barbara McLoughlin. Julian DobsonEditorial director, New Start Cover picture: Kensington Community Choir performing at PhilharmonicHall, Liverpool.Photographer: Leila Romaya
estate is beginning to nurture a newsense of confidence in the area, as morethan 1,400 deck access flats are replacedor improved, a new park is created andthe local centre is redeveloped.
CommIT – Community ICT Solutions,Lancaster Universit
Volunteer students have helped a widerange of voluntary organisations andindividuals, including young offendersand people with mental healthproblems, improve their informationand communications technology skills.This has enabled voluntary groups tobecome more efficient and individualsto become more employable.
 Music for Life,Liverpool
One of Britain’s top orchestras has joined forces with local schools anda regeneration agency to providemusical opportunities in one of themost disadvantaged parts of Liverpool.The project is enriching the schoolcurriculum and proving that music canplay a genuine role in regenerating acommunity.
Stats and Maps,Rochdale
A groundbreaking internet-basedinformation system allows statutoryagencies, community groups and thepublic to get detailed data about theborough of Rochdale. Information thatwould previously have taken professionalresearchers hours to produce can beaccessed by anyone in minutes.
Stockport BME Children’sProject
Seven different minority ethniccommunities have come together, withhelp from Stockport’s Children’s Fund,
Build on evidence but be ready to reinvent:the most successful projects learn from whathas gone before, but are sensitive to context.Knowledge and expertise must be adapted tomeet the unique challenges of places and people.
We learn by listening: the programmehighlighted the importance of thoroughpreparation, listening to those who have beeninvolved in similar projects and to the concernsand aspirations of local people.
We learn by doing: meeting and overcomingexpected and unexpected challenges enablespractitioners to learn what works and whatdoesn’t. Flexibility and pragmatism are vital tosuccess.
We learn by daring: the most effectiveprojects don’t stick to the obvious. They ventureinto the unknown and set themselves challengesthat are beyond the call of duty.
We learn by valuing: overcoming conflictsand building relationships of trust and respectenables partnerships to work effectively.
We learn by reflecting: evaluation is anessential learning process, especially when usedto adjust priorities and practice during a project.
We learn by owning: when participants feel apersonal responsibility for a project, it generatesan energy and will to succeed that turnsobstacles into opportunities.
Sharing the learning is important: while someprojects put systems in place at an early stage toshare what has been learned, others appear toapproach this as an afterthought. Learning may belost unless specific provision is made.
The Egan principles need an underpinningethos: the most effective and convincing projectsdon’t just supply the elements of a sustainablecommunity. They reveal an ethos that marriesenergy and values to vital professional skills. Asuccessful project is more than just a job.
Key points from the Exemplar Learning Programme 2007

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