Background to the Clay Country Local Action Project
Working with the parishes of the Clay Area of Cornwall to develop and seek out individuals and informal groups to develop capacity for action.
The overarching aim of the project has been to build the social capital of the villages within the Clay Country Local Action Area. Building this social capital involved building relationships and developing an increased mutual understanding between community members.
The Sensory Trust believes that building social capital contributes to enhanced self reliance, collective action and collective decision-making within a community. It can therefore strengthen the capacity of a community to identify areas of interest around local opportunities and to respond to ongoing and existing development processes. Together these elements help to build sustainable and resilient rural communities.
Facilitating connections among individuals and local groups, and the reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them, can improve the quality of rural life for those people involved with the project. The project aims were to empower people from disengaged groups to become confident in contributing to their communities. In particular empowering people from disengaged groups to become involved with existing projects or activities, and develop and manage their own projects. This activity supported them to gradually move towards economic activity.
The project has addressed issues of isolation, lack of understanding and the social stigmas that disengaged groups often face.
The project has built on the Clay Futures work recently undertaken in the Clay Area, an innovative approach to community engagement.
The project was also innovative in its aim to provide an inclusive approach to building sustainable communities. By supporting people from disengaged groups to be involved with community projects they are united by the activity of the project rather than the reason they are considered disengaged.
This approach helped to build the broadest definition of community by ensuring that as many people as possible were involved with community life, leading to more sustainable, resilient communities.
Areas of focus
The Clay Futures project highlighted that there is a strong desire amongst communities in the Clay Area to reconnect with the natural environment and enhance the biodiversity of the area. Ideas for harnessing the natural environment and developing small scale environmental schemes came from the communities themselves in the form of general desires to: grow things, engage with natural play and access to wild-spaces, to ideas for specific projects in this area. This project supported disengaged groups to become involved with these projects or where appropriate develop their own small scale environmental schemes.
When the capacity of a community is built and it becomes stronger and more resilient it is likely that its members will be increasingly able to view themselves in a positive way, to be proud of their assets and want to celebrate what they have achieved. This puts them in a much better position to respond to and be involved with any development projects proposed for the area.
The Clay Futures project highlighted that people consider shared public spaces as an asset and they would like to see more of them in their communities. We could consider that the overarching aim of building social capital to enhance self reliance, collective action and collective decision making within a community directly links to the ability of a community to respond to community planning to enhance public spaces.
The development of social enterprises was encouraged as part of this project. As anticipated, some of the projects that people became involved with opened up possibilities for community ownership of assets which were related to service provision. The project also sought to actively inspire local communities to help identify what their local assets might be and helped broaden the horizons around possibilities for community led planning and asset transfer.