Examples of our work

Development of a framework for community networks to use to assess how influential they are – and plan to become more influential. Originally called the ‘Axis of Influence’ – this framework is now called ‘Voice‘.

changes:

  • Developed Voice from scratch with community networks in Dudley Borough
  • Tested out Voice with young people
  • Piloted Voice with community networks
  • Tested Voice in different locations: Dudley Borough, Cheshire & York

changes has worked with Voice in:

  • Dudley – working with community networks and training Voice facilitators
  • London – Metropolitan Police Authority, Police Consultative Groups
  • Blackburn and Darwen – Neighbourhood Managers and Street Ambassadors
  • Cheshire – Children and Young People’s Hub (who also used it one year on, to review progress)
  • Bedfordshire – Police Independent Advisory Groups
  • Wolverhampton – Third Sector Partnership

changes has been commissioned by BASSAC to run Voice sessions with community anchors and train Voice facilitators.

Voice goes international!

changes have written an article – Reflections from the field: The Axis of Influence – evaluating and improving community influence which was published in the Community Development Journal – an international publication.

Oxfam’s Genderworks Project used Voice at their International Practice Exchange in Vienna – their latest newsletter highlights the tool on page 4, and includes photos from a workshop on page 2.

Achieving influential community groups and networks is about changing individuals and building relationships, which happens as and when

  • people realise how powerful they can be
  • they gain a better understanding of other peoples’ issues and priorities and are able to consider different solutions
  • they gain an understanding of the constraints of service deliverers
  • they can work together with service deliverers to achieve more sustainable change.

When community groups and networks increase their own capacity to influence and have a clear appraisal of the political landscape, they are in a much better position to plan how they can influence the agenda. Voice offers a framework to do this.

The process of working with Voice in a systematic and structured way can help to build group relationships by encouraging members of the network to:

  • explore attitudes
  • move from individual to group mission
  • be clearer about what they want, where they are going and how they might get there
  • tap into everyone’s knowledge and ideas
  • recognise the ways they can listen to each other and hear better and conversely ways that might unwittingly stifle their voices and creativity
  • create opportunities for people to ask questions, clarify purpose, draw out issues, take stock, reflect and review

Researching the ‘other side’ – how open are public agencies to community influence

We recognise that sometimes, public agencies have limited ability to respond as they are constrained by legislation, resources etc. so we wanted to develop a framework that would work under these conditions and so be useful to both public and community sectors. This framework is called echo (see our Resource pages).

changes:

  • Researched and developed the echo framework with public sector officers in Dudley Borough
  • Disseminated findings from the echo research funded through the National Empowerment Partnership
  • undertook action research  with people from public agencies in the West Midlands as part of the Improvement and Efficency West Midlands (IEWM) L2D work
  • produced a ‘how to’ guide to working with echo
  • trialled the guide at a workshop for public sector officers in the West Midlands
  • plans to test the framework in 2009

changes has presented echo in:

  • Birmingham – as part of the original dissemination, and later as part of the IEWM work
  • South Kesteven – for the Local Strategic Partnership
  • Dudley Borough – for the Local Strategic Partnership

We wanted to ensure that the work we do around influence is rooted in community development. Consequently the dimensions of community empowerment are built into both frameworks. These are the 5 Community Empowerment Dimensions which inform all our work at changes, and which are drawn from the DiCE planning and evaluation framework.

By ‘confident’, we mean, working in a way which increases peoples skills, knowledge and confidence – and instils a belief that they can make a difference

By ‘inclusive’, we mean working in a way which recognises that discrimination exists, promotes equality of opportunity and good relations between groups and challenges inequality and exclusion

By ‘organised’, we mean working in a way which brings people together around common issues and concerns in organisations and groups that are open, democratic and accountable

By ‘cooperative’, we mean working a way which builds positive relationships across groups, identifies common messages, develops and maintains links to national bodies and promotes partnership working

By ‘influential’, we mean working in a way which encourages and equips communities to take part and influence decisions, services and activities