camelon, coach, collaboration, community, development, Our Place, resilience, Support, tamfourhill

Easy as ABCD

Last week, I was lucky to share a powerful couple of hours on zoom with over 120 other people across the UK who are working with their communities to bring positive change. It was called the Asset Based Community Development Jamboree – hence the ABCD heading to this blog. Don’t get put off with fancy words there – what this really means is strengthening communities with what exists already – i.e. the people. To put it another way, as it says in our mission statement, empowering local people & organisations to bring about positive, lasting change. What this boils down to is a community revolution! It’s the time for communities to build on their own skills and be the authors of their own futures.

I was incredibly fired up from the morning in this session, as I was joined by others who are banging the same drum as I have throughout my time in this role and for years before that: stop doing stuff to communities – work with them. I could write forever on this subject but to save boring you (who said “too late”?!), I will just put this over a series of blogs in the coming weeks and months as the mood takes me and as circumstances dictate.

The above image is the graphic notes from the morning, captured by Visual Practitioner Anna Geyer. She has really caught the mood and you can see for yourself that there is so much in there which is why I need a series to bring some of this to a local level. In her twitter summary, this quote really stood out for me:

In every meeting I’ve been in over the last 10 months – especially the current Community Conversations that the Council are leading – I have pressed the point that the whole community needs to be spoken to. Anything dressed up as a conversation cannot fall short and become a place simply for providing information. The people of Camelon and Tamfourhill have some powerful opinions that can really help shape the future of our community. It’s time these opinions were taken seriously and my pledge to you is that I will do what I can to make this happen. But you need to work with me on this.

Back to the ABCD session, below are just some of the comments shared by participants that I managed to capture and feel are relevant to us here. The first 5 quotes come from Fatima El Guenuni, a family therapist in the Grenfell area of London who had family members in the tower that burned down (thankfully they survived). Her talk certainly set the tone for the day:

  • Communities have never been hard to reach, but they have been easy to ignore.
  • Voice is important at the centre of communities but action is more important.
  • Work alongside people and be brave enough to make decisions that benefit the community and not the system.
  • It’s the system that marginalises communities, not communities that make themselves hard to reach.
  • We need to be willing to step outside roles & be there for communities with love and support – a hug of compassion and humanity.
  • Be the “human bridge” between people and the community and the system.
  • It is time to stop the politicisation of community development.
  • This citizen centred movement is gathering massive momentum. I hope councils learn, recognise it & work generously with communities to share power & space.
  • We are hearing of rooted acts of kindness, and the tremendous steely courage of communities, to flourish forward fairly, whatever the challenges may be.
  • Stories are so important and then stimulating them with the right questions.
  • Inequalities have driven the change. Our aim was to listen. Serve the people. Unlock skills and talents. Change power.
  • We need jargon free community development. It’s about people. Local people. Leading local change.

There are so many more that I’ll save for another blog. But can you pick up the themes here? Are you excited by it? Everyone was completely on board with this revolution. This last year has actually been a defining moment for communities across the land, as many have really stepped up to meet their own needs. The challenge now is to build on that, with appropriate support and empowerment, to make this change in power permanent.

I’ll finish this week where I started, with the letters ABCD, standing for Asset Based Community Development. For a bit of fun following a challenge by a Community Builder from the Denny area, I extended this for the whole alphabet, so our A to Z of Community Development is now: Asset Based Community Driven Efforts For Growing Hope, Increasing Joy, Keeping Lives Motivated, Nurturing Others, Persevering, Quickly Reaffirming, Strengthening Talents, Unleashing Volunteers With eXtra Youthful Zest.

So who’s up for joining in on this community revolution? Let’s hear your voices – your comments, concerns, suggestions, hopes, plans. What do you need to help take you forward? Is it other people? Money? Training? Property? Equipment? Other resources? Let us know and we can then work with you to try to make it happen.

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

camelon, coach, community, development, Our Place, resilience, Support, tamfourhill

What’s your story?

We all have a story to tell don’t we? The difference is what kind of story it is. Does it tell of a life where everything has gone fine for you with no issues? Does it tell of a battle against everything that life has thrown at you over the years? Or is it somewhere in the middle?

Wherever your story lands in that range, it is equally important because it’s about who you are, where you’ve been and hopefully what you’ve learned along the way. All of that can help you understand more about yourself and help you move forwards, but it’s also important to capture these stories as part of the ongoing history of our area. When people hear or read them, they may not be surprised at some parts but the joy is when you can surprise them with tales of positivity in spite of everything that has been thrown at you.

The image below was shared on twitter recently. It is an image of notes captured from a talk given at a conference a few years back by Cormac Russell, who is a leading force in the world of Community Development especially when it is focussed on building upon the assets (the people etc) within those communities. I am learning loads from his writings as he speaks so much sense about not over complicating our work with communities. (You can follow him on Twitter here). The key word in that last sentence – as I’ve emphasised from the start of my work here – is ‘with’. We at OPCT are not here to do things to you or without you as has happened in many cases in the past. We are here to work alongside you and with you and as part of that, we love hearing and learning from your stories. Have a look at the image and see what jumps out for you:

So what did you spot in there? Feel free to message me with any key points especially if you want more information or even to push a particular line for something we should be doing better. For me, the following stood out.

  • Studies or Stories. This was the headline from the talk and is worth highlighting and clarifying. In one sense, both are important. I’ve already said how much we love stories and there is so much to be learned from them. However, each story is one person’s viewpoint and it is highly likely that there will be another story that will give a completely different view of a similar situation. So with that in mind, studies also have an importance because that gives us an overview of all points of view in a coordinated way. This is why we have already carried out a few surveys – not just to gather more data for the sake of it, but to help us understand what people want, what can be done to move things forward and to use it to make changes and access funding. We are determined to not let any of the consultations sit idly on a shelf with no action. Neither are we going to use them simply to point out what is wrong in the area. All findings from the studies will be used to ensure the stories we tell in the future will be ones of action and positive steps forward. How great would it be for someone in years to come to tell a story of how they made a comment in a study that led to a positive change right here? That’s our wish so please stick with us when we do a survey and feel free to remind us that there needs to be action in the end.
  • Focus on what’s strong not on what’s wrong. This is so important. I’ve mentioned this in previous blogs and have been accused by some people of ignoring the problems around us by only looking at the good stuff. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes there are issues and yes they need sorting. No one is denying that. But we are not going to be weighed down by them or avoid any opportunity to grow because they exist. We solve them best by building up what is good – what is strong – what is positive – so that in part, we can tackle what is wrong head on because we have the chance to show people a better way.
  • No hierarchies but networks. This is about bringing everyone along on the journey (forgive my use of that word!). It’s not about building up committees but communities. Yes, there will be people that need to step up to lead and coordinate things, but the clue in the meaning of the word ‘lead’ is that they bring others along with them – networks of people with a good mix of skills relevant to each project or activity. This is not about raising up just a few people, but everyone who wants to come along for the ride. And within that, we will work with everyone at their individual level to help them gain the skills they need to strengthen their part in the network.
  • Power of communities to solve problems. You might have missed this one as it’s quite small on the image but I don’t think this represents the strength of the statement. Camelon and Tamfourhill is an amazing community made up of smaller communities that are full of people who have a passion to grow the community they live in. That combined positive passion is where the power comes from. And it’s a power that should never be underestimated by others as it is built on real experiences and real understanding of what makes this community really tick. And as I mentioned earlier on in this blog, that power can and will solve the problems that we face.

I could go on but I won’t bore you any further – for now! Just know that this is really important to me as your Community Coach – as a local resident – and even just as a fellow human being! I believe that everyone has the right to achieve their potential and want to do all I can to help in that goal.

We will no doubt return to this matter again but I want to just focus on the aspect of story telling as I finish off for this week. You have a unique opportunity to tell your story in a written format, and if you want, to have that shared as part of a book that will celebrate this area. That comes via our Creative Writing Introduction Course with the help of Kev McPhee, Susan Marshall and Camelon Arts. We’ve had a great response to this so far but there is still room for a few more to sign up. Join us and be part of something special. All information at www.opcamelontamfourhill.co.uk/creativewriting.

Until next week, keep making and sharing stories and building local power.