Over a hundred people from across the voluntary, community and public sectors joined together with the members of the public and business community for the Annual Thurrock Voluntary Sector Conference last week (Wednesday 23 January).

Led by Kristina Jackson, Chief Executive Officer at Thurrock CVS, 120 people turned up at the Stifford Hall Hotel to hear how the 5-year Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) plan has made a difference in the local area.

ABCD helps to target community-driven change based on what is strong – rather than what is wrong and was adopted the Thurrock's dedicated community engagement group – Stronger Together five years ago.

Kristina spoke passionately at the event of some of the successes Thurrock has seen: which can be found on the www.strongertogether.org website.

Kristina Jackson said: "Too often, organisations decide for the community what they think is best. ABCD is the exact opposite. It turns it on its head – putting people front and centre of decision making and creates opportunity for their say to have a tangible difference. It gives a platform to voices who might otherwise go unheard.

"Thurrock CVS is proud to continue working alongside Stronger Together partnership which brings together all sectors who are promoting this way of working and our conference is a public recommitment to continue ourselves to practice these principles.

Cormac Russell, European Director of ABCD Institute, Managing Director of Nurture Development and returning keynote speaker said: "Thurrock holds a special place in my heart, because of what they have achieved. More and more citizens are actively joining together to co-create better communities and practitioners across a wide array organisations and are adopting more bottom-up enabling approaches.

"The ethos that is becoming embedded in Thurrock is one where the belief is that the primary inventors of a strong and inclusive democracy are the citizens, and the role of the Third sector and the Public sector is to support their innovation in every way possible.

"That is what I see happening in all sorts of practical ways in Thurrock, it stands out for me as an example of what's possible, in our ever more polarized world when we start with a strong belief in community assets. I salute their efforts and am excited to see what the next five years will bring."

View notes from Cormac Russell's full speech here.

Also speaking at the conference was Lyn Carpenter, Chief Executive of Thurrock Council who responded to what she had heard during the morning “The Stronger Together partnership continues to develop and evolve by refocusing on what the community and individual citizens both need and want, rather than organisations delivering what we think is required.  We are all committed to working differently and are making good progress but there is still much to do.  Thurrock council will continue to embrace Stronger Together, will listen and will change to make sure we are playing the most effective part we can in supporting our residents.”

Work clearly isn't finished, Kristina Jackson closed the event by talking about the first annual Giving for Thurrock Day planned on 29 March, for more information on the day visit: thurrockcvs.org/giving-for-thurrock