Uncategorized

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

Another community engagement story: the bus-stop

This is a true story which illustrates what we were talking about in our last post.

Householders on a residential street were in conflict over the placement of a new bus stop and shelter. The rumour going around was that the original proposal ‘to locate the stop and shelter in front of number 46’ had been opposed by the householder at 46 and so it had been moved to a site outside number 72.

The residents at number 72 opposed this ‘new proposal’ vehemently and were joined in their opposition by neighbours on either side and for some distance up and down the street. Conflict arose between the resident at number 46 and a large number of householders in opposition to the revised plans. This conflict persisted for some time .. until it suddenly stopped. The deciding factor was a facilitated meeting of residents, with support for number 46 to attend. Discussions ensued and it transpired that number 46 had ‘good reason’ to oppose the original location for the bus stop and shelter – they had already applied to have a disabled parking bay in front of their property and were awaiting the results of their application; all they had done was bring this to the attention of the Transport Officer and left it at that – there had been no petitioning, no lobbying, no active opposition.

As it was, the residents discussed various options and concluded that the proposed position, outside number 72 was indeed the most appropriate. The residents of number 72 were in agreement and could see some other advantages of this position. The plans proceeded unopposed! Residents on the street recognised that they had jumped to some conclusions and felt the benefits of the discussion and joint decision-making.

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Monday, November 4th, 2013 Uncategorized

A Community Engagement Story – sixteen houses

While we were in the midst of delivering a series of one-day community engagement courses for The Wildlife Trust some years ago, we suddenly realised that we couldn’t train on ‘community engagement’ without putting a real practical emphasis on the ‘community’ bit – and getting to grips with what that means in different contexts.

One of our participants was asking why she repeatedly struggled to engage local residents in a green space project. She had gone door to door and asked people about their level of interest and received a generally positive response, but nobody ever turned up to take part in arranged activities. This account prompted the following story, to try to explain what was happening:

“As a neighbourhood example – imagine a street of 16 houses. You want to gain an understanding of the issues and ideas for improvements from the local ‘community’. If you knock on all 16 doors you may get a general idea of common dissatisfaction around street lighting or rubbish collection but if you dig deeper you are likely to get up to 16 different responses about bigger issues and frustratingly conflicting suggestions for ways forward.

In this example, there is little or no existing ‘community’ – imagine if you brought the 16 households together to discuss their ideas and suggestions – provided a forum for them to work together to agree the major issues and the most promising way forward – with knowledge about how your agency could support the work … you will get much more coherent, ‘sophisticated’ and workable information and a relationship will have started to develop. There is also much more onus on you to be very clear about why you want to engage with this neighbourhood in the first place and recognition of the skills required to do so.

Crucially, community engagement is about ‘communities’ – not about individuals. One assumption is that communities already exist and are just waiting to be approached and ‘engaged’ but just because a statutory agency may identify a particular community or neighbourhood – doesn’t mean that the people identifying as that community, or living in a particular area, have any collective understanding of the issues you want to prioritise or the primary needs of their area”.

 

If you are interested in the challenge of illustrating the value for money of community engagement then you could check out our webpage on community engagement

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Monday, November 4th, 2013 Uncategorized

Making assertiveness work for you – an opportunity for women

Short sessions in Shrewsbury: 10am – 1pm on 23rd October, 6th November  and 20th November  2013

This set of 3 sessions will include:

  • making space for yourself
  • saying no when you want to
  • managing difficult situations
  • hearing things that are hard to hear
  • telling people things that are hard to say

There are 6 places available at £90 each. Participants will need to come to all three mornings

Please contact hello@changesuk.net to book

 

This is the first of changes’ mini-morsels – a series of short sessions, an informal, nice experience with a cup of tea and a biscuit!

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013 Uncategorized

Inspiring Democracy

We have spent the first part of 2012 immersed in this work, contracted by Locality and funded by DCLG. The eventual output will be some form of guidance for local Councillors to help them navigate the changing policy landscape – focusing on localism and community engagement. We have linked up with colleagues in 7 different areas: Bradford, Dudley, Lancashire, Shropshire, Solihull, Wiltshire, Wolverhampton – undertaking interviews and facilitating focus groups to get a handle on the opportunities and challenges of localism from the perspective of Elected Members and their relationships with the voluntary & community sector.

We have been talking to Elected Members, individuals active in their communities, community groups, voluntary sector organisations and Council officers.

Emerging themes may not be that surprising, as they group under considerations of: Elected Member roles, actually ‘doing’ localism, structures and processes, skills & awareness and communications. The content is fascinating – and complex – and we are busy with our research analysis. Next step will be to pull together a draft guide, try that out with colleagues and research participants and then brush it up for final submission in May.

We have been over-whelmed by the active support of our leads in each of the 7 areas and the level of interest generated by this work. There is clearly growing awareness that many Elected Members will need support to embrace a role involving community group development and support, with all that we know that entails.

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An expanding series

The ‘axis of influence series’ is becoming just that now as we have 4 frameworks sitting under that heading: Voice, echo, DUO and Dynamo. We have also set up a new domain to make it easier to point directly to them so, if you are wanting to tell people about them just signpost them to www.axisofinfluence.co.uk !

Monday, August 8th, 2011 Uncategorized

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