A partnership proposal for UK towns, cities and counties
Every street should have a ‘Street Association’. Run by a small group of residents, streets that are ‘as one’ in this way have become friendly, supportive and even loving communities. Hasn’t the pandemic taught us how necessary that can be – and, actually, how positive and delightful it is, even when it’s not strictly necessary? Street Associations typically put on things like a Christmas party for the kids on the street, a quiz night for the adults, or a picnic, curry evening, trip, BBQ etc. The result? A transformation is achieved! Isolation is truly addressed. Fun is had, new friendships flourish, people smile, stop for a chat, help one another and feel they really belong. Ethnic groups come together, as do the generations (see impact and evaluations for details).
How does an Street Association get started? Following the 2020 experience of the ‘Lock-down spirit’ all over the nation, we have a unique opportunity, as so many people will remember that burst of community spirit and want to see it last. What is needed is a catalyst to help local streets to come together again as one. Community-based organizations (such as churches and community centres) are positioned to take the lead at the most local level, as part of a big partnership.
This is how it works. The local authority and key stakeholders come together to form the partnership. In the borough of Dudley, where As One was recently launched, 50 churches of all denominations are already taking part, along with over 50 schools, the Dudley Interfaith Network, GP surgeries, many businesses, the council and others.
A high profile
Next, banners go up. In the case of Dudley, 400 large banners have gone up across the borough, displaying the As One logo and the message, ‘Fill your street with friendliness’, as pictured below.
‘You can’t miss it’.
The local web address (www.as-one.uk/dudley) takes you to a video introducing Street Associations, inviting ‘champions like you’ to help their own street enjoy community spirit long-term.
But it’s bringing people together at the very local level that makes the real difference. When the pandemic allows, participating neighbourhood organisations deliver an invitation letter to local streets using the well-known As One brand as a letterhead, saying ‘you’ve seen the banners; we thought we’d see what we can do to boost friendliness right here. Come to a tea party’. They will come. We know that because we tried it out six times in the context of a 2018 Birmingham-wide campaign (called ‘Permission to Smile’, with 900 banners across the city) and it really worked!
There is space for a local slogan and a local web identity, as part of a national movement.
The thing to do
On arrival at the tea party, there is a specific table reserved for each street invited, so that near-neighbours sit together, get to know each other and then hear how they could start a Street Association.
Discussed at the tables, groups of neighbours are able to plan to invite the rest of their street to another gathering (in someone’s home, or maybe under a gazebo), to which many more come, together considering starting a Street Association for their street.
Generally, it’s a ‘yes’!
When the pandemic first hit and we saw the clapping of the NHS, the WhatsApp groups and volunteering, it became clear that Birmingham’s high profile campaign experience could provide a template – a tried-and-tested ‘methodology’ – for local organisations such as faith groups and others to bring neighbours together to establish something permanent on nearby streets.
As One – Fill your street with friendliness. A big partnership. A tea party put on in each neighourhood, leading to Street Associations. We chose ‘As One’ as a name that expresses the heart of the vision – and a widely-held desire to see a new spirit of friendliness, unity and mutual support embeded, street by street.
With the virus still a threat, the tea party (or ‘back together celebration’) should probably happen next spring. We now need to get the partnership in place, to be ready.
We also suggest that, when the time comes, local partners consider first putting on a community memorial service, probably outdoors and just for the very local neighbourhood, focusing on everything that so many have been through, including bereavement, isolation, anxiety, loss of income, home-schooling – and helping local people find a measure of peace and ‘closure’ from all sorts of traumas. Then, a week or so later, the tea party.
This is gathering support all over the UK, with 15 local authority areas (so far, including boroughs, cities and counties) at various stages of taking it forward, and many more considering following suit. Why not find out more, get in touch with us and see whether and how a partnership might be built where you are? We are here to help you.
We also stand ready to provide all the materials, mentoring, clear ‘how to’ guides both for organizers and for volunteers (all based on our Birmingham experience), along with suggested talks for key events, all designs, help in presenting the vision to local partners, as well as managing social networking and more.
Together, we can turn what has been something of a nightmare for so many people into a once-in-a-generation opportunity to re-establish friendliness, kindness and an enjoyment of genuine, supportive community where you live.