If you want to find yourself a great mentor, then in my experience best avoid those mentor matching services…
If you want to find yourself a great mentor, then in my experience best avoid those mentor matching services…
What are the things that make ‘engaging’ harder than it need be? Here is my personal starter for 10…
Interested in how we can dismantle some of these barriers? http://leedsengagement.eventbrite.co.uk/
Engagement, co-creation, co-production consultation, and membership development all are high on the list of priorities for many. Yet it can feel like an uphill battle to get beyond the usual suspects to establish a genuine engagement with the community.
Are we beset by a tide of apathy?
Or a complex web of cultural barriers that amount to intentional exclusion?
Either way – what can we do personally and collectively to overcome these barriers to engagement and participation?
To reduce them, undermine them, clamber over them?
Is it possible to be disengaged – or are we just engaged in other things, with other folk? Do we label people apathetic as a way of avoiding a real inspection of our own work?
Apathy historically means ‘free from pain’. To what extent are choices not to engage sensible means of avoiding pain, disappointment and failure?
How often is the ‘engagement’ that we are offered really in our own interest? Or is it often more serving policy makers and service providers.
Whether you are on ‘the outside looking in’, or on the inside, wondering why we don’t engage… let’s start looking for clues…
I would welcome your comments, insights and experiences of engagement, good, bad and ugly…
Please follow the link below to a pdf of the mindmap produced at the Dismantling Barriers event…
Urban Forum has FREE places available on the following half-day seminar on Getting to Grips with Social Finance.
21st June 2012 in Wakefield
Social Investment? Community Finance? Charity Bonds? Crowdfunding? What does it all mean and what does it have to do with us?
In these times of austerity, public service transformation and changes to voluntary and community sector funding, there is a greater emphasis on new forms of financing social action through social investment. In a nutshell it’s about using money to achieve both social outcomes or ‘returns’, as well as financial ones.
These seminars, organised with local and national partners, will:
The Getting to Grips with Social Finance workshop programme is being supported by the Santander Foundation.
Tel 020 7253 4816
Wheeler Hall in Leeds was packed for this conference, as busy as I have ever seen it, which I think reflects a couple of trends:
The conference opened with John Low from JRF providing a retrospective of his 40 year career in community development spanning major periods of work in Halton Moor, then Wrexham and finally Bradford, with an emphasis on highlighting strengths and weaknesses in different approaches to community development and importantly lessons that had been learned. I am not attempting here to report what the various speakers actually said, as much as the thoughts that they triggered in my head with their words.
Throughout Johns talk attention was slightly distracted by valiant attempts to get a laptop (first a mac, then a pc) to connect to a data projector so that our next speaker should show us such visual delights as a can of beans and Trotsky pushing a pram, to no avail.
So next up was the indefatigable Nick Beddow of CDX, describing the slides that should have been on the screen…key points for me were….
The elephant in the room? That perhaps there is no such thing as a ‘community’. Just individuals, their associations and aspirations….We claim to be working with communities when in reality we are only ever working with people…
In the next session we seemed to take a bit of a weird turn as we were shown some work on an online toolkit to help learning providers to design and develop learning in response to local needs. My own prejudices against ‘online’ and ‘toolkits’ no doubt distorted my perceptions a little, along with being subjected to the 4th, 5th and 6th speaker from the front in quick succession in a hot room with poor acoustics…..
It was at this stage that I started to think about the possibilities of a conference of community development practitioners based on community development principles…. open space or knowledge cafe perhaps?
After lunch I got completely submerged in running a session on finding power for community on emerging commissioning structures of the NHS. Which ended with an analysis that says if yo are really bothered about health inequalities dont worry about commissioning and health and well-being boards but rather get stuck into the economic development agenda as only through economic development that does not promote economic growth over all other factors (health, well-being, environmental sustainability and so on) will we really start to deal with causes rather than symptoms. This was exemplified nicely by a public health practitioner struggling to development community development approaches to the reduction of dental caries while Haribo access regional growth fund money to expand production in Wakefield….
After these workshops things descended into a bit of anarchy.
The resounding answer to the question of ‘So what?’….we all shambled out into the sun….
There can be little doubt that these are relatively tough times in the UK, and the minds of many are focussed on how best to make progress when it feels like everything is being cut.
But most of those who are thinking about it are the professionals, who control budgets for the delivery of services or front-line service providers trying to figure out how to stop things getting dangerous as they are stretched further and further. The assumption is that the job remains to be done, that they are the ones to do it, and they need to figure what they are going to do to make the best adjustments that they can.
But supposing they took a different tack? Suppose they invited citizens in to explore the challenges that they face and how they might be met, how ordinary citizens might be able to use their resources, time, knowledge, skills and sometimes perhaps cash, to help?
So, for example, we might
What might happen if we asked local people to step up and see what they might be able to do about other issues facing them, their loved ones and their neighbours like:
Or we can just bundle these issues up into performance related contracts, attach our 56 pages of terms and conditions, develop it into a multi-million pound contract and pump it through the procurement process?
How might this work out at a local level?
I watched a community psychiatric nurse, working with a third sector service provider, planning home help for an elderly gentleman in the early stages of dementia. He needed help with a weekly shop, food preparation and encouragement to take his medication. Essentially they agreed a piece of business for the third sector to provide this basic support, paid for out of public finance. There was no discussion of the role of neighbours in helping out. No exploration about whether they might be able to manage a weekly shop between them, or set up a meal rota, or ensure a daily visit.
Now I don’t think this was a rare one-off. I think our neighbourhoods are awash with opportunities for local people to engage with each other, to help and be helped, and to learn how to make a real difference to the big and small issues that beset us.
I am not saying that we don’t need specialist public services, of course we do. But we will have to learn to do the basics for ourselves if we want to make progress.
The challenge is how can the funders possibly engage with a civic group that helps it to do something quite remarkable. Because standard forms of procurement and project management are hardly conducive.
“I’ve come to believe that genius is an exceedingly common human quality, probably natural to most of us… I began to wonder, reluctantly, whether it was possible that being in school itself was what was dumbing them down. Was it possible I had been hired not to enlarge children’s power, but to diminish it? That seemed crazy on the face of it, but slowly I began to realize that the bells and the confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to *prevent* children from learning how to think and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior.”
“It’s absurd and anti-life to be part of a system that compels you to sit in confinement with people of exactly the same age and social class. That system effectively cuts you off from the immense diversity of life and the synergy of variety; indeed it cuts you off from your own past and future, sealing you in a continuous present much the same way television does…”
“Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.”
The purpose of education to make managerial life easier?
Businesses reading the future of the labour market and feeding employment needs back in to the education system sounds like a great plan.
Except we haven’t yet found a way to do it.
We do not know enough about how the labour market will shape up with enough ‘notice’ to make any real difference to the educational process at all.
And then there is the small matter that education is not all about employability and entrepreneurship.
Few teachers join the education system as a kind of prep school for employers and have an innate suspicion of employers looking for ready made employment ‘fodder’. The vision for education is larger than slotting people into jobs. It is about the realisation of potential. In the heads of many education professionals the two goals of realising potential and developing employability make uncomfortable bed-fellows.
I have been involved in Vocational Education and Training, both on the policy side and in practice for over 25 years. Not one of those 25 years has gone by without similar diagnoses and prescriptions:
And while our engagement as ‘business people’ may help us to feel like we are doing our part, and there are plenty of awards to be won, in the grand schemes of things it makes very little difference. 20+ years of ‘improving school standards’ and still employers complaining about the product…..
If we are serious about improving the life chances of our young people we need to radically revise the nature of the education process and system, not bolt on another committee.
We need to encourage young people to know themselves, their passions and and their potential (almost impossible when you are asked to turn interest on and off at the call of the school bell). Instead of trying to take slivers of the real world into school we should do much, much more to get children into adult company in real work and non-work settings, public, private and third sector. It is not just business that needs to be more involved with schools, but adult society in general. Personally I think that post 14 most young people should spend more time being educated outside the school than in it.
There is an argument to say that the only thing children really learn at school is how to relate to an authoritarian system, either through compliance or defiance.
If we are serious about the potential of all our young people then tinkering with the curriculum and the occasional day of smoothie making is just not going to cut it. We need to re-think how we prepare young people to play full lives in adult society. And as a nation that is a debate that we not seem to have the political will to hold.
Seems to me that everyone thinks a ‘successful economy’ is critical to our future, but what characteristics would a ‘successful economy’ exhibit?
That’s it. The wealth created may then be used to build a better society.