Community Development Projects: 40 years on

Esrc_logoOver the past two years, Professor Fred Robinson has been working with colleagues on a major national research project called ‘Imagine’. This practice-based project is concerned with using research to help imagine and develop communities. It is about the ‘social, historical, cultural and democratic context of civic engagement’. Imagine is supported by the Economic and Social Research Council under the Connected Communities programme.

The whole Imagine project comprises four parts, one of which focuses on the historical context of civic engagement. This part involves revisiting the sites of three Community Development Projects (CDPs) which were implemented during the 1970s. Two of these were in Tyneside (Benwell and North Shields) and one in the West Midlands (Hillfields, Coventry). In each of these places, researchers from local universities (Durham and Warwick Universities) and community organisations are exploring the imagining, planning and impact of the CDP and are tracking subsequent regeneration programmes in those areas.

Fred’s role has been to look at the history of regeneration in Benwell and North Shields. He has been developing accounts of the implementation and impact of regeneration policies, drawing on both documentary material and interviews. He says:

“As you look at these policies over a period of 40 years, you can feel a sense of frustration that lessons often aren’t learnt and problems aren’t solved. But there has actually been some real progress in terms of health and housing, for instance, and a better understanding of the need for active community engagement in the regeneration process”.