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Building community trust to transform neighbourhoods

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The Near Neighbours programme brings together people in religiously and ethnically diverse communities to create relationships of trust and help communities transform their neighbourhoods.

It was set up in 2011 and is funded by the Department for Communities & Local Government. It is a partnership between the Church Urban Fund and the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England.

Near Neighbours was established because some neighbourhoods have different faith and ethnic communities living close to each but with little integration. Furthermore these are also often areas of deprivation, with people sharing common concerns. Despite this shared concern residents don’t come together as much as they could.

Communities are best placed to identify and develop solutions to improve their neighbourhoods. Near Neighbours brings people together, breaking down misunderstanding and developing trust to change communities for the better. The programme has three main strands of work.

First, it works through co-ordinators based in local hubs to strengthen, develop and deepen networks and action in local communities. A local hub covers an area of the country in which the programme operates. We are working in the northern towns and cities of Bury, Rochdale, Burnley, Oldham, Leeds, Bradford and Dewsbury. In the Midlands we are working in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Sandwell, and Dudley, Leicester and Nottingham. In the south we operate in Luton and across most of London.

The second strand is our work with national partners who have a record of significant interfaith experience. They contribute to the programme with training, expertise and resources. They work with faith leaders, teenagers, women, young leaders and community workers.

The third strand is a small grants fund, providing seed capital for organisations that work to bring together neighbours. During 2011-14 we have given more than 570 small grants to initiatives ranging from a breastfeeding peer training programme, to a boxing club, and to a film made by young people educating their peers about drugs. About a quarter of the grants were for youth projects and a further 15% were for children and families. Our grants use the structure of the parish system and we are able to turn them around in 14 days; the average is six days.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles said of the programme: “It’s been terrific to see Near Neighbours go from strength to strength over the past three years, helping grassroots groups to improve the lives of those around them through practical action. These fantastic projects have been met with huge amounts of enthusiasm, creating a sense of lasting community spirit, and helping to transform neighbourhoods in the process.”

Elizabeth Carnelley, programme director, Near Neighbours

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