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Book review: ‘I grew that’: Nurturing strong communities

IgrewthatcoverBook Review: I grew that: Nurturing strong communities. The Fairshare Trust, An alternative evaluation by Len Grant

Review by Jennifer Doyle

This evaluation tells the story of ordinary people going out and doing something extraordinary in their local communities. It is in two parts: a beautiful book, detailing chapter-by-chapter the different projects which have been funded through the Fair Share Trust, and a neat DVD which correlates to these projects.

In 2003 a £50m allocation of Big Lottery money was put into trust – over £6m of it was ring fenced to put into 10 neighbourhoods and communities across Greater Manchester, managed by Forever Manchester, designed to run for 10 years. The main aims of this project were:

  • Building social capital;
  • Improving local environment; and
  • Livability in our communities and neighbourhoods.

This book presents the qualitative outcomes of this project on the ground, in the neighbourhoods and communities which the Fair Share Trust supported. It’s about the people, their creativity, their talent, their durability and their pride. Separate publications are available which measure the outputs of the programme in terms of statistics and quantitative impact, where this represents in rich detail the experiences of how communities have evolved through these supported projects.

No one is bigger or smaller or bigger or brighter than anyone else, they’ve just had better opportunities. It’s about showing people that there are possibilities, from getting where you are to getting where you want to be, and it’s just plugging those buttons in to give them that self-belief and I think that is what the Fair Share Trust, in this project, is great at’ – John Eccles, Oldham College.

There is massive diversity between the different projects, each tailored to the needs of the local communities. The delightfully insightful photographs which accompany each story show the normality of the projects in local communities; these projects have intertwined with local people to become their story, not simply a story about some third party stepping in to ‘improve’ an area. This fine-grain evaluation shows how the projects, in all their multiplicity, have met the aims of this project in meaningful, embedded and long-term ways.

A lifelong, lasting difference to the beneficiaries who took part in the programme’ – Ian Tomlinson, Fit-It UK Limited.

Communities have developed and grown where these projects have taken place, spearheaded by some magnificent individuals acting as community champions. The personal stories show how involvement in these schemes develops a sense of belonging in communities, a purpose, and a more aspirational view of individuals’ futures and the neighbourhood. Through the interviews shown in the accompanying DVD, it is clear that these projects have made a significant and positive difference to people – to how they feel about themselves and how they feel about the places where the live.

The intrinsic value of this book is to demonstrate the capacity of local communities to identify what they need, to grow themselves, and to take charge of their own futures. The Fair Share Trust allocated funds to support local development, and entrusted local communities to know what needed to be done. This serves as an excellent series of case studies in how to go about developing community capacity, social capital and improve the experience of living in neighbourhoods.

‘I grew that’: Nurturing strong communities by Len Grant is available here

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