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What do you see?

Community Coach Blog, Dan Rous, 8 April 2021

When you look at other people in the community – what do you see?

It may seem a strange question, but it’s an important part of community development especially when we take time to focus on the real assets around here – the people. We need to see past any initial reaction and purely focus on the person within. That can be hard especially when we look at the different types of people we might come across and the labels we may attach to them, even subconsciously. But it’s really important. Here’s some categories that came to my mind:

Life Labels

  • Youth; Criminal; Addict; Troublemaker; Helper; Retired; Active/Inactive; Unemployed; Student; Safe; Community Activist; Deaf/Blind.

Nationality Labels

  • Local (Kemlin); Incomer (New/Recent Resident); Refugee; Scottish; People of Colour; ‘Foreign’.

Language Labels

  • Local; National; International; BSL; Digital.

Do any of those ring true for you? You may have thought them but have you even said them? Or have they been said to or about you? Some may be said in jest but have you really meant any of them in a less than positive way? Don’t worry – I’m not asking for feedback here! These are all questions for you to think about yourself or to reflect on any things that may have been said to you.

Everyone of these labels that will have been applied to someone locally at one stage in their life can cause people to act and speak differently towards them. Whether positive or negative, they can create a stigma that usually is unhelpful. It can weigh that person down and not make them feel part of the community or alternatively, can create an elite kind of group. Either way it’s not great.

We all have a label that is much more positive to use – our name. It’s how we’ve been addressed since birth and is who we are. That’s not to say we are not any of the things listed above, but they do not define who we are. Every person – yes even you! – was born to change the world and deserves to be seen as the individual that they are. Every person has the right to achieve the potential they were put on this earth to achieve. Whether the time you’ve had up to this point has been positive or negative, it is never too late to achieve that potential – and to help others achieve theirs.

One further question for you. If you’re looking to support someone to move forward, to grow, to achieve their potential – how do you approach that? Essentially, do you see a person or a project? (Okay, sorry, that was actually two questions!) However positive you may have been about the labels we explored above, if you simply see them as a project you can ‘do’, then you might as well have been negative with those labels. Whoever they are – whatever the journey they need to go on – they are still a person. Our role in supporting them is to do just that – support them. Have a look at this quote from my friend Maff Potts, who heads up a fantastic organisation called Camerados.

This is a perfect summary of how I see my role. But to be honest – I do struggle with this because I’m a fixer! I love to sort things. But I have learned over the years – and especially over this last year – that this doesn’t really help – not in the situation we’re in just now. I came across the use of the word ‘alongsider’ last year and it’s perfect. I have worked in this way before and I do love it. It is perfect again for what I do and how I want to encourage you to do as well. Come alongside people – just as they are and as who they are. Step out among the people who you might not even naturally go towards. Hey, you might be pleasantly surprised. And next time you’re walking around the area, don’t just see things – observe. Truly look at what you see. Look beyond the labels and see the people that live here. Everyone has a part to play in the development of our community and I look forward to more opportunities to play my part.

Until next time….

Dan Rous, Community Coach, communitycoach@tamfourhilltro.co.uk, 07444 873151

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