Back Chat #3
June 6, 2018
Kate Price is a Community Enabling Manager at Norwich City Council. Her job involves finding new ways to invest in projects and infrastructures that empower citizens, helping them to make positive changes for a cleaner, greener and fairer city.
05/06/2018, 09:31 - BTF:
Hi Kate! Thanks for agreeing to chat. Let’s get started. Tell us a little about yourself. What do you do for a living, on the side, and for fun?
05/06/2018, 09:44 - Kate Price:
For a living I’m lucky enough to have an incredible job. I work for Norwich City Council as their intriguingly titled Neighborhoods and Community Enabling Manager…try introducing yourself as that in a meeting! I run a service which essentially helps residents make their part of the city feel like it belongs to them. We support all types of groups from one or two residents doing litter picks or running street parties, to big consortia of organisations coming together to tackle big subjects like food poverty or homelessness. It’s never the same day twice! We also look for what infrastructure all these groups need and what we can come up with creatively to help.
I’m one of those horribly smug people for whom their job is their main sense of fun! But on the side I do like a bit of travel, especially locally as the beaches in Norfolk are amazing, getting to the odd gig (only if the band was going in the 90s and feature guitars) and I’m a bit of an amateur brewer when time allows.
05/06/2018, 09:57 - BTF:
I reckon that smugness is justified – a job that’s creative but also tackling community issues? It’s the holy grail! Is this a role specific to Norwich City Council, or are there other Neighborhood and Community Enabling folk elsewhere in the UK? It feels like a very innovative department in the public sector – is it new?
05/06/2018, 09:57 - BTF:
(And let’s discuss this amateur brewing business on another Whatsapp; it seems only sensible that we get involved in some taste checks…)
05/06/2018, 11:35 - Kate Price:
All council’s take a bit of a different approach so it’s not really a specific role. Norwich has only had our team for a couple of years now and we’re always looking for other councils in the UK and abroad to connect with and share ideas with. There are lots of cities connected in with the Sharing City initiative which I find really inspiring… Looking at ways people get more connected to each other for the benefit of everyone in a city. It’s definitely a newer direction for the public sector but when you’re facing the volume of challenges the sector face, we have to do different.
05/06/2018, 14:12 - BTF:
Great stuff! I think many people would be pleasantly surprised to see that the public sector is doing such brave work in this area – it’s not just the big tech firms that we hear about in the news (and their motives are often questionable too…) Speaking of brave work – what are you working on at the moment that you find particularly inspiring, or feel is particularly important? (Feel free to tell us more about the sharing city concept!)
05/06/2018, 14:13 - BTF:
(Sorry for the delay – business meeting lunch!)
05/06/2018, 14:39 - Kate Price:
Funnily enough, I have just come back from taking our Chief Exec to visit an amazing project in Tuckswood (in Lakenham). One of my big determinations is to show how the council can spend capital investment and infrastructure funding with a focus on long term outcomes for people. The TCV project in Tuckswood is an example where we simply spent some money differently and the results are spectacular. Where typically we may have spent the funding on putting in bollards to stop people parking on a lovely but under used green space in this estate centre, TCV were commissioned to build raised beds and engage local residents in growing things in them instead. This has resulted in a really community owned space which looks stunning, has helped a volunteer get a job with her new skills, got residents to meet and make friends, gained extra funding from other places and next the veg being grown are going to be used to offer healthy cooking classes at the local community centre. You don’t get that from a bollard!! It’s amazing to see what people can do when they feel they’re allowed to use their local spaces. For me, it’s all about how we make people feel excited about where they live and that they feel pride about the city. It’s all about the outcomes for me… If something that simple can change lives in an area, what else can we do with bigger developments like new housing estates or large scale redevelopments?
05/06/2018, 14:44 - BTF:
The “think bigger than a bollard” campaign starts here! #thinkbiggerthanabollard
05/06/2018, 14:50 - BTF:
We’re often blown away by how simple these ideas are – the concept itself isn’t complex, but of course having the guts to go for something a little more innovative is a tad more complicated (not to mention actually having to turn that initial spark of inspiration into reality, which we imagine takes all the effort in the world). So bravo! Is it fair to say that this kind of work is embracing more of a grass-roots approach? And how do you think modern life – the internet, mobiles, silicon valley etc – is impacting peoples’ attitudes to physical community spaces?
05/06/2018, 15:45 - Kate Price:
The impact of physical spaces on people’s sense of community, and ultimately their personal wellbeing, is really starting to be explored more. It is definitely starting to reflect that spaces have to be designed with the end user in mind and built in collaboration with them so they feel invested in it. Much as I love a bit of Costner, “build it and they will come” simply doesn’t work. As digital tech becomes all the more encompassing, the tenancy and ability to hide away and still have all your needs met is easier than social interaction in some places, so creating physical spaces that engage and excite people becomes so much more necessary. The internet is a wonderful thing and can be used fantastically to connect people, but if that’s your only connection then social isolation starts to creep in. When I started working with communities social isolation was used around older people, especially after the bereavement of a partner, but now it’s young people and those of working age too. It’s a negative consequence of a really positive development and just needs some extra help. I think there is a bit of a sea change at the moment with lots of people locally wanting to do something a bit more real and tangible. We’ve got people setting up community gardens and regular litter picking groups all over the place and it feels like this is because people just want to belong. It’s certainly not an easy one for us as councils are not exactly known for being risk takers and have a history of wanting to do things ourselves as that way we have control. It’s challenging to change those barriers but the examples where it’s going so well go along way to pushing that along. Nowadays we try to change the conversation with people from “how can we fix it” to “how can we help you to fix it”. Sometimes that’s seen as not taking responsibility but I hope that as it starts to be taken up that changes to be seen more as empowerment and trust in people.
05/06/2018, 15:45 - Kate Price:
And I want that bollard campaign!!
05/06/2018, 15:59 - BTF:
We’d be very happy to help you make that bollard campaign a reality 😄 While it’s worrying to hear that isolation is growing, it’s fantastic to hear about individuals and communities coming together and self-starting projects. And to hear about commonly digital terms – like end user – being used in community conversation (and not just the design of a button in an app!) It must be exhilerating riding and directing that positive energy. It’s also interesting to hear of your key challenges – and how the (probably unfair) legacy reputation of councils not being particularly nimble can be a barrier both internallyand externally. In fact, that leads me on to me next question – with all your challenges in mind, what’s the best advice anyone’s ever given you?
05/06/2018, 16:23 - Kate Price:
Just have to pause slightly to take one of my other passions (my beautiful silver MX5) to the car doctors! I’ll be with you in a bit!!
05/06/2018, 16:25 - BTF:
No problemo 🚗🚗🚗👩⚕👩⚕👩⚕
05/06/2018, 18:08 - Kate Price:
My favourite piece of advice was when I was about to be given my first managers job at the age of about 21… I was being given a managers position at Odeon cinema in Norwich having worked there as a part timer during my degree at UEA. (My career path to get here has been unusual to say the least!) The General Manager, Justin, rightly knowing then my tenancy to be a bit obsessed with things adhering exactly to the rules, be it the employee handbook or my own naive view of the world, told me that a good manager knows the rules but a great one always sees shades of gray. Now that phrase has a somewhat less wholesome meaning, but then it was a real revelation to me. Someone in power and someone I respected was giving me permission to look at every situation on its own merits and judge it accordingly. Every time I have to deal with something complex, which is most every day when you work with such diverse issues as we do, that rings in my ears and I try and step back. I confess I still fail a lot at doing that on my own but I’ve got an amazing team to work with who offer alternative views and a very understanding partner at home who is my favourite sounding board. Despite us being in totally different sectors, he always manages to see the alternative views and challenges me if I’m being bias or misguided.
Working in an area which needs co-production at its heart, I don’t think I could do it without that guidance when I was young.
I do miss the free films these days though…
06/06/2018, 10:25 - BTF:
This is some solid wisdom – both from a day-to-day getting things done perspective, through dealing with big innovation ideas (always asking ‘how’ rather than saying no) through to people management (it’s a far more encouraging outlook on like and work!)
06/06/2018, 10:26 - BTF:
Thanks for passing it on!
06/06/2018, 10:26 - BTF:
We’ve got just one more question for you, if you dont mind bleeding over into day two…
06/06/2018, 10:27 - BTF:
A simple one, and you can interpret it however you wish – what’s your one big recommendation?
06/06/2018, 14:24 - Kate Price:
Apologies on the delay… Back to back this morning!! I think my big recommendation would be keep things simple. There’s such temptations to over complicate issues and to think that everything needs to be grandiose to mean anything but in most parts of life, simple is really great. If you’re not constantly aspiring for everything to be bigger and better then you can be happy with what’s in front of you and really appreciate it.
That or that everyone should listen to the seminal Menswe@r album of the 90s, Nuisance if they haven’t. But then all my good work in seeming like a smart person might be ruined if you include that…
06/06/2018, 15:08 - BTF:
Hey, we love Matt Everett on BBC 6 Music and wasn’t he in Meanswe@r?! Simple advice to keep it simple – it’s meta and we love it. We couldn’t agree more – simplicity has been the secret sauce behind a few of our successful side projects, like Dog-Ear magazine.
06/06/2018, 15:10 - BTF:
But there’s no time for us to waffle on about that – most importantly, we want to say a huge THANK YOU for taking the time to chat to us. Your work is extremely inspirational and your pearls of wisdom would serve anyone well.
06/06/2018, 15:51 - Kate Price:
Thanks for making me think!!