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Strengthening community links in West Yorkshire

(PresseBox) (London, ) Increased involvement in networks helps people to value the diversity within their communities and see the world through others' eyes, according to a report released yesterday by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and leadership development organisation Common Purpose. Local Links, a new approach to community development was piloted in four locations across West Yorkshire.

Supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and run by Common Purpose, the aim of the Local Links project was to improve neighbourhood networking, support, and skills development for local decision-makers and active citizens in these areas and to assist them to be better informed, empowered and more effective in their community roles.

Yesterday's report found that Local Links benefited the communities by:

- Building participants' knowledge and understanding of the local area and how it works.
- Helping them understand the value of diversity within their community, seeing the world through others' eyes and breaking down barriers.
- Boosting the confidence and motivation of participants to effect positive change in their communities.
- Participants' projects and organisations benefited, by recruiting supporters, providing more volunteering opportunities, improving their profile and promoting services, and increasing collaboration and new sources of support.

Based on the Common Purpose leadership development cross-sector and experiential learning model, the programme included people active in community groups, voluntary sector bodies and businesses, and frontline public-sector workers. Contributions from experts and local leaders, helped build insights into how the local area worked and, importantly, the degree to which they could be improved.

Susie Hay of Common Purpose says: "Senior decision-makers are increasingly well networked at local authority level through governance partnership structures such as Local Strategic Partnerships, health and regeneration boards, business forums and leadership programmes. The advantages are demonstrable: increasing mutual understanding, developing common aims, creating a shared language and establishing trust among partners from diverse backgrounds and sectors. These benefits apply on a local level too, if people are given the opportunity to tap into them."

The project was carried out between April 2005 to April 2007, in four West Yorkshire areas: Todmorden, Heckmondwike, Shipley and Bradford BD5.The four programme groups varied in size from 14 to 25.