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David Wilcox

Join us in a free workshop to explore @OurWayAhead for London communities

4 min read

Over the next few months decisions will be made affecting the support systems for Londoners in local communities and across the capital. On November 16 Drew Mackie and I are helping run a workshop at London Metropolitan University to play through some of the options. Here’s why.

It is an important time for London civil society. As I’ve covered in previous posts, the decisions will affect funding, communications, training and other services for some 120,000 community groups, networks and charities.

The umbrella organisation for these groups and organisations, London Council for Voluntary Services, has closed after 107 years, and we are in the final stages of a review of alternatives supported by London funders and called The Way Ahead. The Greater London Authority is also undertaking a review. Summary of the background here.

The favoured solution is a London Hub, incorporated as a charitable company based on Greater London Volunteering. As I wrote here, some London networks and grass roots organisations believe the solution is too top-down, and have set up Our Way Ahead as a network of networks.

We want to build accessible digital community platforms, research and map grassroots community activity, to facilitate collaboration, strengthen local platforms and spaces for action and build the voice of those at the grassroots level. The OWA Planning Group work collectively in solidarity with local campaigns to build a grassroots movement for social justice in London and the immediate hinterland of communities affected by the state of affairs London.

Together with Christine Goodall of the HEAR Equality and Human Rights Network I’ve been invited to join the working party advising on Hub development, on behalf of Our Way Ahead and Connecting Londoners. I’ll report further after a meeting next week.

Representation on the working group provides a welcome opportunity to put forward ideas on how the Hub can avoid being a top-down solution, and can help build networks and support the ethos of co-production and bottom-up action featured in the original TWA report, and subsequent recommendation from consultant Steve Wyler.

However, the issues are complex, and we believe they should be worked through at different levels in a creative session.

Here’s registration for the workshop, organised in conjunction with Our Way Ahead and London Metropolitan University:

We invite you to co-design ways we can share knowledge and support each other to achieve a socially just and sustainable London for the future.

We’ll bring together starter ideas from several sources: our exploration into Connecting Londoners, expertise from the Our Way Ahead network of networks, and the results of consultation by the Greater London Council on their civil society strategy.

We’ll build on proposals for a London Hub that resulted from The Way Ahead initiative, supported by London funders. Currently the plan is to fund and carry plans forward through one charitable company.

We believe that action and support should be owned and developed at all levels: from citizens and community groups, through borough-level agencies, to London-wide networks.

Achieving this requires a well-supported collaborative process, as recommended in the official reports. So far that hasn’t happened, so we are going to simulate what’s needed with a workshop game that prototypes a bigger exercise.

We’ll play through how to connect Londoners using maps of assets and connections, a blend of digital and other communications, new ways of organising, and stories about what works, and what doesn’t.

The results of the session - and our other work - will inform funding proposals and plans for further collaborative work. We hope you’ll join us in that as well

At present this is a self-funded effort, so we can’t do as much research and preparation as we would like. However, we hope it will be a demonstration to London funders and others of an approach that could be developed and extended before the Hub organisation is finally set up.