Brixham Youth Enquiry Service

A Neighbourhood Challenge Project

What’s happened since our last blog – lessons and challenges all rolled into one!

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The end of our social prize challenge

With the challenge officially ended, we saw a marked change in the ‘mood’ about the place during March; this was a month of roller coaster emotions – for us all.

A mix of excitement for some and massive disappointment for others. It became clear that some projects believed they would be sure-fire winners. Not to be. In part, there was an undercurrent of discontent. To be expected, I suppose, but we hadn’t really planned for this; hadn’t anticipated the impact of 20 disappointed projects and all their volunteers.

Managing this disappointment was quite a task. It took time, care, lots of listening and finding ways to revitalise people’s flagging spirits. This at a time when we were organising the Brix Awards celebration event and preparing for our final ICARUS reflection workshop.

It was as if a divide had been created between the prize winners and those unsuccessful. A tumbleweed moment; leading us to wonder whether the prize challenge approach is really the best way of galvanising, and sustaining social motivation, in a close knit community? I think the jury’s still out on this one.

At one point I feared that we were in danger of losing all of the good that had been achieved; the anticipation, comraderie, healthy feeling of competition and excitement of the 6 month challenge period.

It was a big challenge to keep the energy high for Richard’s workshop at the end of March.

The Edge went very quiet. Many of our ‘regulars’ didn’t drop by. It was eerie. And not nice!  Over time, the feeling changed. People who hadn’t won one of the cash awards moved on from their disappointment. The prize winners began to plan how to move forward.  We were able to connect some projects to work together in similar areas.

And now?

For us, at YES, the big question was – ‘how would we continue to support the projects moving forward?’  With our charity facing a time of transition and restructuring, our resources are already stretched to breaking point.  The pace of the NESTA ‘social experiment’ had been so very fast that it’s leaving quite a swirl in its wake. A swirl of people, projects, hopes, dreams, possibilities; some confusion.  How to gather them all back in and harness that possibility?  Without resources – continued community building time, mainly, this is becoming increasingly difficult.  And quite sad, really.  Many of us at The Edge are increasing our voluntary work on the project in order to keep the doors open, be here for our community; show that we care. 

This continuing need for high levels of volunteering is proving a stretch. Is this the reality of the Big Sociey?  It’s most certainly one side of the equation.

We see a real, ongoing need for project mentoring and support. Without this nourishment many of these fledgling enterprises will fade away.  This will be a loss to our community, those involved, the potential for the future. 

This is the real learning from the Neighbourhood Challenge. We can model an approach to bringing people together, supporting them to make their ideas a reality, addressing local issues about which they feel passionate, sharing wonderful community celebrations; whilst we have the security of some basic funding.  And then – what? Sustainability is absolutely crucial.  We’re not talking masses of money. Maybe just one post. £30k per year, including on costs, to have a full time community builder (or part time equivalents) to work within the community; plus some funds for volunteer expenses. This would provide a  touchstone as people grow their ideas, grow their potential, become all they can; through connection. 

Without this connecting, people – and their potential – will remain adrift.

We learnt from the projects during the challenge that the prize money wasn’t a main driver.  Yes, at the end, when in sharp focus, it became a target to aim for. However, during the challenge, the money was far less important.  What mattered was being supported to ‘have a go’. Trusted to devise and deliver a project. A listening ear to help develop possibilities.

Journey to The Edge

We wanted to capture the immense impact of the Neighbourhood Challenge on YES, on The Edge, in Brixham.  I met Len Grant at the Forever Manchester ABCD  conference in November.  I just loved his work.

Len is a freelance photographer and writer based in Manchester. For more than 20 years he has followed the urban regeneration of Manchester and Salford producing numerous exhibitions, books, magazines and websites. His projects are often about the way physical change affects people’s lives.

In more recent work about social exclusion Len has followed the stories of an asylum seeker, heroin user and homeless alcoholic. He has produced a book about a youth mentoring project and is currently compiling a blog about a 17-year-old new mum from Moss Side bringing up her daughter in supported accommodation.

 Len came and spent a week with us in Brixham. He ‘interviewed’ about 16 people/groups of people, worked alongside a young, local woman, who has a photography project. Len immersed himself in our way for the week.  He tells our stories, each week at

 For Len it’s more about the journey than the destination which is why we knew he was the right person to capture our journey; for posterity.

We plan to make a book of our tales!


A really exhilarating evening when young people’s contributions in the community are showcased. With over 200 local people of all ages coming along, the evening was a chance to award the challenge prize winners and offer specific recognition for the 7 young entrepreneurs identified for the their exceptional progress during the challenge period.

This year’s theme was ‘posh’ and everyone certainly rose to the occasion.  A great evening. A lively celebration of a fantastic year.

Neighbourhood Challenge Celebration and Reflection

With 30 people coming along, the afternoon was a really wonderful way to remember what we’ve been through. A chance to really think about what worked and how.  A very positive event – and quite an emotional one in many ways.

In spite of the lows we experienced in early March, the impact that the Neighbourhood Challenge has had on Brixham is very, very positive.  A shot in the arm.  It’s given us inspiration and courage to move forward with optimism, building on what has been achieved over the past 18 months.


Written by andrewbxyes

May 10, 2012 at 9:20 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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