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  • Author or Editor: Liz Richardson x
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Neighbourhood problems and community self-help
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How people can be persuaded to take more control of their own lives continues to be a subject of policy and academic debate, and the contribution of active citizens to improving societal well-being is high across different policy agendas. But the promotion of community self-help raises a wide range of questions - for people working in neighbourhoods, for policy makers, for politicians, and for residents themselves - about how we promote engagement, what would motivate people to become active, and more fundamentally about the ongoing relevance and value of community activity.

“DIY Community Action” offers thought-provoking answers to these questions, based on detailed real-life evidence from over 100 community groups, each trying to combat neighbourhood problems. It presents a lively challenge to the existing thinking on contested debates, and proposes ways forward for community building.

This timely publication is an engaging resource for policy makers, practitioners, academics, students and general readers interested in exploring community engagement and active citizenship. Its insightful analysis will be of interest to students of social policy, sociology, community work, housing and regeneration, local government studies and public policy.

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Theory, practice and change

This important book is a response to crises of public policy. Offering an original contribution to a growing debate, the authors argue that traditional technocratic ways of designing policy are inadequate to cope with increasingly complex challenges, and suggest co-production as a more democratic alternative. Drawing on 12 compelling international contributions from practitioners, policy makers, activists and actively engaged academics, ideas of power are used to explore how genuine democratic involvement in the policy process from those outside the elites of politics can shape society for the better. The authors present insights on why and how to generate change in policy processes, arguing for increased experimentation in policy design. The book will be a valuable resource for researchers and students in public policy, public administration, sociology and politics.

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This article looks at whether, and how, involving service users can produce improvements in public services (such as housing, welfare to work, health and law and order). Based on 15 case studies, user engagement was found to produce cost-effective benefits. Service providers tended to employ traditional involvement methods, focusing on existing community networks, because this helped to educate participants and reduce dependency. Use of innovative measures were rare. There were signs of better institutional responsiveness, and better integration of involvement into strategy making, which coincides with a shift in government away from a managerialist vision of public services, and towards transforming services around the needs of users. The article makes recommendations for strengthening the representativeness of user engagement, and raises questions about how to spread involvement on a wider scale.

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Government has long had an interest in altering how its citizens behave. However, local governance attempts to navigate this new field of understanding using an ‘evidence base’ have led to inconclusive results because this fails to recognise the values and assumptions underlying ‘neutral’ facts. This article uses empirical material from the United Kingdom (UK) local government to look at how governance and governmentality perspectives were cross-fertilised to inform policy using research. It illustrates a reframing of the relationship between social science and policy making from a simplistic linear model to an iterative and reflexive process.

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The author argues that there is a growing capacity in the social sciences to include people not as subjects but as active participants in research. This approach has a complex history in the social sciences that needs to be understood, but it is emerging in a modern from as a viable technique for discovery, especially among hard-to-reach groups. Examples of citizen science will be presented and the strengths and weaknesses of the technique explored.

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This introductory chapter looks at the activities people in low-income neighbourhoods are doing in order to improve the places where they live. It first discusses DIY community action, which is used interchangeably with ‘community self-help activity’. The chapter then studies the importance of neighbourhood conditions and the concepts of social capital and community engagement. It ends with a study of the structure of the book and the findings of the study.

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This chapter studies the many barriers and obstacles that groups have to deal with, as well as the support they receive. It explores the limits of what groups can or want to do, and the potential to facilitate the work of the groups. The financial sustainability of the groups is also examined. The chapter furthermore discusses the range of external supports the groups receive, the kind of help they get and where it comes from, and what forms of support the groups value.

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This chapter aims to determine whether people’s good intentions are enough. It looks at the legitimacy the community organisations have to act on behalf of other residents, and how they relate to the wider community. The chapter studies where they are located within the context of other forms of representation and local democracy. Finally, how the community organisations link in with wider bodies is shown.

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This chapter aims to show how the work of the groups contributes to dealing with social exclusion and neighbourhood decline. It examines how one understands the value the groups’ work has, what the groups actually do in practice, and whether one can create more social capital and citizenship using community self-help activity. The chapter determines that initially, the things the groups do seem like worthy activities, but that this perception drops compared to the scale of problems.

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This chapter examines the neighbourhoods in which the residents live and operate. It explores the aspects of community that affect the residents, most especially the management of homes and neighbourhoods by social landlords. The chapter also examines the communities as people, and several questions are considered and answered.

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