Archive for May, 2011

A model of change

For many years – and involving many people –we have been working on ‘a model of change’, a way to understand HOW change happens in the world around us.

Einstein pointed out that ‘If you do what you’ve always done, you will get what you have always got’– so,

  • if the local community centre only meets the needs of half a dozen people, if everything stays the same it will continue to meet the needs of those half a dozen people and nobody else
  • if there is litter in the park and no action is taken to change it – there will still be litter in the park

And we all want different things to change – there are different things that bug us – or indeed inspire us.
This ‘model of change’ is our way of showing how we can get from a load of individuals who each have their own separate ideas, needs and interests and angsts – to a society where services and facilities are provided that meet the needs of the population as a whole. We call it a ‘whole area approach’.

If I go down a street of 16 houses, knock on each door and ask the householder what needs to change in their area to make it a better place to live, I will get 16 different answers, depending on their own circumstances:
• those with children may say something about better schools, play areas, youth clubs;
• other people may say their priorities are around faster internet access, or public transport to town, more allotments, a credit union, a community centre, local shops
The list is pretty endless but the point is that each household will have their own priorities based on their own circumstances and the things that they personally value (they will possibly all say something about dog mess!).

I can’t do much with 16 conflicting sets of priorities and will begin to wish I had never asked

Now – think again. Instead of going door to door, I bring all those 16 households together and FACILITATE a discussion – so, in an orderly way people express their priorities and consider the priorities of other people. Does house number 4 really mind about their play area when there is one round the corner? They may well reconsider this when they find out that House number 6 has prioritised drop kerbs because their son is a wheelchair user and struggles to navigate the streets.
In this scenario, we have started to consider other people’s needs in relation to our own – and in fact those drop kerbs will help lots of us: people with pushchairs, people with shopping trolleys, all of us with wheelie bins …

By bringing people together we can identify a much more informed and ‘sophisticated’ list of priorities (because, let’s face it – there is only so much money and resources to go round). There is a joint vision and people feel ownership of the idea and so are likely to put more effort in to taking it forward and making it happen.
Of course, it is not just the local people who need to be involved – if we are talking about drop kerbs then we need people from the Council – from Highways, perhaps from Parks Dept if we are going to be considering those options as well; perhaps local traders need to be involved
There are a whole range of ‘players’

Our ‘model of change’ recognises the connections between different parties and that actions taken by individuals have an effect on others. It also makes us think about WHO is getting involved and who isn’t – so we can guard against the loudest voices and make sure we don’t overlook the people and issues which tend to be forgotten – or ignored
So, there are connections between what I do, what you do, what my neighbour does, what the Council does – how we talk to each other (or not) – and there are connections with all of these and what voluntary sector organisations do – what community groups do – and how we all work together

Another example
Age Concern (now Age UK) runs a Hot Meals service which – everyone agrees – is an essential service for older people living in the area. The Council has stated that, despite the cuts, this is a service they want to protect and so they will continue to fund it.

Age Concern has its own mini-buses which they use for the Hot Meals Service and another local Voluntary Organisation has paid drivers who deliver it – the service runs like clockwork
However – the Council has cut funding to the other local Voluntary Organisation who have had to make redundancies – now there is no one to drive the mini-buses which deliver the Hot Meals Service.

Who needed to talk to whom?

So – where has all this got us?

What we have is:

a load of individuals – who need to know how to talk to each other, how to consider each other, who want things to change and who believe that they can play a role in that change – stick their own necks out – some of them, not all of them

Then we have voluntary sector organisations – and community groups – who need to know how to talk to each other and how to talk to their own staff and volunteers, who understand that when they take some action that things change for other people, they need to represent people properly, know who their members are and think about who is left out and the implications of that

Then we have the Council (or it might be the health trust, the police, the local traders association …. any ‘BODY’ which makes decisions) – who need to know what is going on, who needs what, how that will impact on others, how to communicate with their own staff and how staff communicate with each other, that staff can take decisions and respond to needs, they need to know what other people are doing and where their bit fits in

3 different sets of people – who connect with each other:
Individuals are  ‘variably active’ – some are ‘good citizens’ – do recycling, vote, are neighbourly; others get involved on various committees, on a community forum or as school governors or setting things up locally

Community groups and voluntary sector organisations are in various states of organisation – some are better than others at welcoming members or at talking to the Council or other agencies

Some ‘agencies’ are better at listening to communities (and/or individuals) than others

AND – we are all a bit muddled up – so that the people who work in agencies are also individuals – and they live in communities and take part in different activities

ALL of this is going on so we need some sort of ‘model of change’ that makes sense of it, recognises the relationships between these parties and helps us to do something about it – so that something changes!!!

Dynamo – resistence or capacitor

We are having a fascinating time at the moment, having teamed up with colleagues from a City Council, a CVS and other private sector folk – to develop the Dynamo framework which is a tool to help individuals become more influential within their own organisation.

All members of the group are working without fees in a fantastic bit of collaboration which is both innovative and inspiring. The dynamo framework has been through its first pilot phase – with thanks to Wolverhampton City Council, South-West Forum and Community Development Exchange members in the West Midlands – and is currently being adapted and amended in response to feedback. It is due to go through second pilots in July.

The idea is to take a long hard look at the reality of what is getting in the way of you being influential – starting with the barriers that your organisation puts in the way. These might be about culture, priorities, management style, allegiances or finances. You then use a series of questions to consider what you can do to improve on this, work with it, go around it and generally push your case.

Dynamo looks like it will be useful to a whole range of audiences and will be flexible enough to apply in different ways – from self-assessment through to facilitated groups. We are playing around with presentational ideas at the moment and will have more news soon.

Thursday, May 5th, 2011 Uncategorized