Community Impact Week '17:: Mind the Gap

10 November 2017

By: Pete Davies, Community Empowerment Manager at Knightstone

For housing associations that invest in their communities, the phrases ‘mind the gap’ or ‘don’t fill the void’ are now commonplace. The question is, what on earth is this about? What’s the gap, vacuum or void we need to navigate? Why’s it an issue and what do we do about it?

What we do know is that local authorities who have been charged with implementing significant cuts to public services have to prioritise their decision making often with major implications in our world of community investment.

In Bristol, the last 18 months has seen the City Council cut back on elements of its support for communities and neighbourhoods, whilst Avon & Somerset Police, despite great progress on the One Team model, are undertaking similar processes in order to refocus their rapidly decreasing resources. Most housing providers’ response to the 2015 rent reduction was to reframe community investment around individual residents in an effort to mitigate against the risks presented by Welfare Reform. These are rational responses with the steer being heard from Bristol’s Mayor Marvin Rees it that the time has come for communities to step up and do it themselves.

These gaps have opened up where investment, infrastructure and professional capacity used to exist, not just in Bristol but across every local authority across the country. Yet our residents, families, neighbours and communities that makeup of our homes are still very much present, and need our support, resources and expertise to work alongside them to create and sustain great and sustainable places to live.

We recognise that we’re a community investor, not a community anchor organisation, but still one that can add great value to the ambitions of community groups and third sector organisations. At Knightstone, we’ve learned how modest investment in emerging ideas can enable communities to realise their ambitions and begin to fill those gaps, voids and vacuums themselves, whether that’s been support to establish Ambition Lawrence Weston in North West Bristol, the Wilstock Hub Community Centre in Bridgwater, or the Lyde Green Community Centre in South Gloucestershire. We’ve played a part in the Radio Wing in Weston-super-Mare, and provided business planning support for both Ujima Community Radio and Full Circle in central Bristol.

We’ve got a track record and reputation forged over recent years as being able to provide the right support, at the right time, to allow more than 40 enterprises to survive and thrive in our heartland. We won’t necessarily fill the gaps, but we’ll be working alongside someone, somewhere who will.