In 1999, Sandwell Borough Council in the UK West Midlands, wanted to bid for funds to regenerate a run-down area close to West Bromwich Town Centre called Greets Green and its surrounding areas. The UK Government was inviting proposals through its New Deal For Communities initiative. We were recommended by the Chief Executive of the Health Authority, and were to facilitate the discussions that led to the design of the bid.
The image on the left shows Cllr. Bob Badham on site at the Trident Homes Scheme on Wood Lane.
Officers of Sandwell Borough Council had decided that the initiative should be owned by the community, with those officers in a support and advisory role, providing administrative resources.
Although they would do the technical work of pricing and writing the bid, the members of the communities would be the sole choice makers about its contents and desired outcomes.
The working group was to be composed of 30 individuals representing 5 different ethnic communities through their tenants’ associations, the health authority, the Chief Superintendent of Police, Business Links, Sandwell Council officers supporting the bid, and a local Councillor. We were to have one day together.
The CEO of the Health Authority had recommended our Future-basing process as an ideal method for assisting the creation of a vision for Greets Green. Its key characteristics are that it is easy to learn, understand and do, both by individuals and groups.
It is graphic and visual, everything being displayed on flip chart paper. Everything is written by group members, each person having a marker pen of a colour they choose. They handle the paper pages themselves, they move around the room commenting, reading and writing, so it is an auditory and physical entire group experience.
Some members of the group expressed concern that their written English might not be good enough. We reassured them that correct spelling and grammar were not required. They could always have someone else write their words or help them. We also clarified that all opinions were equally valued.
The end date for success was agreed to be toward the end of 2010, since the project was to last ten years. A list of success categories was agreed through a form of group brainstorm process, and blank pages of flip chart paper were labelled each with one category heading underlined like a title at the top.
With the headed, otherwise blank pages laid out on tables, individuals with their marker pens would tour around and write specific achievements relating to those categories, in language that suggested they were already true and accomplished.
The energy was palpable as collectively, people fantasized their ideal living and life in Greets Green as a fine place to bring up their families.
One fascinating and unique development in this project was that, when council officers costed the vision created that day in order to describe the bid, they calculated a value of £74 million. Since the maximum amount they could bid for was £56 million, they asked if we could return and work with the group to reduce the vision to fit into the viable bracket, but without losing anything important.
We have never before or since been asked to do this, but even this can be achieved with Future-basing.
The bid was successful. A prospective Chair(man) was presented to and accepted by the community to lead the Greets Green Partnership Board before the success of their bid was confirmed, but in preparation for it.
Not only was the project successfully completed in the ten years, but according to the legacy website, www.greetsgreenpartnership.org.uk Greets Green Community Enterprises (GGCE) continues as a commercial entity providing business premises, and generating funds to carry on further community development and improvement programmes.
What was achieved turned out to be so much greater than what was envisioned back in September 1999. We are deeply proud to have contributed at a most critical stage in the life of this magnificent community.