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Director blog April 2022 – Handwashing guidance – what to do when policies invariably fail? 

1. Palm to palm.
2. Right palm over left dorsum and left palm over right dorsum.
3. Palm to palm fingers interlaced. 
4. Backs of fingers to opposing palms with fingers interlocked. 
5. Rotational rubbing of right thumb clasped in left palm and vice versa. 
6. Rotational rubbing, backwards and forwards with clasped fingers of right-hand left palm and vice versa.

How do you wash your hands of something? Some bold ambitious policy statement that politicians make but then it fails as most public policy does. Try the above. Send out technical manuals so everyone knows what to do and can practice together.  

Seriously – most public policy fails most of the time. It doesn’t achieve what it set out to do. But read evaluations and corporate communications and everything has to be a success even when it mostly isn’t. All that is solid melts into PR. Residents were listened to, communities were involved at every possible stage, and everyone is deeply happy even when they are not.   

One of the questions I wonder about is why do we go along with the pretence? A kind of open conspiracy against social change. People seem strangely frozen within the institutions and communities. In Japan they say: ‘the nail that stands out gets hammered down’ and I’ve seen that response many times, close-up and personal. The standard response to community work that shifts power is to shut it down. Fear and spite is the flip-side of a paternalism and there is a lot of it about. I think it is more than that though.  

My sense is many of us don’t feel it could be any different. That any kind of change is not on the agenda. Although everyone has a voice most people don’t feel they can use it. There’s a vacuum that more unscrupulous transactional people seize but only because they are allowed to.   

If you don’t act, you will be acted upon. And mostly we don’t act decisively – things happen to us.  Those things are for our own good – everything that happens will be attached to a policy that is always and only a stunning success. So it goes. 

My solution: have an honest conversation. Ask questions and don’t accept answers. Always question answers. If something sounds too good to be true it probably is. Historically power is rarely or never given – it is taken. It is contested, argued over. It can be done amicably and lead to much better outcomes for all, but it means taking a risk.   

Issue / solution / action 

The only way to break free from policy failure is to keep asking questions. Questions pinpoint issues.  These issues become an agenda and an action plan. Having a plan and working that plan is about developing and testing solutions and taking action, over and over again. If you want change you have to take action and not leave it to others who have great PR but a disappointing track record. Part of our task is also to create the spaces where people can grow in confidence and self-belief to take collective action, to learn and work together in more authentic partnership. 

But it only works if you ask questions. You have to question if the person in control really knows what they are doing, if the policy is really working, you have to be willing to disrupt the present to claim the future. Next time you go to a meeting give it a go.  


Matthew Scott 

TWCP Director 

Inside TWCP: A Voice for the People – Romeo Murisa

Thames Ward Community Project represents an opportunity to give a voice for the people, by the people. The events held by them does more than communicate to building connections as it tackles challenges in a unique and impactful way with the aim to find a solution to the root cause of how the community feels.
I first got involved with TWCP by sharing a poem about mental health. The aim of the event was to help connect local residents and help facilitate conversations on the importance of social connection and the promotion of good mental health and wellbeing. This enabled me to share my talents and craft of spoken word, to help create impactful and meaningful conversations within our community. As a local resident, this was a space that contained individuals who share similar views to me but with a deep understanding of our lived experience. Hence, when an opportunity to be involved in the Arts and Culture Action Group with TWCP was presented, I was honoured to be given a chance to give back to the community. To give back through one of the most beautiful and readily available arts, known as spoken word. During this journey of working with the amazing team at TWCP, we have been able to achieve a milestone of creating an event for Black History month, which fused a vibrant palette of music, art, and spoken word. It was great to have written a piece for this to create conversations and hear the audience’s perspective.
As well as this, I have been involved in the fire safety action by writing three unique pieces that I have shared with the members and residents alongside the British Red Cross and the London Fire Brigade, to spark change and highlight our action points. I am excited for the end result for this one as it will help not only our community, but other communities that are at risk due to the lack of fire safety plans being put to action.
My plan for this year is to host writing workshops to allow everyone in our community to gain the ability to put what’s on their minds and heart to paper, because what is written is never forgotten. My ultimate vision is to support local residents that have a passion and talent for spoken word to gain their voice so that their stories can be heard.
Member of the TWCP Arts & Culture Citizen Action Group

Reaching Outwards – April 2021

Big news: on Friday 26th March we heard we’d been successful in securing a further three years of funding from the Lottery.  Our success is a tribute to an incredible amount of hard work and support from residents, partners and local groups over the last three and half years: very much a team effort and evidence of deep collaboration which got us over the line.  It means we have a secure base of core funding on which to work from and this makes all the difference.  We’ve found over the last couple of years that we’ve been able to secure smaller pots of funding for projects and initiate any number of activities, thus having massively raised expectations it’s great to have the resource to manage and activate this increased workload.  Feels good.

Three and a half years ago we began our Reaching Communities programme with the aim of creating a resident-led Community Development Trust (CDT); that seems a long time ago but looking at some of the organisations we know and admire – the Bromley By Bow Centre, Selby Centre, Manor House Community Trust for example – their journey has spanned decades and ours is only just beginning.  Hence the task is not only to facilitate empowerment, connection, organisation and community voice but also to ensure we become a mature social business and are sustainable over the long term.  

Our work, along with everything around us, will be defined by how we build back better as we come out of the pandemic.  The value of community-led action was never in doubt but is needed now more than ever in particular actions that support health and wellbeing, resilience and skills.  Our work with health partners, the British Red Cross and with emerging social enterprises will become ever more important as part of the wider solution to the challenges we face.   

For the future we need to reach out ever more widely to residents and partners and create a participative democratic practice to underpin the partnerships and projects we are involved with.  This means finding ways to ensure what we do is genuinely resident-led and open to everyone who wants to make a contribution.  Having become increasingly established and sustainable ourselves, it also means that our success should be defined by our record in helping others grow, become sustainable, attract and secure funding.  If we get this right this will be a measure of real service to the wider community. There are lots of resident-led projects bubbling up, from ESOL, to arts, sports and health that show the way forward and with the right support will change what was hitherto thought was possible in terms of service delivery and resident-led social business. 

Matthew Scott

TWCP Director

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