Friday, 25 October 2013

The Revolution will be Improvised

"Old" Craigmillar
Had a very interesting visit to the new East Neighbourhood Centre office in Craigmillar this morning. A beautiful new building, it provides a base for around 400 staff from various public sector agencies including the Council, NHS, Police, Fire and Rescue, the voluntary sector and community groups. The ground floor in particular is a welcoming and well used space. The reception area leads on to a community space and also to the café which is adjacent to the library and internet access section, and on to the youth and younger children's spaces. Numerous small meeting rooms also provide a suitable environment for staff to meet local residents to discuss any service or personal issues. It also leads to an attractive outdoor garden with a concrete table tennis table !

Upstairs are two floors of fairly standard, but open and bright, modern office accommodation, where I met and talked to members of staff who are taking a pioneering approach to the Total Neighbourhood concept. Inspired by the Christie Commission report, staff here are building real partnership working across organisations and informed by community and service users views with the intention of improving outcomes for local people, particularly those who need the most help and who may not have had the most productive relationship with public services in the past.

There is a cautious optimism that this approach is beginning develop and establish trust and sound working relationships across various organisations and the community. Much of the joint working may appear to look like common sense but perhaps we've all been guilty in the past of promoting "partnership working" but not pressing forward or challenging some of the barriers that have limited progress.

The new "East office" in Craigmillar
Jim Hunter and his team at the East office are doing some great work and are, by necessity, having to be bold and experimental in testing this approach. Of course a building doesn't necessarily guarantee good services but I sense that the excellent new facility has provided an ideal springboard for a lot of good ideas to take off and flourish. Because there is no instruction manual on how Total Neighbourhood should work, or any additional funding to make it happen, they've adopted the motto "The Revolution will be Improvised". That's a refreshing attitude in my view and I look forward to seeing further positive progress and hopefully an opportunity to extend this elsewhere in the city.

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