How do Community Builders Work in Exeter?

As a Community Builder, I was recently contacted by Action for Children. They were noticing a spike in referrals in one of the neighbourhoods I work and wanted to start a conversation around this to better understand the trend, to know what community assets (individuals, institutions, clubs & groups, local businesses, physical spaces, culture & stories) they could tap into and to develop a workable and rapid plan to support local families.


As a Community Builder I was able to explain how this neighbourhood was very far away from the city centre and with decreased funding to family and child services there was a growing trend of having one larger base that children and family services ran from. This required families to go to services rather than services coming to them in the local neighbourhood. I also explained that with the impact of COVID, lots of community-run family and children services were either not running or running on limited numbers. We spoke about this particular neighbourhood having very few “natural bumping spaces” due to how it was planned and built. This means neighbours have to go off patch to access shops, cafes, restaurants, post offices, dr. surgeries, entertainment etc., which in turn increases this neighbourhood’s vulnerability to isolation, disconnection, and poor wellbeing.


I was able to speak into the values and interests I had seen in the local area and that there is deep value for nature, fitness, knowing the local area, community socializing and wanting to meet local neighbours. I explained about a local walking project with the Community Physical Activity Organizer (City Football Trust), how it started as a 5-week walking session for the neighbours to see if there was an interest and grew into an ongoing local activity, allowing local neighbours to connect and socialize. I shared information about a local Baby/Toddler group and what day it is available as a possible link to connect referrals too. As the Community Builder, I had met a local neighbour that worked for another charity, HomeStart, a charity supporting families with young babies. I reached out to this neighbour to ask her professional opinion and found the charity was looking for another place to potentially expand their services to. I connected Action for Children and HomeStart in one of those serendipitous moments, making the most of the right time, with the right individuals, who had access to the right resources, to connect with and benefit the right local people


Action for Children, a larger organisation with referrals and money to develop new projects, reached out to the local Community Builder enabling them to make quick links to two other organizations, HomeStart and the Community Physical Activities Coordinator, to create and launch a new project, a 5 Week Buggy Walks for New Parents. Because of the relationships that the Community Builder had established with these local people and organisations, ideas were able to rapidly form around the strength already in a local neighbourhood. This enabled the creation of a project that is personalised, local and for the benefit of new parents in this hyper-local neighbourhood. These links also will provide a way for these local families to access ongoing connection and support once the 5-week course has ended which speaks to the value this community has of establishing meaningful and ongoing relationships.


Without a doubt, because Action for Children reach out to their local Community Builder they were able to access local information, ideas and connections that equipped them to better do their jobs which then opened up a way for the Community Physical Activity Coordinator to better to their job to provide relevant local movement opportunities and provided HomeStart resources to expand their much-needed family and children services into this local neighbourhood for long-term engagement. This is a beautiful example of how Community Builders empower and catalyse local, community-minded, organizations and charities, by developing strong, networking relationships, to allow more effectively and efficiently activities and groups for the benefit of the local people in a hyper-local neighbourhood.


Tina Lawton (Countess Wear & Newcourt CB)


Text reads: "It was one of those serendipitous moments - making the most of the right time, with the right individuals, who had access to the right resources, to connect with and benefit the right local people."