Helen Osman on Winchmore Hill Residents Association’s relaunch
Winchmore Hill Residents Association (WHRA), founded 60 years ago, has recently been relaunched with a new committee keen to rebuild the organisation.
Why bother? Surely online forums and social media have taken over their role? I would argue that residents’ associations are as vital now as they have ever been.
In this fractious political climate, residents’ associations can speak out for their local communities because they represent the quiet majority, not just a vociferous online minority, however good their intentions might be. If you have a browse around the websites of residents’ associations all over the country and beyond they will state that they want to “develop a good community spirit”, “lobby on issues and concerns of people living in our area” and “help residents get to know each other” as well as other worthy aims.
Surely these objectives are as valid now as when these community groups were first set up, often decades ago? While the internet and all its various communication channels are great for helping to spread the word, it doesn’t replace the immense value of bringing people together in person, who can use their collective local knowledge, concern for their community and willingness to work collectively, to give local residents a voice.
What’s more, the internet can be utilised to make residents associations even more effective; to alert people to what’s going on in their local patch and bring people together. For example, residents can be encouraged to set up neighbourhood WhatsApp groups to spread the word about the bad stuff, such as security alerts, but maybe also get people together for social activities and campaigns.
Any successful community group needs a core of committed and enthusiastic people to take the lead. In the case of residents’ associations they are often the people ‘in the know’ – who understand what is great about where they live; what needs fixing; and who know lots of local people.
But no residents’ association can be truly successful if it isn’t inclusive and doesn’t try to encourage as many people as possible to join. They tend to be made up of people who are retired, who no longer have to care for children, and have the time to devote to their local community. This is still true, but is also changing.
Many of the people who are volunteering to support the relaunched Winchmore Hill Residents Association are younger, with busy lives and families to care for, but understand the importance of giving a little time to work with neighbours and other local residents to protect their community now and for future generations.
The old adage – ‘power to the people’ – still holds true.
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