Bringing Ideas to Life: The East Suffolk Community Partnership Annual Forum 2022
AUTHOR: LUKE BENNETT, PARTNERSHIP MANAGER FOR EAST SUFFOLK COUNCIL
Community Partnerships are something fresh that reflects the ambitions of East Suffolk Council and utilise the incredible knowledge, experience and enthusiasm contained right across the wide range of organisations and communities in East Suffolk. The Community Partnerships are based on natural groupings of communities using the East Suffolk Council ward boundaries as the building blocks for each partnership area.
These partnerships are informal bodies, free to adopt a solution-focused workshop style. Meetings did become more formal whilst the partnerships were meeting virtually during Covid restrictions, but with the easing of restrictions they are now reverting to face-to-face workshops in community buildings and village halls around the district. This is giving them the opportunity to work collaboratively to solve problems and deliver solutions. Each Community Partnership is evolving its own character and style to reflect the local distinctiveness of its area and its own priorities. The Chairs of the partnership also sit alongside a range of other key stakeholders on the East Suffolk Community Partnership Board.
Data is important. We want our partnerships to have the best available data on which to base their activity. A data pack was produced for each partnership area prior to their first meetings late in 2019. Suffolk County Council Knowledge and Information Team did a fantastic job producing the data packs in collaboration with District Council officers. We are now updating the data packs for each area.
Having good quality data is only half of what we want. We also need excellent local intelligence to complete the picture. So, the data has been used as a focal point for a wider discussion in a series of well-attended community stakeholder workshops. As a result, priorities were identified for each Community Partnership area. This is a continual process, and each Community Partnership revisits its priorities regularly to refine them and stay focused on the specific outcomes they seek to deliver.
Community Partnerships represent a major investment by East Suffolk Council, with a total delivery budget across all eight Community Partnerships and the Community Partnership Board of £1,730,000. This money is earmarked to tackle priority issues that have been identified as important to our people and places in East Suffolk and each Community Partnership is spending its own budgets on projects and initiatives to make a difference on the ground in their communities.
Suffolk Association of Local Councils (SALC) were commissioned to support Town and Parish Councils to engage with their local partners. This support has been invaluable and there have been some notable successes. There is still more we can do, so SALC support is set to continue this year.
The Community Partnerships host a popular annual conference for representatives from our communities, voluntary organisations, public services and local businesses. This important event gives us all the opportunity to share our knowledge and expertise and work together to benefit our communities and businesses in East Suffolk. The theme of this year’s conference was ‘East Suffolk: Bringing Ideas to Life’. We explored some of the critical issues affecting our lives and identified how we can respond to them within our communities, businesses and organisation. The event also addressed a range of challenges and opportunities thrown up by a recent Local Government Association ‘Peer Challenge’ of our Community Partnerships.
Well over 200 delegates attended, drawn from local communities and businesses, town and parish councils, voluntary organisations, public services, local authorities, housing and healthcare professionals, Police and many others. The issues they explored together in a series of workshops and seminars included:
- Tackling Social Isolation and Loneliness in our communities
- Improving Mental Health and Wellbeing
- Rethinking rural transport and access to services
- Supporting our most vulnerable communities and people
- Encouraging our young people’s aspirations, emotional well-being and physical health
- Championing the role of communities in tackling the climate emergency
- Reducing health inequalities between and within communities
- Building resilience in our voluntary organisations, Community groups and Social Enterprises
This important event gave us all the opportunity to share our knowledge and expertise and work together to benefit our communities and businesses in East Suffolk.