How maps and network building can contribute to Barking’s vision of inclusive growth

Thames Ward Community Project in Barking is taking a lead in demonstrating how mapping local assets and networks for collaboration can empower residents faced with massive development – and hopefully help create places that work for everyone. Barbara Brayshay and I are today contributing to their Inclusive Growth Summit.

A recent report for the Early Action Task Force argued that for communities to be good places to live and prosper they need social infrastructure. They need services and organisations, strong networks and a wide range of community activities, as well buildings and social facilities.

The report, by Caroline Slocock, director of Civil Exchange, looked at what works in developing preventative social infrastructure locally, based on lessons learnt from place- based initiatives, giving a potential checklist for practitioners to use and discuss, with examples.

This includes mapping existing social infrastructure and making better use of the resources that already exist, developing strong collaborative partnerships with shared goals, empowering communities to determine priorities and take more control of assets and developing pooled budgets.

The practicalities of achieving that is one of the tasks for the Thames Ward Community Project in Barking, funded by the Big Lottery Fund.

The challenge in the Ward is the imbalance between older estates, and the massive development of some 10,000 new homes by Barking Riverside – the biggest scheme of its kind in London. As the project says:

The development programme on Barking Riverside is set to double the ward population over the next ten years. It is attracting new investment from developers and national programmes that could benefit the whole community. However, to date, there has been no significant investment in community development and, without a clear strategy to engage the whole community, there is a danger that the changes will not benefit the older, established community and might even exacerbate divisions rather than bring people together.

The community project, led by Matt Scott, is taking positive action to develop a strong voice for the existing community, create a range of resident-led projects and do the sort of mapping Caroline Slocock recommends to underpin its plans.

Matt was a strong supporter of Networked City when he worked at the London Voluntary Service Council, and I’m delighted that Barbara Brayshay, Nicolas Fonty, and Drew Mackie and I are now able to make some input at grassroots level.

Today the Community Project, with Thames View Tenants and Residents Association, are convening an Inclusive Growth Summit bringing together residents, council officers, the local MP Margaret Hodge and Lord Kerslake, former head of the Civil Service.

Barking is London’s leading area of growth. Thames Ward is at the forefront of growth within the borough. The recent council manifesto and 2016 Growth Commission identified the importance of inclusive growth and to ensure ‘no resident is left behind’. However the experience of regeneration across the capital over many years is that communities are often left more divided and isolated as a result of development. Hence it will take an unprecedented level of commitment and effort to ensure the benefits of development and growth are evenly shared.

Barbara and I, with local resident Lai Ogunsola, will make a modest contribution by presenting our ideas for mapping to identify local assets, and develop strong collaborations. Here’s the theory at Networked City … and our sides today