And a phoenix ….

We have been quiet for a long time – heads down as we experience the challenge to community engagement in the face of austerity. Perhaps it wasn’t the first target for cuts but it didn’t take long for Local Authority resources to be pulled out of supporting communities to flourish. ‘Short-sited’ we thought and we knew a time would come when this would change – it could be 10 years, who knows.

We are just beginning to get the first smell of change – something in the air to suggest that the tide is turning, so we thought we’d make a note here to keep track. Cautious optimism ….

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Monday, September 5th, 2016 Community engagement

Women, leadership and power – IACD 2014

International Association for Community Development Conference – Glasgow 2014: Community Is The Answer
Report from a workshop – Women, leadership and power; Equalities, social justice and community development

 

This WomenLC6workshop, facilitated by changes/Working for Change hoped to develop some of the themes that emerged from changes’ workshop at the prior Lisbon conference, where the focus was on women and transformational leadership[1]. At the Glasgow conference, we sought to create a vibrant space to encourage challenging and insightful conversations around women, leadership and power.  We planned for group discussion, versus lecture, and ambitiously sought to address these complex questions and ideas in our brief 90 minute session.  To facilitate group discussion, we split participants into groups using fruit – pomegranates, pineapples, and grapes.

changes were pleased to support the attendance of six women at the conference from the cohort of women from the African Diaspora they were working with at the time around leadership.[2] We were excited for opportunities to have discussions around power, leadership and change; benefitting women looking to develop their leadership confidence and become more active in community, public or global life. This seemed assured, as the discussions in the leadership programme were directly related to the theme for day two of conference – harnessing the wealth of communities.  This theme complimented our collaborative efforts with our Diaspora leadership programme, offering opportunities to share experiences in the journeys and challenges faced around leadership for self, family, community and wider society.  Traditionally,  the assumed identity of a ‘leader’ is male, therefore, there are important discussions around gender and power that must accompany a process of women recognizing themselves, and being recognized as leaders (hence the term “transformative” in our session).  Freeing up the wealth that women offer their communities requires these complex discussions of gender, power, and leadership, and we focused on these ideas during our session.

A participant in the session, Lucy Mayes of Heart Works Australia, wrote a blog entry about the workshop for the September edition of the Australian Journal of Community Development.

More pointedly, we were interested in how Lucy described the discussions in the session, and the way she highlighted the visions participants had vis-à-vis the potential contributions the increased involvement of women could bring to community development:

So what, in the opinion of the pomegranates, would it look like in a world where women aren’t valued, equal and valuing themselves? It didn’t, as you would know, take too much imagination (please note, these lists came out of a five minute brainstorm with a small group of people and are only scratching the surface of where these excellent questions might take us). There would, we decided, be: breakdown of family units; family violence; stagnant development; loss of skills to society; compromised mental health, spiritual health, general health and children’s health; lack of representation and democratic c deficit; and disempowered communities. One comedian added that nothing at all would happen.

And if we (women) were more involved in creating the wealth, what might that look like? We decided there would be: more checks and balances in the system; more focus on social justice, social services, human rights and environmental protection; families and communities would be healthier physically, emotionally and spiritually; there would be more diverse economies and increased family income; balanced leadership and increased collaborative decision making; women and children would be safer; compassion and sensitivity would be given higher value; we would enjoy a more holistic world; there would be better emotional health for both men and women; and there would be a better balance between the domestic economy and the wealth economy.

Lucy speaks to the negative ways our gendered binary plays out in community development.  When one gender is pushed to an extreme, limited in how it may be expressed, the other side of that binary system is equally limited: the more women’s gendered expectations (beauty, servitude, passive behaviour) are narrowed, the more men’s oppositional gendered expectations (masculine appearance, dominance, active leadership) are narrowed as well.  In terms of leadership, the more men are pushed into the limelight as leaders, and their gendered traits valued as conditions of leadership, the more women are pushed out, and devalued when they adopt leadership behaviours.WomenLC5
It is in these ways that gender is shaped by our daily interactions, creating the context for how women, girls, men, and boys live their lives.  Strict gendered expectations limit the expressions for everyone.  Women may be left out of leadership decision-making, their needs unacknowledged.  Men who do not adopt masculine behaviour, or who show more passive traits may be limited in their communities as well.  Cultural assumptions of who is a leader, and whose voices are important to be considered, are formed with notions of gender normative behaviour.

Normative behaviour extends into issues of sexuality, race, class, and nationality.  The concept of “intersectionality” describes the dynamic that individuals may experience multiple differences that define them in cultural or social categories that are non-normative, or out of step with the most valued traits.  This could include people of colour in a society dominated by white leaders, or being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transsexual in a world defined by hetero-normativity (the assumption that all people couple with only differently sexed partners).  Minority religious practices may also be a contributor to issues of intersectionality, as a factor for exclusion, repression, or marginalization in economy, society, or community life.  As practitioners and academics in community development, the heart of our work is to recognize those differences and work toward equality, as our field understands that societies are enriched by our differences.  This is the backbone of social justice.

Developing leaders, then, becomes a process of social change – addressing social roles, conducting social activities. Leadership is not something you do by yourself – it is essentially social and interpersonal.  Creating leaders means working with people to identify their differences, honour their experiences, and teach self-awareness that allows for growth beyond social norms and expectations.  Enacting leadership within communities is a process of challenging individual view of the self, challenging other’s views, as well as challenging social views of what defines a leader. These are all foundational to creating a context for change.

Along those lines, workshop participants identified that we need the following conditions to facilitate women’s leadership development (click on photo to enlarge).

Women_LC1

To create the conditions needed to harness the potential wealth women bring to communities and society, there is a need for individual, community and institutional responses; we have to question how we think, what we think and what we do. We all have roles to play where we can start to do things differently; in our families, community organisations and in wider institutions.

We are eager to continue these conversations by asking, how can we:

  • Engage men and women in these conversations
  • Challenge media representation of women
  • Look for alternative positive role models of active influential women
  • Encourage collaboration between men and women
  • Question structures that favour a ‘male style’ of working
  • Explore solutions and conversational styles together
  • Offer childcare and avoid token women at the table

Further, we are looking to how we can have these conversations and push these important and critical issues of gender and difference using community development processes.

[1] We aim to increase the pool of women who make a pivotal difference; women who influence change as well as inspire and support others to find their ‘leader within’. http://www.iacdglobal.org/publications-and-resources/conference-reports/lisbon-papers

[2] Funded through Common Ground Initiative https://www.gov.uk/international-development-funding/common-ground-initiative-cgi

 

Note on contributors

Co-authorship of this piece by:

Jill Bedford, Director changesuk

Holly Scheib, PhD MPH MSW, Director, Sage Consulting, USA

…with timely contribution from Lucy Mayes, Heart Works, Australia

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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

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