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Birmingham leads the way on the Big Society
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Balsall Heath models Big Society

What does the Big Society mean in reality for communities in Birmingham?

How can struggling neighbourhoods in need of regeneration engage in the government's new Big Society idea.

A published report has hailed two areas in Birmingham as role models in community regeneration.

The success stories of Balsall Heath and Castle Vale are being used as shining examples of the Big Society for deprived communities across the UK to model.

Castle Vale
Residents in Castle Vale tackled vandalism in their area

Castle Vale and Balsall Heath are two very different neighbourhoods in Birmingham that have previously experienced years of decay and crime.

A special Big Society report by Demos think tank for the Progressive Conservatism Project, has looked at how the two communities in Birmingham have successfully turned their neighbourhoods around.

Civic Streets

The Civic Streets report tells the story of the two areas.

Castle Vale had previously experienced problems with anti-social behaviour and Balsall Heath was known as the city's red light district.

Residents in Castle Vale established a housing association with power and responsibility given to local people.

The housing association has helped to lower crime levels, demolish and rebuild 2,275 houses and address health and unemployment concerns.

Balsall Heath Forum
Young people from local churches help out

Through community voluntary action residents in Balsall Heath's neighbourhood forum have worked together to reclaim their streets and see a major transformation in their area.

People power

The Demos Civic Streets report explains: "Balsall Heath and Castle Vale are not examples of regeneration being done to a community but of regeneration being done by a community. But we must recognise the negative as well as the positive.

"The Big Society concept of citizen action to drive up standards and offer public services is based on the idea that there will be willing participants and that they will be enabled to take power".

Reclaiming our streets

Balsall Heath is a small neighbourhood within the Sparkbrook ward. The area used to be blighted with prostitution, graffiti, fly tipping and the streets were being run by drug dealers and pimps until the residents decided enough was enough and together decided to take action.

Abdullah Rehman

For the past 12 years Abdullah Rehman has been working as part of a Balsall Heath Forum that inspires residents to make a real change in their community.

In an interview with Arshia Riaz on BBC WM's Midlands Massala, Abdullah explained how Balsall Heath's residents have worked together over the years to transform Balsall Heath into a neighbourhood they can be proud of, he also talked about when David Cameron came to stay at his home while on a visit to Birmingham during the election 2010 campaign.

Looking sideways

A report has also been published by Birmingham based think tank Chamberlain Forum and produced for Birmingham City Council and Advantage West Midlands. It looks at what the Big Society means for disadvantaged neighbourhoods in Birmingham.

With public services across the country having to make substantial cuts and savings, the Looking Sideways report addresses the idea of public service agencies and local community coproduction that will lead to better outcomes and strengthen social capital.

Both the Civic Streets and Looking Sideways reports were launched at an event in Balsall Heath on Wednesday 28 July where key leaders in community regeneration in Birmingham were given the opportunity to debate points raised in both reports.

Read more about the Looking Sideways report




SEE ALSO
Talking Big Society on BBC WM
29 Jul 10 |  People & Places

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