Archive for 2014

Voice is back in our midst

Following our last blog post we have facilitated the Away Day. Perhaps unsurprisingly it worked really well – using Voice (a framework in the Axis of Influence series) to frame the day was fantastic and we had forgotten how enjoyable it is – so very rewarding. its flexible

Voice took about 3 years to develop in full and there was a great deal of agony in its development, as we tried to get it ‘right’. It has all paid off – it is so easy to use and the outcomes are really heart-warming.

So – what difference does it make?

  • For a start off – it is all there – it is all written up with suggested discussion points and suggested/example activities – so all you need to do is pick and choose the bits that are appropriate for the event you are facilitating. We always reckon it takes about the same amount of time to plan a facilitated session as it does to deliver this so having the Voice Resource pack at hand more than halved that time to plan.
  • Secondly it gave a real coherence to the programme, forcing a focus on developing the group to influence – everything they do is about influence and it is so easy to get caught up in the distinct parts e.g. developing a communication strategy or developing a promotions strategy. Using the Steps in Voice these tasks happen but there is a subtle difference in the way we look at it – the starting point. For example – we wanted to start talking about how we would go about developing a promotional strategy. The temptation here is to start thinking about the different methods of promotion: magazines, websites, social media, leaflets, radio etc etc. Voice took us a different route – Step 9 ‘Know How to influence’ suggests that we look at the different ways in which influence happens – more subtly – through:

1.Whispering – in the ears of influential people – private discussions which represent issues,
opinion and priorities through a more influential other.
2. Shouting – which could be about passion, bullying or frustration. It is not usually viewed as
an effective form of influence but it can reap rewards
3. Negotiating – this is about sitting around the right ‘table’ (where relevant discussions are
happening and decisions being made) at the right time, having all the information, skills and
organisation you need in order to be an equal.
4. Taking action – encouraging members to play active roles which are related to and which
highlight the issues.
5. Being part of a bigger network – joining with others, for example Neighbourhood Watch
benefits from an even wider network – it is part of national neighbourhood watch and
receives support, information and greater strength in numbers.
6. Shaming – drawing attention to poor decision making or embarrassing those who are not
listening or taking account of people’s views
Extract from Voice Resource Pack Part 2 – in the Axis of Influence series, changes 2009

Internal externalFrom this point, we could start to think about examples in the room and start discussing which are most appropriate for the group – and when – and why. From this point it becomes pretty apparent which methods might be most effective with different audiences. It was a challenging and very enjoyable way to do it!

So – our Voice resources are dusted off and sitting in the middle of the changes office once more. Needless to say this has spurred us on and they will be back in action this weekend at our residential ‘ Women, leadership & Change’ programme.

We are quite excited to recall that we trained about 1000 people to work with Voice – many have changed jobs, changed sector and been made redundant and the momentum for Voice, along with a huge amount of great work, was lost. Perhaps now is the time to start feeding it in again, to nudge and remind people about this and other fabulous resources designed to challenge the power differential between communities and the state – between the voluntary sector and the state – and between communities and the voluntary sector.

Since our last blog we have gently started reintroducing Voice as a subject for discussion and consideration. This is a continuance of that.

We have always said that people need facilitation skills and proper training to work with Voice – we still believe this. Long ago we made the first part of the Resource Pack available to download for free – have a look

  • Handy Guide – Part 1 of the Voice Resource Pack – this provides the basics of Voice so you can have a go with it. If you want to do more, orResource pack use it in different ways, then we strongly advise that you get in touch with us to discuss how – we have been developing some useful resources.

If you are interested in reading more about Voice then check out these articles:

changes offers a specific course to help local people with facilitation skills who are already working with groups to learn how to work with Voice. We call this ‘Voice facilitator training’ and we are the only providers. The course is complemented by a comprehensive resource pack and networking opportunities.

We also offer training in facilitation skills – get in touch!

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Thursday, November 20th, 2014 Community development, Community influence

So easy to write an Away Day programme!

Yesterday I sat down to write a programme for an Away Day. The group is a local community group focusing on improving the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual & trans people in later life – particularly in the context of health and social care. The aims of the Away Day are for members of the Action Group to get to know each other better, to explore the contacts and connections that people are carrying round in their heads so we can start mapping routes in to the health sectors and to share ideas about how to develop a promotional strategy.

After about 30 mins sitting in front of my laptop with a sketchy plan in front of me I suddenly had a brainwave – and felt a little foolish that I hadvoice resource packvoice resource pack not thought of it before. Of course – the Voice framework in the Axis of Influence series offers a whole load of discussion questions and activities which could look a bit like an Away Day programme. I have to admit to hunting around a bit before I found my own copy of the resource pack – it is a long time since I have made reference to it – when the Government changed and money was pulled out of local authorities and the voluntary sector resulting in huge levels of redundancy, job change, job insecurity – the capacity, interest and investment in community groups being supported to influence nose-dived and my Voice resource pack went into a cupboard.

nature of influenceI realised that the remit for the day is of course all about influence – and that the Voice framework is designed to help groups to develop internally as well as influence externally – perfect – there must be something in the pack that has already been tried and tested, rather than starting from scratch. Putting the programme together was a dream once I realised this and all the activities are there – all I had to do was select what would work best for this group!

So – here we go:

Voice – Step 2 Know Why You Want to Influence

we will start the day looking at what the group has achieved and what the individuals get from being a part of it

we will then look at who makes the decisions that affect the lives of older LGBT people, leading into a look at the health & social care structures in the County.

from this we want to start looking at people!Vertical

Voice – Step 7 Know who to influence

with the context in mind from the first part of the day, we will start drawing a map of what/who each member of the group knows, where personal contacts might lie and who needs to be targeted to build relationships or connections

we bring in the group’s strategic aims at this point to ensure that the people being identified are in the relevant context for what the group wants to achieve and we start looking at what these people may want to hear so the group can be a bit canny about future approaches.

Voice Step 9 Know how to influence

its flexiblethis Step in Voice offers ideas about the questions I can ask the group to help develop ideas for a promotional strategy. It suggests the different ways that influence happens and suggests activities where members of the group share examples of these – from their own experience or something they have heard about. This can then lead into a discussion about the different media that can be used to take messages forward. There is always a tendency for people to focus on this media when discussing promotional strategies – we seem naturally inclined to list media methods: magazines, facebook, leaflets – rather than starting with the most effective technique to adopt – be it whispering messages in the ears of influential people, demonstrating in a crowd, negotiating our way in to sit around an influential table …

Voice reminds us to do this and then to agree the practical and complementary ways in which to carry the words to different audiences.

 

I have forgotten what a joy it is to work with Voice and how much I personally used to get from facilitating sessions – I am reminded how it always does something, it always gets discussions going and is a very rewarding experience so I am looking forward to the Away Day and bringing it all back to life! Oh, and I estimate that, using Voice to plan this session has saved me about 3 hours planning time.

For those of you unfamiliar with Voice and with no access to the resource pack (which comes with a training course), you can work through some of the thinking behind it for FREE with no strings attached by logging into our sister-site online resource: changes Foundations

Of course, a Voice needs an echo to be fully rounded ….. but that’s another story!

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Tuesday, November 11th, 2014 Community development, Uncategorized

An example of ‘Working in Empowering Ways’

Community Empowerment, as described by changes, can be understood by breaking it down into five distinct but inter-related dimensions. They illustrate that an empowered community is:
• confident
• inclusive
• organised
• cooperative
• influential

Each linked dimension can be interpreted as:
• process (working in ways which are empowering) and
• outcomes (empowered individuals, groups, organisations & communities)
The 5 dimensions make ‘community empowerment’ very practical and identifiable; they describe how the values of community development* can be put into action. SAND is a Shropshire-based initiative looking at the issues impacting on older Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans people accessing health & social care services – it has an action group and is taking a community development approach which offers a fantastic example of the changes Community Empowerment Dimensions in action.

SAND stands for Safe Ageing No Discrimination. Below are the 5 Community Empowerment Dimensions, illustrated with stories about SAND practice.

Outcome: Confident communities – This is about putting the community development value around LEARNING into practice: recognising the skills, knowledge and expertise that people contribute and develop by taking action to tackle social, economic, political and environmental problems

To achieve this, we work in ways which increase people’s skills, knowledge and confidence – and instils a belief that they can make a difference
• members of the SAND action group have already changed their beliefs that it is worth trying to change things
• several members who have never campaigned as ‘out’ gay people now do
• SAND members are recognising and utilising their own skills and expertise
    Outcome: Inclusive communities – This is about putting the community development value around
    EQUALITY into practice: challenging the attitudes of individuals and the practices of institutions which discriminate and marginalise people

    To achieve this, we work in ways which recognise that discrimination exists, promote equality of opportunity and good relations between groups, challenging inequality and exclusion
    • SAND is all about challenging health and social care discriminatory practices
    • SAND is being invited to give presentations to providers and professionals e.g. solicitors for the elderly network, local advice and information advocacy forum
    • SAND has created a safe space for people to talk about their own experiences
    Outcome: Organised communities – This is about putting the community development value around PARTICIPATION into practice: facilitating democratic involvement by people in the issues which affect their lives, based on full citizenship, autonomy and shared power, skills, knowledge and experience

    To achieve this, we work in ways which bring people together around common issues and concerns in organisations and groups that are open, democratic and accountable
    • SAND is an open and transparent group and aims to build slowly, developing a structure that works for SAND, rather than imposing a ready-made structure
    • SAND values the experiences of all members of the group and is building a sense of real community and solidarity
    • An action plan was developed via facilitated discussions

    Outcome: Co-operative communities – This is about putting the community development value around

    CO-OPERATION into practice: working together to identify and implement action based on mutual respect of diverse cultures and contributions

    To achieve this, we work in ways which build positive relationships across groups, identify common messages, develop and maintain links to national bodies and promote partnership working
    • SAND is building links with other local and national LGBT networks and initiatives
    • SAND is linking with other involved in relevant national research
    Outcome: Influential communities – This is about putting the community development value around SOCIAL JUSTICE into practice: enabling people to claim their human rights, meet their needs and have greater control over the decision making process which affect their lives

    To achieve this, we work in ways which encourage and equip communities to take part and influence decisions, services and activities
    • SAND is currently undertaking participative research funded via HealthWatch to influence health and social care provision locally
    • SAND intends to influence the debate around LGBT health and social care
    • SAND has high profile named supporters including Sandi Toksvig, Peter Tatchell and Tom Robinson
    SAND is in a unique position to gather information and evidence about what is happening to older LGBT people. The only way we can do this is by taking a community development approach, rather than seeing people as individual consumers of care. SAND is working through LGBT networks and contacts to connect with people and communities who are often hidden and marginalised (for very good reason). The aim is to facilitate safe spaces for people to define the issues that impact on them and develop collective solutions that are meaningful. SAND also wants to build social capital and develop supportive local community based solutions, as well as holding services to account.

    Something to illustate how important this approach is – in the whole of Shropshire out of at least 4000 LGBT older people over the age of 65 – SAND knows of only ONE person in a care home setting……who hasn’t come out to her carers! Where are the rest? Their needs are clearly not being met. For more information go to http://lgbtsand.wordpress.com

    *changes acknowledges that people express the values of community development in different ways. This interpretation is drawn from the Strategic Framework for Community Development, CDX 2000. Others may be found in the National Occupational Standards for Community Development Work.

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Monday, July 14th, 2014 Community empowerment

A Charter for Community Development & Health

changes has been involved in the development of The Charter for Community Development in Health. It is a call to action for CCGs, local authorities and Health and Well-Being Boards to develop, support and commission community development. It is also a call to government and NHS England to create the conditions to make that as easy as possible.

You can read the Charter here: A-CHARTER-FOR-COMMUNITY-DEVELOPMENT-IN-HEALTH(1)

We hope people and agencies will see this Charter as both a challenge and a solution to making it easier to improve equitable access to health for all.

The Charter addresses all those with decision-making power at local and national levels, as well as those with a duty and role to influence those decision-makers – organisations like Healthwatch and Governors of Foundation Trusts. The approach championed by this charter will help them in the delivery of their duties to local people, which includes consultation and engagement more broadly as well as their new duties around the social determinants, quality of life, isolation, reducing obesity, mental health and premature mortality.

The Charter will be launched in London on 9th July – if you’d like to attend contact: rebecca.riffel@salixconsulting.com

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Friday, June 27th, 2014 Community development

Reaping what we sow

The time that we spent last year grappling with the notion of community engagement and ‘value for money’ is standing us in good stead at the moment. We wrote it up and posted it on our website where it was spotted by Sue Groom, Neighbourhood & Community Services Director at Severnside Housing. Sue was drawn to the notion of being able to identify and articulate the value of Severnside’s Neighbourhood and Community work in a way which spoke to different audiences. Consequently we have been working with Sue and her team to develop a framework which, once complete, they will be able to use how they choose. Part of our remit was to create something that was not dependent on outside help for future use and, although it is just at the testing stage, we believe we have achieved just that. More news to follow…

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Monday, April 14th, 2014 Community engagement