Andy Dunbobbin, Community Research for Connah’s Quay on the Amplify Cymru programme gives his reflections on what the programme has meant for him, following the launch of our Valuing Place report last week.
With the involvement I had with Amplify Cymru, I was keen to give my reflections on the programme and to share my experience and the learning that I’ve gained through being part of the programme. I am a local councillor in Connah’s Quay, but my position as community researcher has allowed me to see the area from a different perspective. Most importantly, I am able to give my view as a Quayite!
What really surprised me from being a part of Amplify Cymru is the importance of place. You could say that the importance of place is fairly obvious. But do we really know how important place is?
I like to think that I know everything about my community, but do I really?
It was not until I made the connections and built relationships through the Amplify programme that I gained a greater understanding of what really matters to people. But this wasn’t an easy process. My position as a councillor meant I already had quite a lot of engagement with the community but it was also a barrier to some people wanting to engage with me. Some people felt like I had an agenda, and perhaps I did.
People we spoke to in the three communities we worked in; Connah’s Quay, Aberystwyth and Port Talbot, all felt strongly that their voices aren’t being heard and this can serve to exacerbate inequalities and lead to a sense of apathy:
“Well ‘they’re’ going to do what ‘they’ want to do anyway”.
But people should be offering challenges to the key decision-makers and influencers. And people are. The inequalities people feel does lead to action.
People within these communities are innovating and working to improve social cohesion. This can be seen with existing and newly formed community groups. In Connah’s Quay, I believe Amplify Cymru gave a better platform to develop and create the groups further. It also encouraged positive conversations with Flintshire County Council, Connah’s Quay Town Council and Coleg Cambria; the key decision-makers and influencers.
But perhaps my position within the Council (and the networks that creates) had also led to such positive discussions and support to Amplify?
As Amplify Cymru draws to a close, how can I summarise what it’s achieved? Well I believe it has helped to break down some of the barriers to understanding the inequalities people feel at the community level. For me personally, I feel better equipped, through having built new networks, to provide a higher level of support to the community I work in.
Beyond myself, it was pleasing to hear, at the Valuing Place presentation, acknowledgement of how important place is (by Assembly members). It was also noted how AM’s need to connect better with their communities, followed by how it could be achieved with one AM saying: “I will speak to my community and engage more….”
Therefore, whilst the Amplify Cymru programme closes, its legacy lives on, both within me and, I hope, within those who have made the promises to listen to and understand what communities think and feel, as well as to value place.
You can read more about what people in the three communities we worked with want for their places they live in, for their communities and themselves, in the full Valuing Place report here. You will also find pen portraits of the three communities, written by Andy Dunbobbin, Cam Boam and Cath Sherrell, the three community researchers working within them.