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From Total Place to Total Neighbourhood: the Resident-led Renewal of Balsall Heath in Birmingham

Learning Points

The message to other residents in the city from this Balsall Heath case study is this:


Don't expect the public sector to renew your neighbourhood for you. In our case it actually made things worse. That was because our assumption that the public sector would do it for us actually stopped us for a long time from doing it for ourselves. Only after we took the first few painful steps to recovery did enough of us realise that we had to do it for ourselves.


Once we had taken on the responsibility of helping ourselves, we realised that we could not achieve real success unless we also radically changed the way the public sector related to us. In place of providing us with one-size-fits-all services, we had to get it to devolve those services and tailor-make them to suit the needs of our particular area.


That is, the public sector has a major role to play – but a new role. It can enable and resource the process by radically changing the way it delivers and budgets for its services.


Anyone who is the first to climb up a steep mountain has to retrace their steps and set out again many times, as they explore what is the best route. But, after they have succeeded and got to the top, it is easier and more straightforward for others to follow in those footsteps which pointed to the best and easiest route. So, what took Balsall Heath 30 years can and should be repeated by others in 10-15 years.


But, they will need advice, a compass and a map. They will need proper clothing, ropes and other resources. In particular, they will also need the training and advice which best comes from those who have been there and seen the view from the summit. This advice includes:


  1. Residents must lead the process of renewal.

·         To enable them to do so they need time and the support of a Capacity Builder or two.

·         These are cheap at the price. For, they prevent an array of expensive-to-solve problems from arising.


  1. The end product must be a whole series of empowered neighbourhoods, reconfigured statutory players and a series of bold, productive, cost-effective partnerships between the third and public sectors which herald a change from the Welfare State of the last century to the Welfare Society of this one.


About this case study
Main Contact

Dick Atkinson

Balsall Heath Forum

0121 446 6183

Dick Atkinson provided Governance International with this case study on 15th May 2010.

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