INCLUSIVE COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
Issues of isolation, inclusion and community cohesion were brought into sharp relief by the COVID pandemic, and the impact of these factors, particularly for frequently marginalised communities, coupled with the severity of disruption to informal and largely invisible support systems that have developed organically over many years, could not be underestimated.
RENS recognised the urgent need for many groups to be able to reconnect, including small and informal groups that provided support for some of the most vulnerable .
Without positive action, there was also a danger that new and increasingly diverse communities in the town would remain disconnected at a structural level during recovery, limiting potential and opportunity.
From our conversations with a range of organisations and individuals, we believed that there was an urgent need for a community hub for all; a space that could harness synergies between community groups, continue to build on collaborative community action, spark chance encounters, and build enthusiasm for working together. Such connections need to be given the opportunity to grow organically.
In October 2021, RENS launched The CHAT Room as a new, local and freely available space for inclusive community engagement.
Then, in 2022, with the success of the Community Renewal Fund application, RENS was able to develop the idea further by launching The Other Place, with enhanced space and facilities.
Thanks to the grass-roots involvement, participation and support of many groups and individuals, community activities began almost immediately, and The Other Place continues to successfully provide a welcoming hub for community-led action and activity.
Importantly, with its Public Living Room, Cookspace (community kitchen), flexible Meeting Room and the many shared events, The Other Place provides a safe, free and unique space to meet and connect with people from the many diverse communities within and around Weston.