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Building Stronger Communities

Solihull Council’s Plan identifies building stronger communities as a key part of achieving its vision of Solihull as a place where everyone has an equal chance to be happier, healthier, safer and more prosperous. The role of the Council is to help make connections between people and create the conditions where people and communities can help themselves, building on the existing assets in their communities.

Two examples of how the Council has worked with others to help build stronger communities are:

Street Associations are about encouraging people living on the same street to make friends,
have fun together and support each other, creating a real community and helping make the best of where they live, taking pride in their street.

Each Street Association is run by a core group of 6-10 people, who meet once a month for an hour and organise events to bring people together (barbecues, fireworks events, quiz nights, parties etc.) encourage friendships and find ways to help neighbours who might need a lift to hospital or help with a bit of DIY etc.

In 2014, we commissioned an organisation called U- Turn UK Community Interest Company to start two Street Associations in Smith’s Wood. Evaluation shows that people in these two streets know their neighbours better because of the Street Association and feel happier and less isolated as a result. In 2015, two more Street Associations in Chelmsley Wood and Shirley have been set up.

Soup! is a movement bringing people together to raise money and support community projects. It is a scheme that started in Detroit and is now spreading across the UK. Attendees pay a few pounds on the door and listen to four pitches from people doing good things in their community. Soup is provided and attendees connect, ask questions, share ideas, and vote on the project they like the best. The winner leaves with the money raised at the door to carry out their project and attends a future Soup! to report on their progress.

We heard about this in Solihull a few months ago and thought that it sounded like a great idea to help build stronger communities. Three Trees and Northern Star Community Arts in Chelmsley Wood have held their first ‘Soup!’ and the hope is that community groups in other parts of Solihull will be inspired to give it a try.

What’s Next?

We will continue to help make connections between people and seek to create the conditions where people and communities can help themselves. In particular, we will:

  • Seek opportunities to develop more Street Associations in areas of social and economic deprivation in order to foster community spirit and the emergence of potential community leaders where these are less likely to emerge naturally.
  • Spread the word about Soup! and encourage community groups to give it a try.
  • Continue to work with groups of local people to help them to identify the needs of their local community and develop ideas and initiatives to meet these needs.
  • Develop a new approach called Local Area Coordination which is a model of support for vulnerable people which focuses on identifying and supporting those who need help before they hit crisis, and working towards building an inclusive, resilient community around them