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Reducing crime and improving health in NW Kilmarnock using community assets

Change Management

The project was started in spring 2010. The starting point for the work in Kilmarnock was spreading awareness and gathering support from public service commissioners for experimenting with an assets-based approach. In order to get buy-in for this new way of working Strathclyde Police invited the local council, health visitors and midwives, community workers and drugs counsellors, employability staff, local college representatives and third sector organisations and many more to an awareness seminar. Once that was achieved it was time to meet with the community. Initially there was suspicion and mistrust but as relationships developed people came on board.

For example, John and Julie, local volunteers, took over the management of a youth project with a vision to support and develop young people from the area. Along with their newly formed community group, and with zero funding, they started an after-school club for primary school-aged children. With the help of local volunteers they added a homework club and then a breakfast club, which attracted significant funds from the People’s Health Trust Lottery. Some of the kids reported for the first time that they were being rewarded at school with ‘well done’ and ‘smiley’ stickers in their jotters. These made them feel really good about themselves and will hopefully inspire them onto even greater things as their levels of aspiration increase.

By now the word was spreading fast about the regular Listening Events being held in the local primary school. These were informal gatherings held in the heart of the community and used to connect with local people – this enabled a shared understanding of the most pressing needs and priorities to be heard at first-hand. The Listening Events attracted hundreds of local residents and local service providers from all three sectors and helped raise expectations. For example, a local church minister who was motivated to build greater momentum in communities within his Parish committed the support of his congregation and who went onto become an integral part of this innovative approach.

Another example was a local lad who had been raised in the area and had gone on to become a senior partner in a global architect’s firm. He was able to advise on the creation of a new community garden and resource centre which he also went onto help design and project manage. The offers of support from the community and numerous organisations became overwhelming and there was a need to establish a means of co-ordinating and communicating ongoing work.

In addition to the Listening Events an assets-mapping exercise was undertaken to map existing physical and people assets – ‘You don’t know what you need in a community until you know what you already have’. Dr. Heather Lynch was commissioned to train community members of all ages including people who were in recovery from substance abuse, to work as peer researchers across North West Kilmarnock.  The task of the peer researchers was to identify available resources in the area, establish how local people would like to use these and what the barriers were. This included mapping the physical environment (e.g. using photography) and mapping social resources (e.g. supporting a group of young people to create a community newspaper). The resulting report identified gaps but also highlighted many opportunities.

By following the community capacity-building framework developed by Hazel Stuteley OBE and the Connecting Communities (C2) Network, a means of finding new ways of joining up all forms of working in collaboration were uncovered. This involved following a 7-step model which involved a number of workshops on a near weekly basis within the first six months. The attraction for everyone was the fluid nature of the assets-based approach and the realisation that it produced tangible results.

One offer of support came from an elderly and highly energetic resident called Jim who had expertise in Archery. His suggestion of teaching young people about bows and arrows did initially raise eyebrows. However, he demonstrated that while bringing the young and the elderly together he was also breaking down barriers and reducing fear and suspicion between different generations. Not only that, he was also capturing the essentials of many school-taught subjects by explaining the vagaries of velocity, cable strength and origins of the wood.

Another inspiring project sparked off by two local volunteers who had a vision of improving the lives of young children from the local area but who had no prior experience in this field other than looking after their own children. They took over a building lease building ...After a few months about 300 young people were involved in various activities. One of their flagship policies is ‘Children’s Choices’ which basically translates as the children are consulted on all aspects of the youth project.


About this case study
Main Contact

Tony Bone

Chief Inspector

Strathclyde Police

(now retired)





Tony Bone wrote this case study for Governance International on 12 November 2012.

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