This Place Matters: Mablethorpe
Blog by Lorna Leach, Director of Transformation
A few months ago, I wrote Lincolnshire is more than just Lincoln, in which I explore the importance of looking beyond the data when seeking to bring about positive change for communities in the places they live. That without spending time in a place talking to those who live there we’ll never know what they value, what they utilise, what they would change, nor will we be able to look beyond our own preconceptions and assumptions.
Although I continue to travel across the county, working from towns in every district, the last few weeks have been focused on Mablethorpe and it’s this work that I want to talk about.
Challenging Our Assumptions
I, along with 4 members of the Active Lincolnshire team, planned a reconnaissance mission where we would apply some shoe-leather research and explore the place, talking to residents, popping into communal spaces, wandering through parks. Before we went, the team and I spent some time thinking about what we needed/wanted to learn. I asked them to consider:
- Things to learn from residents. Which they split into views on the place, things to do, who lives there, who are the local influencers, what’s the system like, how are things communicated.
- Things to learn about the system. What organisations and institutions were there or missing, what the physical environment was like and how people get about, and what social networks were in place. You can see some of our questions on the yellow post-its in the image below
Through this we identified assumptions we were making about the people and place, because knowing these means we can be mindful to test their validity through our conversations and observations.
Meeting the People
During our 6-hours on the coast, we split into groups covering different sections of the town, right out to the edges. We had a couple of planned in meetings with a local health lead and the children’s centre, but for everyone else we just went exploring and talking to people. We held back from asking about physical activity, but instead started with “What’s it like living in Mablethorpe?” We took photos, picked up leaflets and newspapers, wandered into shops and community spaces, chatted with dog walkers and made note of the physical environment, settings and infrastructure. Back at the office we began adding what we’d learnt to the planning (the blue post-its in the image above) and working out what we need to know now.
Towards Collective Leadership
For place-based change to work strategic partners have to shift from 'doing to' the community, to working with and even being led by the community.
A week later I was back in Mablethorpe with that ambition in mind, talking to strategic stakeholders who have a focus or remit for the town.
After taking a walk to understand the incoming Towns Fund investment in situ, our special guests from Active Withernsea presented their work as a Local Delivery Pilot (LDP). LDP’s are place-based projects, funded by Sport England for 8-years to use physical activity to improve a place and through that increase the activity levels of those who live there.
Strategic partners are open to trying something different, to thinking smarter about assets, better utilising resources, and taking a collective leadership stance and taking responsibilities beyond individual roles, whilst stepping back from setting direction to give the community space to lead.
Coming Back Around
As we move into winter Active Lincolnshire have three main actions:
- Spend the next few months meeting more people, widening awareness of the local organisations, influencers, services ahead of an open-door event in early 2023. Understanding how the parts connect and fit together already (or don’t).
- Show, by example, how to align existing resources into a place to underpin what the community cares about and wants to build on.
- In recognition that all the strategic partners have huge pressures on their capacity and resource, Active Lincolnshire want to understand their outcomes, how they work locally and find ways to collaborate and create the space for place-based working in a way that helps the partners achieve their outcomes and doesn't add burdens to their working practices.
My ask is simple.
If you are in Mablethorpe as a resident, community organisation, service provider, deliverer, business please get in touch, I’d love to meet you - just email me at Lorna.Leach@activelincolnshire.com