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Social Inclusion through Capacitation: The case of Marsh Farm

Luton
United Kingdom

 

 

The Marsh Farm Community Empowerment Strategy, which began in the early 1990s, is an ongoing community-based regeneration program based on a ‘capacitation’ approach.

 

Objective:

 

The main objective of the policy is to enable the people living in Marsh Farm to improve themselves and their neighbourhood through the construction of a community of self-help.

 

Beneficiaries:

 

Within an urban regeneration process, the policy focuses on those with a story of social exclusion due to long-term unemployment as well as socially marginalized people. The process was started in an informal environment by a group of inhabitants and, from the beginning, was based on citizens’ direct participation. Over the course of its history, the initiators managed to involve a very broad part of the inhabitants from different social and ethnic backgrounds, creating an ever-richer community.

 

During its implementation, the policy experienced an increasing level of institutionalisation as a consequence of the rising interest of the local and national authorities in the success of the local practices. In particular, the institutionalisation started with the recognition of a temporary use, communal living experience by the Department of Transport, who owned the facility. Although a project proposal was rejected by the local council in 1997, the people of Marsh Farm gained national headlines in 1999 when they were chosen to be part of the national policy scheme ‘New Deal for Communities’ (NDC). Participating in this program enabled residents to foster their capacities to develop and manage more complex projects without losing the core idea of giving as many neighbourhood residents as possible a chance to develop their ideas and skills. In the policy’s most recent stage, which began in September 2010, it has become a pilot scheme for a possible national policy on regeneration and social exclusion.

 

Financing:

 

In the initial stages, the project was self-financed by those involved. In 1999, as part of the NDC, the policy was awarded £48 million over a 10-year periodThe most recent part of the policy, identified as the Organizational Workshop Pilot Scheme, is funded by the central government with an investment of £9 million over a six-month period.

 

Results

 

The results so far include the reuse of an abandoned factory building as a community centre, the reuse of an old farmhouse into the community’s social enterprise incubator, the creation of jobs and enterprises arising from the needs and knowledge of the resident population, and a feeling of belonging to a community and a place. The latter has activated a number of underused or unused resources present in the neighbourhood to become valuable assets to the community itself.