New online resource – ‘pick up and think’ – call it distance learning!

getting startedOver the past couple of years we have been working on a new, interactive resource. The idea was to try to bring together the many hours of thinking and grappling we have done to make something coherent of our work in, with and related to communities. There have been so many valuable conversations with colleagues and we have had the luxury of digging deep to ensure that the understandings which underpin all of our work make sense and add value – huge value. Having done all that it didn’t feel right to keep it to ourselves. Initially the idea was to develop a learning resource – as a pre-runner to our training courses. In the event this has turned into something a bit different, a lighter touch maybe. It is certainly an introduction to thinking about community and should be useful to anyone engaging with communities, in whatever capacity. have a look – tell us what you think. We encourage people to answer the questions where they arise – you can then refer back to your answers as you work your way through. It also means that we can collect information from a range of people to feed into future research and writings – a return on investment!

Chapters include: Community development, community empowerment, Exploring influence, What is Community, Power, Equalities, social justice & human rights

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Getting the whole story

This is a short story from one of our training sessions a while ago – it really ilustrates how ‘frameworks’ can help people!

Chris was a Social Exclusion Officer working for a local authority. He was based in the Policy Department and felt passionately that community empowerment was a key aspect of his work, although he couldn’t be specific about what that meant or how it manifested.

On top of this difficulty with defining the ‘what and where’ of community empowerment, Chris had also been struggling for quite some time to see how his role fitted – and complemented – the Community Education Department who saw themselves as the main protagonist of community empowerment.

Chris came along to one of our training courses on community empowerment and, as always, we introduced people to the 5 Community Empowerment Dimensions and showed how they can help him to understand what community empowerment is. For Chris, this was a major break-through – and very heartening for us to see someone get so much clarity from them. In Chris’s case,  he could see that the Community Education Department were concerned with just one of the five dimensions – the one about increasing skills, knowledge and confidence (which we call the ‘confident’ dimension), but they had no focus on – or remit to work on – the other 4 dimensions.

Chris could see that the other four dimensions: equality, organised collective working, cooperation and influence were all key parts of his role.

This meant that Chris was able to start up discussions with colleagues in Community Education about how they could work together to ensure they took an empowering approach to their work. It worked out really well and offered a platform for those officers to have those discussions – they could also see how their own departments fed into the authorities work in complementary ways.

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Monday, March 11th, 2013 Community empowerment

Community engagement – back on the agenda

We have recently had a few requests for ‘community engagement training’ which is music to our ears. We have never ceased to believe that ‘good’ community engagement takes skill and understanding so it is great to see this valued. We are now developing a two-day course which takes people through the different stages of planning, engaging and reviewing community engagement with a comprehensive resource pack to help people to put it all into practice. At the moment we are talking to people in the housing sector and local authorities and we believe that this will be useful for many others with just a little tweaking.

And this is not a million miles away from some work we have been doing in Dudley Borough.
More consultancy than training, this project ostensibly started out by looking at collaboration between the voluntary sector and the local authority in the name of efficiency. It became known as the MASH project (Managing Assets and Service Holistically), with a particular focus on ‘assets’ – viewing all partners as bringing something of value to the party – and making that the starting point. This can be quite a culture shock for some and it has been interesting to watch the [growing number of] people involved tussle with putting ‘assets’ at the forefront. When planning the latest session we were faced with trying to ensure that this wasn’t going to stray into just ‘any old collaboration’ but was distinctive and had its USP embedded. That was the point at which we started to see how the Community Empowerment Dimensions could help to keep it on track – and ensure it all hangs together. Taking that one step further we had a go at re-framing the Community Empowerment Dimensions to say – we (i.e. all the partners involved) collaborate in ways which mean that:
We are Confident
We recognise and increase the skills, knowledge and confidence of others.
We recognise our own skills.
We recognise when we have something to offer – and when we don’t

We are Inclusive
We recognise and value difference
We promote equality of opportunity
We promote good relations between individuals and groups

We are Organised
We encourage shared learning
We bring people together collectively: physically and/or virtually
We encourage and value group working and experience
We communicate effectively

We are Cooperative
We promote the value of long term collective change
We seek creative, complementary approaches
We know what we bring to a collaboration
We build on the assets of others

We are Influential
We know that what we do makes a difference, to individuals, to organisations and communities
We have a clear focus on broader outcomes and a plan to achieve these

These are not the be and end all, but a starting point from which people can build their own interpretations – and then check how they will put this in to practice. Voila, a work plan! It sounds easy but if that was the case everyone would be doing it. We all need to be prepared to put time and focus in


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