Blog: Community development at Eddington
Lisa Pollitt, Community Development Officer
The purpose of community development is about supporting social cohesion and improving people’s quality of life in a certain area.
The central thing is that people feel part of the community, because society breaks down if you don’t feel that you belong somewhere. It doesn’t matter if you are only somewhere for six months, you need to feel like you belong and you have a place and a voice.
Eddington was a new development in an area of Cambridge where there were existing communities around it, and it has the added element of people coming from all over the world to work for the University. Eddington is a new community and the population is quite transient so we need to work slightly differently there compared to other areas of the City that are very established.
We work with individuals, families and whole communities, and we get them to look at what assets are available in the community and identify the community needs. What have they got, does everyone know what is available, what opportunities can we create together for people, and what would they like to have? Eddington is unique and our work is really important here, because people don’t necessarily have pre-existing networks around them if they are new to Cambridge or the UK, so it’s really important to help them set up ways that they can meet each other. Part of my job is to break down any barriers that make things difficult for people – I can help share information, connect them with the right people and support them.
Having a Community Chest Fund is really important because, like with anything, there are going to be costs for groups and activities. I make the application process really simple and easy to help things happen. The fund has kick-started loads of projects, which is great, but we also want things to be set up so they are sustainable. You have the initial money but that won’t last forever, you need to think about having a plan about income so once the grant money is gone you can continue.
In terms of COVID-19, because we have done all this work in the past few years, Eddington’s groups have carried on doing things online and are really self-sufficient. In addition Castle ward have set up their own COVID-19 support system and the Eddington Residents’ Association linked in very quickly. So many people are willing to step up and help, we’ve had more volunteers than there are jobs for them. Eddington residents have been amazing helping others and each other.
My role coming out of lockdown will be to support the community and their groups to be able to come back together in-person safely. Nobody knows what it’s going to look like, but we do know there is community resilience in times of crisis. People’s safety is paramount and it’s a matter of taking little steps and making sure we can support people in their homes until everyone is able to come together.