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In March CDF published six case studies, which document the work of community projects tackling crime in their local community. The projects received funding from the Community action against crime: Innovation fund (CAAC:IF), a two-year £10million programme managed by CDF and funded by the Home Office.

Whilst the aims and activities of the projects varied massively – in the case study examples alone they span irresponsible dog ownership, prolific offender rehabilitation and youth mentoring schemes – our research did unearth some common themes in the approaches of the funded groups. So read on for five key reasons why a community development approach, can make our communities safer places to live.

1. Ability to be flexible and open to ideas

Many funded projects supported people to find their own solutions, which required the ability to adapt and be responsive to the needs of the community. Whilst planning was important to make sure that the projects achieved what they set out to, the ability of community groups to be flexible and open to ideas was essential.

One project successfully reduced anti-social behaviour amongst young people by running Positive Operational Drop-in (POD) sessions, where young people met to discuss anti-social behaviour issues. The PODWatch project targeted 8-13 year olds, but one 16 year old girl who had been excluded from school and did not like adults, was allowed to participate too. By bending the rules slightly, her involvement meant she became a role model to younger kids, as she had turned her life around and had started attending college. Involving older people to positively influence younger children may never have been thought of in the initial project plans.

2. Having personal contacts and being able talk to people

Many of the people leading on these projects were already heavily involved in their own community, meaning that they could talk to people and encourage them to participate – sometimes people needed a bit of persuasion!

A project tackling irresponsible dog ownership on a housing estate in Haringey called Dogs Matter – People Matter was run by Sandlings Residents Association. They spoke to members of the community and attributed word of mouth as being a strong method for recruiting people. In fact, one young person said they attended after being ‘persuaded’ to get involved by the project organiser, who was a their friend’s mum.

3. Having a physical presence in the local community

A number of projects benefited from using their existing buildings as a hub, so that residents regularly using places, like the local community centre, could easily get involved.

Youth Timebank (YTB) scheme was run by Castlehaven Community Association, which aimed to reduce youth crime in the local area and involve young people in community life. The Community Association had worked to support the needs of residents in Camden since 1985. By connecting with other groups that used their facilities, volunteering opportunities arose for young people, such as supporting a Christmas meal for older people in the community who had nowhere else to go.

4. Having access to existing resources (or borrowing others’)

Some projects were able to make use of existing resources to make funding go further. These included people, such as existing volunteers, as well as physical resources, such as machinery and equipment.

A great example of this is the Farming Horizons project, run by the social enterprise, Farming for All. The project aimed to rehabilitate prolific and priority offenders by sending them on a Care Farming course, to promote mental and physical health, self esteem and motivation. The course was hosted by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) on one of their farms: their staff supported delivery and involved trainee vets as volunteers.

5. Being able to gain the trust of the community

For many of the projects, gaining the trust of the community took time and persistence. Yet being present in the community and talking to residents about the projects was seen as a way to build this trust. It was also important to be honest about what could be done through the projects and to say no to things that were unachievable.

One project in ‘The Shires’ area of Hull sought to reduce burglary, which was common due to the network of alleys connecting houses in the area. Minerva social enterprise trained local residents and existing volunteers to make and fit gates in order to secure the alleys. Working with local residents, not simply shipping outside volunteers in to give the community a new gate, meant the project helped the community make changes themselves, which in turn improved community spirit.

For the full project case studies, or more information about the CAAC:IF programme, please visit the Crime Innovation Fund page.

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