Community Capacity Building

Engaging with the local community

The Clay Country Local Action Project provided opportunities for the clay area of Cornwall, around St Austell, to develop and enable people to live in thriving communities. A key aspect of the project was to find fun, creative and interesting ways to invite people to say what they would like to see happen in their communities, especially people whose voices don't tend to be heard.

We have been working with communities in three main areas:

Community buildings

Film club or dancehall? We've been exploring new uses for village halls and community centres.

Sensory Trust worked with local community organisations and Parish Councils to find creative ways to engage with local people about how to expand the use of their local community buildings.

What will I be? Poster inviting local people to share ideas for their local hallLuxulyan memorial institute

Working with the Parish Council we designed and ran an event which asked people for their ideas about what should happen to the Luxulyan Memorial Institute. The institute has been in the village since 1924 but today is hardly used.

The results of the day gave the parish council the confidence to act on behalf of the community when making decisions about the hall. It has also provided the chance for local people to get involved in the future of the hall, a part of their local heritage and history.

Community engagement event with comments strung on washing lines Community event has cake and bunting

Treverbyn Community Hall posterTrevebyn Community Hall

The church committee in Treverbyn owned a hall that they wanted the local community to use. Working with the committee we designed and ran a day where local people were invited to tell us what they would like to use the hall for. The results were given to a local architect who used them to draw up the plans for the potential refurbishment work due to be carried out on the hall.

The community’s desire to use the building helped demonstrate evidence of need for future funding opportunities being developed as part of this refurbishment.

People taking part in a community engagement

Rescorla community building

Working with the Rescorla Community Committee we ran an engagement event as part of the Rescorla Festival asking people what they wanted to use the Rescorla Hall for. The results have assisted the committee to prioritise the hall’s activities.

Outdoor spaces

Exploring creative ways of using outdoor spaces and places.

Off Road Biking - new film!

Off road biking is a hot topic in the clay area. Bikers want somewhere to ride, residents don't want the noise the bikes create and riding bikes illegally on private land causes problems for landowners and the police.

We have worked with bikers, local PCSO’s and local residents to make a film that gives everyone a say about off road biking in the hope that it will lead to a positive outcome for all.

On yer bike filmoff road biking

More about the film >>

Par Beach

Par Beach is currently not easy to access by anyone with limited mobility and there several active local community groups keen to make the beach more accessible. We have been working with these groups to engage the views of people with limited mobility who are living independently in the community as well as in local care homes.

people take part in a community engagement about the future of Par beachPar beach, your beach your say community engagement eventPeople walking on Par beach

Luxulyan Playing Field

Working with the Parish Council we ran an event which asked people for their ideas about what should happen with the playing field at the back of the Luxulyan village hall.

The ideas gathered on the day have given the parish council the confidence to act on behalf of the community when making decisions about the playing field. It has also provided the opportunity for people to be involved with the decision making about this outdoor space.

Local people taking part in community engagement event

Building a community

Involving people who are isolated from their communities.

Timelines - a community memory project

We supported a group of local people to run a project called Timelines. This project collected memories, stories, photographs and memorabilia about St Blazey, Par and Tywardreath from local residents. Some of the stories were used to create 'Town to Tide', the promenade theatre production in St Blazey in 2012.

All the stories provided us now and in the future with a better understanding about the places where we live. We displayed everyone's memories in early 2012 as the Timelines Time Machine exhibition for the whole community to see.

Historic photo of Biscovey School Historic photo of local fairground

Background to the project

The overarching aim of the project was to build the social capital of the villages within the Clay Country Local Action Area. We worked with individuals and groups, building relationships and finding out what support they needed in order to get involved in the decisions about the future of their local places and communities.

We believe 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 gain confidence 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. It has built on the Clay Futures work 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.

Public spaces

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.


Our Clay Trails film - exploring the hidden links between the Cornish clay trails and a local group of people with learning disabilities

Room to grow film - growing food, growing connections, growing community

On yer bike film - bringing community, police and landowners together to address the thorny issue of off road biking

Clay Futures - Sensory Trust's community consultation in the Clay Area