voice

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

Community leadership / active citizenship

Our community leadership and active citizenship development work started in Wolverhampton in 1998 through a women’s community development and health project, when the focus moved from running workshops on ‘dealing with the menopause’ and ‘how to be a mother and stay sane’ to working out how women can influence the decisions that affect their lives. It evolved from a series of workshops around women and leadership which, by 1998 had expanded to include a programme of training, practical support and mentoring. The first accredited ‘course’ of this type began in January 2000 and it focused on women’s own experiences and opinions whilst setting out to explore local, national and European decision making structures.

Funding came from a variety of sources – Health Action Zones, National Lottery, Barrow Cadbury Trust – to develop ideas around women becoming more active in community and public life through using a community development approach, countering the notion of elevating a few women as community leaders to talk on behalf of others, engaging with civic structures as a token (and not necessarily particularly representative) voice for women. A key aim of the programme was to encourage women from a whole range of backgrounds to speak out and make their voices heard in whatever context is most appropriate and relevant to them.

The success of the pilot courses led to further developments around the main topics – citizenship, democracy, leadership and participation – and then to an invitation by the Home Office Active Learning for Active Citizenship (ALAC) programme to showcase the IMPACT! approach as a creative learning initiative (2004-06). We commissioned our own evaluation of the Impact! initiative to identify what it was that made the difference.

The experience of Impact! contributed substantially to the development of the Framework for Active Learning for Active Citizenship; the document was jointly written by Jill Bedford from Impact! and Helen Marsh from London Civic Forum and launched by CLG in November 2006. The Framework was subsequently named the Take Part Framework and the original group of seven ALAC projects became the Take Part network. The ALAC initiative was evaluated by Professor Marj Mayo and Alison Rooke from Goldsmiths College and their findings, including comments about IMPACT! are available at takepart.org.

changes was asked to present a paper to the Expert seminar on citizenship and belonging – part of the Commission of Inquiry into the Future for Lifelong Learning (2008). The focus was ‘Moving on up: the role of lifelong learning in women’s journeys to active citizenship’.

In 2008, changes started working with Dosti, WVSC and Wolverhampton Council to develop a Take Part Pathfinder in the Black Country: funded through CLG (2008 – 2011) Details are below:

Purpose of the Initiative
To increase the level of influence people and communities have over the decisions that affect their lives and that this influence is shaped by the values of participation, co-operation, social justice, equality and diversity.

Delivery outline
The initiative encompassed work with individuals and communities as well as pubic sector organisations and agencies. There were five main delivery strands:

  1. Learning and support to build skills and confidence, within a community context – this would include active shared learning leading to community leadership; increased individual and collective voices, action and influence. This included courses, support network, buddying scheme, and information on opportunities for civic and civil involvement.
  2. Initiatives for community and voluntary groups and networks around monitoring and increasing their capacity to influence. This used Voice, one of the Axes of Influence, which was researched and developed in Dudley.
  3. Initiatives for public sector agencies to assess their openness to community influence using Echo.
  4. Joint dialogue across sectors and boroughs on themes of active critical citizenship, community empowerment, involvement and engagement.
  5. A pool of local facilitators developed and supported through training, shadowing and provision of materials

Women Take Part
During 2007 members of changes were approached by Government Equalities Office and Communities and Local Government to undertake research on under represented women in public life. This was called Women Take Part and built directly on the work of Impact! and other Take Part hubs. The Women Take Part (WTP) research was funded by the Government Equalities Office (2007 – 2008) to examine the participation of women, in particular under-represented women, in governance and decision making, in both community and public life. Women Take Part collected information about two sides of the story: ‘what works’ in terms of approaches, initiatives and learning models that encourage different groups of women to become more involved, and ‘what needs to happen’ so that structures, policies and organisations work in ways that encourage the recruitment and support of more women.

The report (published September 2008) provides a summary of the research findings and guidance on models and approaches which can be used to encourage, equip and support women. It is a resource which can be used by agencies, to extract information and ideas to inform delivery of relevant performance targets. The report draws upon research and knowledge which confirm and articulate the inequalities surrounding women’s active participation in public life. The need to develop and grow the ‘pool’ of women available for civil participation and civic engagement is emphasised. Despite being researched and written in 2008 the report and the framework developed from the research is increasingly relevant in 2013.

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