Just Ideas’ Spring Review 2024

Real Community Engagement and Meaningful Participation

At Just Ideas, we believe in reflecting on our work and sharing our learning to support future action. Our most recent annual review highlighted how we value and promote the practice of looking at what’s worked well, and why, pooling our collective wisdom and developing principles to help us plan into the future.

This year, we’ve committed to reviewing and sharing our progress with you through the year. Here are our reflections on the first few months of 2024, highlighting what we’ve learnt and recognising with gratitude the contributions of everyone involved.

Berkshire Local Nature Recovery Strategy

Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) are a new statutory requirement, funded by DEFRA. There are 48 strategy areas covering the whole of England, and Just Ideas has been invited by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead to be a delivery partner for Berkshire.

Our role

We have been working with as many different residents and stakeholders from local communities as possible. Our purpose is to find out their views and priorities for nature and make sure their voices are represented in a meaningful way, alongside the contributions of experts. This involves us learning and understanding enough to communicate effectively between these different groups.

We facilitated three workshops with 135 farmers and landowners, to talk about the opportunities their local LNRS brings, which have been brilliantly received. We then hosted six community workshops – for local businesses, residents and community groups.

“Another stimulating workshop last night, well done. Some of the discussions were challenging, but the Just Ideas team did a good job keeping it on track.”
LNRS community workshop participant

The information gathered is being combined with scientific expertise on local species, habitats and ecosystems. Priority habitats and species will be fed into a systematic conservation planning tool, to generate guidance on the best way to achieve recovery targets.

Our team

We’re working with a small team: two with specific expertise around nature, environment and climate, and all with really good local networks in and around Berkshire.

“Just Ideas have been a fantastic support for us. Drafting and leading excellent workshops, putting inclusivity at the forefront and always going the extra mile under tight deadlines. Plus, they are really fun to work alongside during the project.”
Rosie Street, Berkshire LNRS Manager, Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead

Our associate, Natalie, has produced a set of beautiful illustrations of some of Berkshire’s habitats and species, capturing the workshops. Our aim was to bring a wealth of complex information to people in a meaningful way, encourage them to engage with it and get a wide diversity of people participating.

Covid-19 Inquiry Listening Exercise

This year, we contributed to the module of the listening exercise on people’s experiences around vaccines, working in partnership with WSA Community. We also designed and delivered an extra piece of work focusing on the perspectives of people experiencing health inequalities.

We did some intensive work in Cornwall, listening to people with complex health and mental health needs and people who are rurally isolated. We spoke with some inspirational young mums who had babies during the pandemic, about their experiences of pregnancy and childbirth. Often, they were extremely vulnerable, living remotely, not in secure housing or in extremely overcrowded housing.

Through the valued networks that we’ve established over the years, and our Just Ideas Collaborative, we’ve been able to reach out to people whose voices wouldn’t usually be heard – communities in areas experiencing structural exclusion or multiple deprivation. We’re really proud to have been able to offer a breadth and depth of reach in our community engagement that goes beyond traditional expectations.

Looking ahead

We’ll be piloting a module on people’s experiences of accessing and using PPE. Again, we’re reaching out to community settings and putting a lot of thought into how we’ll get a real breadth of diversity of experience.

Local Trust and Big Local

Community Leadership Academy

We’re in the final stage of our work on Local Trust’s Community Leadership Academy in partnership with IVAR. Our role involves understanding the longer-term impact in communities of this innovative programme, and bringing together people involved with supporting community leadership at different levels, to explore the future for community leadership support.

It’s been really inspiring to hear about the powerful experiences people have had. We’ve heard people talking about changes they were able to make in their communities and in their lives. We’ve heard how they value their experience in a range of community roles: advocating, becoming involved in local democracy, and reaching new people through their Big Local or community groups.

Big Local Area Profiles

This year, we’ve worked with Local Trust to research and write profiles of five more Big Local areas for the ‘Learning from Big Local’ website. This website will summarise what Big Local groups achieved, how they worked together, innovative ways they prioritised funding, and what they learned from the experience.

So far, highlights have included hearing about the positive impact of improving the physical environment. For example, creating peaceful mosaics, using path areas more thoughtfully, encouraging people to get outside, and improving access, mental health and community connection.

One local area managed to develop the community centre on a local estate, reaching young people through DJing sessions and events that engaged hundreds of people from the local community. As a result, they’ve been able to raise funds for local groups and see positive changes happen.

Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR)

We ran some bespoke sessions in March for IVAR’s Propel Initiative, which funds charities and community groups in London. The aim is to help them think more strategically about changing systems that aren’t working. Richard continues to deliver these training sessions, focused on evaluation and learning, covering theory of change and participatory approaches.

Just Ideas Collaborative

We had a great gathering of our Just Ideas Collaborative in March, bringing our team together and introducing our newest associates. In a two-hour, online workshop, we updated everyone on our current priorities and gave feedback on some of the projects they’ve been involved in.

We looked at our five main areas work: facilitation, community engagement, organisational development, learning evaluation and research. We shared ideas for how we could develop our offering in these areas – what we thought were the building blocks of each, and the core competencies we needed to deliver them. Our associate, Simon, is taking this work forward, thinking about how we can develop packages to offer to our clients.

Our Just Ideas Collaborative is made up of people with links to a wide variety of different communities. The diversity of our team, in terms of ethnicity, age, gender, geography and neurodiversity, gives us a real advantage when it comes to community engagement, because we’re able to reach and engage with so many different communities of people.

Reflecting on our strengths

Throughout our work so far this year, and in the years leading up to it, we notice three really important elements that run through what we do and support our success:

  1. Our commitment to real community engagement and meaningful participation
  2. The diversity of our team, thanks to our Just Ideas Collaborative
  3. Our ability to reach and engage with so many local, community-based groups.

Work with us

If you’d like to find out more about working together, talk about partnering with us, or just sign up to keep in touch and hear our news, please do contact us here. We’d love to hear from you.

We look forward to updating you on our progress again, later this year!


Richard, Helen, Mary and the Just Ideas Collaborative