Alison Haskins, CEO of Halifax Opportunities Trust and one of the commissioners for the Localism Commission,talks about the power of place at both a local and international level on the latest Locality blog…
Since I started working in the third sector in the UK twenty years ago and particularly since taking up the CEO post at Halifax Opportunities Trust eight months ago, I’ve been involved with all sorts of interesting initiatives that have focussed on ‘place’. This year alone I have taken part in the Power to Change/RSA Community Business Leaders Programme and am one of the commissioners for Locality’s Localism Commission. I am involved in Locality’s Keep It Local programme with Calderdale council and I attended the vibrant Power of Place event in April. There’s clearly a momentum to devolve decision-making and resources to neighbourhoods and to challenge the benevolent paternalism that has often characterised public service delivery.
As CEO of Halifax Opportunities Trust, I see the power of place being played out on a daily basis. People getting involved and taking decisions about their own community; buildings and spaces being used to create economic growth and development; peer support for new parents and extraordinarily positive, developmental work with very young children and their families. This is just a snapshot of what happens at HOT and across the third sector every day.
It’s locally driven, it’s locally focussed and it’s locally delivered. I absolutely believe in place – and of people working collectively and collaboratively to make their lives as good as they possibly can be. But I’ve always had a worry niggling away at the back of my mind.
If we relentlessly focus on place, localism and neighbourhoods are we unconsciously embedding a narrowness in our thinking and practice? Are we ignoring the massive effect that globalisation and transnational interests have on local communities and local people? And are we out-Trumping Trump by championing the local over the global common good?
In short, are we pushing a populist, parochial approach that could be co-opted, despite our best intentions, into something much less positive?