An Ideas Farm in Ottery St Mary

[not finalised yet, but this sort of text, which we can test with Ottery TC…]

As part of Devon’s Delivering Differently work, Ottery St Mary Town Council hosted a community workshop using the Ideas Farm approach, in their case titled ‘Ottery Connects’.

The event was promoted through the local press, social media, and direct email contact with known community and voluntary sector groups across the area. In the run up to the event, town councillors attended local events to start gathering people’s top-of-mind ideas for how they would like to make life better in the parish. The post-it note comments that people made were grouped into categories and, along with other feedback received by email, provided the basis for the headline topics that were presented to workshop participants.

The workshop was held on a Saturday morning to maximise the number of people able to attend, and at a well-known venue in the centre of the town. Sixty to seventy people came alongfor the 10am start, when the mayor welcomed everyone and an independent facilitator explained how the workshop would run. Participants had initial conversations at their tables about things they thought counted as strengths for the town, and things they were concerned about. This session was important for allowing people to talk about issues that mattered to them, along with sharing positive views about Ottery. The key points from these initial discussions were captured, and the feedback from the town councillors’ ‘market stall’ information gathering was also shared.

This generated a set of topics which people were then invited to form conversation groups around. Groups came together around the following topics:

  • Creating a shared space for services, events and activities
  • Ottery Community Hospital
  • Improving the Skate Park
  • Addressing parking and highways issues

Lively discussions took shape over the course of the next hour, with town councillors involved in all of them at some stage, along with a district and county councillor. After an hour, the groups fed back their main points along with suggestions for what they could do next. Most people who attended left their contact details, forming the basis of a database of contacts for the town council to keep in touch with. People were also encouraged to keep in touch with each other to shape up their ideas further. Some of those who took part in the discussion about creating a new community space have since become involved in work to build a business case around that project, in conjunction with members of the town council.

[Quotes from town councillors and participants, plus images, should be added]