Firstly, a big thank you to everyone who took part in giving us information for ‘I heart Forest Gate’ during November. We created the campaign because we knew that litter, anti-social behaviour and fly tipping were all important to residents, and you certainly backed up our assertion there. To read my introduction to the campaign, explaining what we want to do and how, you can read my original post here.
This post is to provide an update about what we have been doing, and what happens now.
Firstly, we have been passing on all the information you have given us through the normal channels. This means in most cases they are being passed to Enforcement, a Council department which deals with issues including fly tipping and ASB, liaising closely with the police where appropriate. We thought it was important that doing something different shouldn’t mean that normal ways of working stop.
Next, we have been collecting all of the information that you sent us together in a spreadsheet. Hands up on this one – I have emails collected in a special folder but I have not yet put all of them into the spreadsheet, despite Seyi’s very polite reminders! Christmas has somewhat got in the way here, but collating and collecting is the stage we are at now.
Once the spreadsheet is complete (including not only information specifically emailed and tweeted to us as part of the campaign, but also information gathered from our pop-up street surgery, from our regular surgeries, and through any other route) we will then sit down together as a three and think about what might be our priority areas. This could be places that several people have mentioned as being a particular problem, or it might be an area where intelligence from residents suggests that there is a solution we could work on. However we choose, we will let you know.
We will then have a discussion with Enforcement about our thoughts, check up again on the work they are already doing, and finalise our priorities. At that stage, we’ll let you know, probably via another blog post, where we are concentrating on, and why.
We will then leave a reasonable period of time for some work to happen. The work that happens as a result might be enforcement work, or awareness-raising, or something else entirely. Then we will ask you to let us know whether we have made a difference or not. And it does seem that gaining honest feedback won’t be a problem – see below for more on that!
As we explained when we first introduced the idea, this is basically an experiment to try out several different things: whether we can try getting people involved, whether we can make a visible difference, whether running this as a ‘campaign’ rather than business-as-usual work makes any difference. We will report back to you honestly on the answers to these questions.
So far, it does seem that the campaign attracted some attention. There aren’t many concrete ways of measuring this, but as an example, my tweet announcing #iheartforestgate was retweeted 15 times, which I think is the most retweets I have ever got. The blog post has had 278 views at the time of writing, making it by far the most viewed post on our blog. (These are small numbers, of course! I certainly don’t think any major media outlets are quaking in their boots here…)
We also attracted some less complimentary attention, which I will share here in the spirit of openness. Whilst some – indeed most – people whom we heard from reacted positively, a few were not so keen, finding the name cutesy, or commenting that this kind of thing had been done before and we shouldn’t reinvent the wheel. There was even a discussion about whether our ‘graphics’ were out-dated. (Confession time. We have no design team as such. Or even really any graphics at all. The image with the post was in fact simply an iPhone photo which Ellie took, I believe against the background of her coat, of one of the badges that were made for the Mayor’s Show in the summer for each of the neighbourhood areas in Newham.) An unintended though lovely consequence of the campaign was a small flurry of interest in the badges though! There are still a few about, so if you would like one please contact me and I will see if I can get one to you.
But broadly people were positive, both on social media and in real life: stopping us on the street, or retweeting to show their support. Although the rubbish left on our streets can be depressing, it was heartening to see people responding to say that they, too, love Forest Gate and wanted to contribute to helping to improve it.
So that’s where we are now. More to come. In the meantime, if you have information about areas where litter, anti-social behaviour or fly tipping are particular problems then do carry on letting us know. We pass on all information we receive. In fact, one of the interesting things to come out of the campaign for me, has been finding out more about what Enforcement do (loads, actually), and thinking about how we can help to communicate this to residents.
More to come! I will write another post on this campaign once we have progressed things. In the meantime, I shall leave you in a tantalising fashion by promising – soon – a blog interview with a resident who is running her very own community action to help make our surroundings less litter-filled and more lovely.