Big Society Vanguard in the Eden Valley
The Big Society was the Government’s vision of a society where individuals and communities have more power and responsibility, and use it to create better neighbourhoods and local services. Rural communities in Cumbria have a long tradition of self-reliance. Residents are well used to finding their own solutions to local issues.
Thanks to the enthusiasm and advocacy of Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith & the Borders, three groups of communities in the Eden Valley were included as a rural pilot in the Big Society Vanguard programme announced by the Prime Minister in July 2010. Since then local people worked closely with Rory, and with colleagues from a range of government departments and agencies, to take forward key projects identified in their Community Led Plans. What took place here in Eden was of national interest. ACT, with the support of the North West Improvement Efficiency Partnership (NWIEP) and Eden District Council, observed and recorded the work of local residents, producing a set of Case Studies and Guidance Sheets (see below), and a full report of findings
Big Society: Rural Action Conference
A conference celebrating the achievements of the Eden Valley communities and their role as the only Big Society vanguard took place at the Rheged Centre in June 2011. Over 100 people gathered to hear about the experiences and achievements that are really making a difference to the people involved in the Big Society vanguard.
The conference organised by ACT and supported by Eden District Council and the North West Improvement Efficiency Partnership (NWIEP), included key speakers from national Government, Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) and Eden District Council, all of whom spoke about the changes brought forward by the Big Society agenda. In particular, it also included presentations by community representatives showcasing their experiences of being part of the vanguard, and celebrating some of the projects that they are delivering: Affordable Housing and Community Land Trusts; Community Transport; Renewable Energies (Anaerobic Digester; Wind; Solar; Hydro), Community Assets and Neighbourhood Planning.