Project gains Exemplar status



LUVU Volunteers using the PC Recycler computer suite during the CommIT project.
CommIT project details

RENEW ceased trading in 2008. The wording below regarding exemplar status was kindly supplied by
Northwest Regional Development Agency as author of the RCE document (ELP 2007 FINAL.pdf).
Documents available here:-
www.placesmatter.co.uk/resources/renew

The renew site archived in 2007 by web archive.org
Renew

CommIT –
the Community ICT Solutions project run by Lancaster University Volunteering Unit – is
another example of daring to reach beyond the obvious. Again, this initiative
came from an organisation that is not part of the usual matrix of sustainable
communities professions and was under no statutory or contractual
obligation to devote the time and effort needed to make the idea work.

The idea behind CommIT is that students at Lancaster University
use their computer skills to help community groups. This has involved
assessing the needs of voluntary organisations, brokering partnerships
between students and community groups, and working with mental health
service users and young offenders.

Working through Blackpool Councilfor Voluntary Services, the university
teamed up with 20 community organisations to conduct a ‘healthcheck’
of their ICT needs. The scheme works because there
is a bedrock of mutual benefit. The student volunteers learn about working
with communities and applying their knowledge in practical contexts,
which makes them more employable; community groups and their users
learn how to use technology and apply it to their needs, and reach a stage
where they can take part in formal accredited learning.



Key points from the Exemplar Learning Programme 2007

Build on evidence but be ready to reinvent:
the most successful projects learn from what has gone before, but are sensitive to context.
Knowledge and expertise must be adapted to meet the unique challenges of places and people.

We learn by listening:
the programme highlighted the importance of thorough preparation, listening to those who have been
involved in similar projects and to the concerns and aspirations of local people.

We learn by doing:
meeting and overcoming expected and unexpected challenges enables practitioners to learn what works and what doesn’t. Flexibility and pragmatism are vital to success.

We learn by daring:
the most effective projects don’t stick to the obvious. They venture into the unknown and set themselves challenges
that are beyond the call of duty.



We learn by valuing:
overcoming conflicts and building relationships of trust and respect enables partnerships to work effectively.


We learn by reflecting:
evaluation is an essential learning process, especially when used to adjust priorities and practice during a project

We learn by owning:
when participants feel a personal responsibility for a project, it generates an energy and will to succeed that turns
obstacles into opportunities.

Sharing the learning is important:
while some projects put systems in place at an early stage to share what has been learned, others appear to
approach this as an afterthought. Learning may be lost unless specific provision is made.

The Egan principles need an underpinning ethos:
the most effective and convincing projects don’t just supply the elements of a sustainable community.
They reveal an ethos that marries energy and values to vital professional skills. A successful project is more than just a job.