coach, community, development, resilience, Support

Empowered?

Community Coach Blog, Dan Rous, 7 October 2021

What does it mean to be empowered?

Is it something that is done to you? Something you can learn to do? Or something you grow within yourself, for yourself?

Your view on those questions could determine whether or not you’re going to like this blog!

Empowerment has become a real buzz word of late. It’s the new big thing in so many circles of life but especially in community work. But have we all understood it properly or are some of us using it as a way around things? Will it make your project look better if you talk about empowerment. If you give this opportunity/activity/programme/facility/building to the community you’ll be empowering them. It’s time to think again.

I promised myself that this blog would not become a rant and I will stick to that, but you’ll maybe pick up the sentiment in that last paragraph as a sense of my feelings. So let me be very clear. Just passing something on to a community or individual is not empowering them. It is passing the buck and potentially, setting them up to fail.

So what really is this empowerment thing. Quite simply, it can only be done to you, by you. No one else can empower you and while we’re on it, no else has the right to dis-empower you. You, as an individual have to feel empowered. And that comes by increasing the control you have over your own life. People can help you to do that, but ultimately you are the only person who can empower you. So, if you’re sitting there waiting to be empowered – STOP! Start working at feeling empowered.

It has been said that this empowerment thing is about what matters to you, not what is the matter with you. Can you hear the difference there? This is about your desires, not your issues. Cormac Russell, Managing Director of Nurture Development and the oracle on Asset Based Community Development that I’ve spoken of many times before, says it is about “what you have, rather than what you don’t have – what you can contribute rather than what you can receive.” He says this is about individuals using their head, hearts, hands etc – their talents, skills and passions. So in other words, rather than sitting back and waiting for others to do things around you, what can you do to contribute? It may not be huge and it doesn’t have to be, but as a place you probably know well says regularly: “Every little helps”.

One crucial point I need to make here. We often see government – both local council and national government – doing what communities can do. Cormac Russell simply says “get out of the way and let [the community] do it, but resource them where necessary – don’t just pull out without checking they can actually do it sustainably.” So this brings me back to my point earlier. Those who think they are in positions of authority (Maff Potts of Camerados reminds me that we are all in authority) should not just think they can walk away and leave communities to get on with stuff. They need to check that the skills exist in the community. That the desire, longevity and sustainability can be found in the community. Where support is needed – provide it, whether that be in person or financially. Where guidance is needed – supply it either directly or through signposting and partnership. Where things are needed to be brought up to a workable standard before they can be passed on – do whatever is needed.

This all centres around stuff I’ve been banging on about for ages. Work with communities. Work alongside individuals. Involve people.

So how can you begin to feel this empowerment for yourself? Well that’s a very good question and one that I would love to help you answer because the process and destination will be very different for each one of you. Would you let me have the honour of sitting with you to help you find answers to the questions you are posing, and help you to begin to feel empowered within yourself and move further towards your potential? How do we do this? I’m glad you asked! Contact me about 1 to 1 coaching sessions and I will tell you all you need to know. For now, there’s some info through that link and on the flyer below. I look forward to working alongside you in this.

Until next time…..

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

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

Communities Matter

Community Coach Blog, Dan Rous, 16 September 2021

In my blog last week, I invited you to join the Community Revolution. But what does this really mean? Can you, members of the community, actually make a difference? Quite simply – YES!! Let’s explore this a little further

What I love about working in Community Development is the ability to be alongside local people and help them to make a real difference on their streets. To help them gain new skills, try new things, meet people just down the street who they’d never met before, fix issues, start new projects and so much more.

Our friends at the Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC) have put together a great piece that explains Community Development in 60 seconds. You can see it here.

They explain that “Community development is a process where people come together to take action on what’s important to them.” Read that statement again and notice the key emphasis. People – you – come together. People – you – take action.

As community, we cannot rely on external bodies to do everything for us. This is not the place to argue whether they should be or not – we all have our views and probably agree on a lot but we don’t have time to banter that topic right now. It is worth noting however that those of you living in Tamfourhill (Ward 7 – Falkirk South) have the opportunity right now to challenge those wanting to be elected to serve in the bi-election next month. Ask them how they will help the community actually develop and how they will work alongside you. (All of you will get that opportunity next May when all council seats are up for grabs).

Aside of that, if you see an issue and instantly think that someone else will sort it, have you ever wondered if you might be the “someone else”? Could you be the person that steps up and makes a difference? SCDC suggest (and I agree) that there are 4 principles that are the foundation of Community Development:

  • Self-determination – people and communities have the right to make their own choices and decisions.
  • Empowerment – people should be able to control and use their own assets and means to influence.
  • Collective action – coming together in groups or organisations strengthens peoples’ voices.
  • Working and learning together – collaboration and sharing experiences is vital to good community activity.

What this means is that even if you’re the one who steps up first, there will be others who will join you. They might take a little while to come, but they will come. Together, you make your own choices, take control, form a collective voice, share resources and learn from each other. The second point is especially important. Empowerment has become a buzz word lately and there is a lot of talk about empowering communities and individuals. Unfortunately, the meaning gets lost when those deemed to be in positions of power simply give their permission for locals to do things. That is not empowerment – that is passing the buck. People need to feel that they are empowered with choice, opportunity and real genuine power. To be able to take control of who they are and what happens around them. There are various ways to do that so let’s have a chat.

SCDC continue that Community Development “recognises that some people, some groups and some communities are excluded and oppressed by the way society and structures are organised.” I don’t think we’d disagree with that statement. But rather than wallow in self pity and throw out another social media rant that the keyboard warriors will jump on, together you can turn the tide and create a more positive future.

So what is it that you want, either for yourself or your community? Do you want to learn? Do you want to tidy the place up? Do you want to do something active? Do you want a new group to start? Let’s be honest – the list is probably endless for all those questions (and more) together. But we have to start somewhere. One of our tasks here at OPCT is to support you to move forwards but also to manage expectations. We cannot fix everything and certainly not quickly. But together, we can do a whole lot more.

Let’s stop just talking about community matters and remember that communities matter. Let’s change the emphasis – together.

Until next time….

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

Image source: Scottish Community Development Centre website