Wandsworth Community Empowerment Network (WCEN) was formed in 2001 as one of 88 Community Empowerment Networks across the country that were part of the National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal. The organisation’s aim was to work in areas of multiple disadvantage to reduce “postcode poverty”, and establish joined-up working to “bend the mainstream” so that public resources were targeted in areas of greatest need. WCEN’s mission, then and now, is to bring voluntary, community and faith groups together to impact on the design and delivery of public services, which can help improve the life chances of the most disadvantaged members of our communities.
Over several years of learning, and failing, and learning to fail in better ways, WCEN has come to understand that social-welfare challenges are no longer able to be met by the Public Sector alone. WCEN believes that a new way of thinking and working has to emerge, one which unlocks the skills and capabilities of communities.
In Wandsworth, London, WCEN has started to bring together groups and organisations from across all sectors of the community to co-produce services and support that:
- Utilises the skills and knowledge of local people;
- Situates services in spaces which are more accessible and able to be reached;
- Starts to share knowledge, resources and responsibility much more equitably; and
- Works systemically from where people are currently at, towards building a better, smarter civic society.
Our grant enables WCEN to continue to test and pilot co-production initiatives. At present, this includes: Psychological Therapies in community organisations; training of community leaders in Systemic Family Therapy; and Cardiovascular Health and Dementia co-production. This work also includes independent evaluations, development of social value measures, toolkits for capacity building, and workshops and seminars to embed, share and exchange knowledge across a wider network of people and organisations.
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