Starship Organisers Week 2

Thank you all for being so nice about the blog and for retweeting. It seems obvious to me that programmes should be open and engaging. I’m just grateful that there’s a ‘modern’ way to reach (potentially) lots of people that doesn’t involve trains (having spent a fair few hours on them this week).

The ‘problem’ with openness is that at times, perhaps often, we will disagree and I will have to listen and think and respond…

An example – several people have said that we shouldn’t use the phrase ‘indigenous English’ because it has been claimed so damnably by the BNP. I find that sad, particularly because I took the word from the fantastic and very diverse Marsh Farm Outreach team in Luton who use it to describe themselves and more generally local people on the estate.

See this brave reclamation of the St George flag by the mixed community of Ashton in Tameside. Karen gave the flag this week and it fits my map well (with apologies to Scotland). The eagle-eyed may be able to spot the Cat of Glory who keeps me entertained when I’m studying routes around the country.

But I’ll take your advice – mainly because someone has come up with a constructive alternative – ‘home-grown’! Your wish is my command…we’ll sort it tomorrow.

However, and more seriously, there are some principles embedded in our bid and emerging strongly in the programme development, that I will cleave to:

  • Organisers listen to people and encourage dialogue. They do not bring any message or seek any specific outcome.
  • Consciousness-raising rather than capacity-building. Find the ‘generative themes’ that motivate people to act. Change ‘the bad scene’ into a specific set of issues that people can take action around.
  • Actions may aim to change the powerful or to create a DIY/entrepreneurial response, or both. Mobilise: Listen, Talk, Act, Reflect.
  • COs need a place to be. The hosting approach brings mutual benefits and mutual challenges. It liberates the Community Organisers programme from government and roots it in communities not just for a while but for the long-term.

That’ll do for now. Plenty more thoughts but these are some key principles.

Quick review of the week… (for those of you who don’t know me but might be interested, I also do a few other things, including Meanwhile, Seaside Towns Enterprise Partnership, the Pool, Community Allowance, Community Sector Trading, Land & Society Commission, and Hastings Pier)

Sun: Twitter catch-up. Digital networking survey sent to all partners and Locality staff.

(Anyone else with an interest in the programme, please feel free to complete and return to me, although I can’t promise to organise digital buddies for everyone!)

Mon/Tues: Locality Team Days. Briefed the whole team about the programme. Prepared support briefs for Locality team members to work with me, particularly on the hosting and training threads within the programme. Caught up with Sarah Eustace who is leading on the social networking side. Meanwhile, Newsnight were filming with Re:generate in Bath.

Weds: filming with Newsnight at the wonderful St Peter’s Partnerships (Kickstarter) in Tameside. Met with Niall Cooper from Church Action on Poverty, and later with adult education specialists, Walt Crowson and Bernard Godding in Manchester.

Thurs: CO presentation for Adult Education conference in Manchester, then off to Wolverhampton to facilitate a small action learning set of Communitybuilders applicants (who were keen to know more about CO). Long trek back to Hastings to give my daughter a cuddle.

Tomorrow: Meet up with Mark Parker, ex of bassac, now doing a Masters in Community Organising at Queen Mary’s, and then settle in for an intensive overnight session with Stephen & Julia of Re:generate to hammer out initial details of the training framework.

See the presentation I gave today here.

Please keep commenting – makes me feel I’m not just launching this into a void!

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11 Responses to Starship Organisers Week 2

  1. David wilcox says:

    Hi Jess – thanks so much for taking time to give us useful updates, making them personal, and dealing with a touchy issue openly.
    As a blogger myself, I know it can seem thankless, because people mostly keep their responses to tweets. However, apart from the information, it is hugely important in setting the ethos of the programme. I think you can more easily urge organisers to engage openly, locally, online if you set the style.
    On language … my take is that something that works locally where there is a clearly understood context and discussion of the issues may not play nationally, and indeed internationally. It’s not what you mean, but what people understand.
    Even with “home grown” there’s a bit of a sense of “not like those other people … ” and I wonder if you intend that?
    It is easy for organisational blogging to take on the rather competitive, corporate, ethos of past third sector activity … and for what it is worth my suggestion would be to keep the personal tone there too.
    This is an enormously important programme that can set a style for the best of big society, good society, our society. It’s for everyone. Thanks for being sensitive to that from the outset … and I hope you won’t be shy of asking for more input from yours supporters, wherever they may be.

  2. Hi Jess
    Thanks for two great blog postsand responses to your readers. Are you able to share a contact name or organisation from the meeting in Wolverhampton? Dudley and Wolverhampton are jointly delivering critical citizenship work and I’d like to make links re COs with them if possible.
    Many thanks

    • jesssteele says:

      Hi Lorna. The session in Wolverhampton was held at ASAN’s Work Space but was with four groups (from Hull, Malvern, Salford and Nottingham) who we’ve been facilitating in an action learning set not related to Community Organising. At present the CO Kickstarter in the West Midlands is the Birmingham Settlement. We will be opening to further hosts late in 2011 and I’ll be starting to work up this process with potential hosts over the summer. Best wishes. Jess

  3. Sophie michelena says:

    Hi Jess, just to let you know quite a few members up in Yorkshire & the Humber are interested in hosting community organisers, and I heard Steve Wyler speak at Footsey, the UK’s largest Social Enterprise Trade Fair and using the phrase “we are liberating the Big Society from government”. Exciting times ahead! Great work so far, keep it going. Sophie

  4. Neil Smith says:

    Hi Jess, good to see that you have been busy, look forward to seeing you tomorrow.

    Regarding the comments on ‘indigenous English’, the phrase does resonate – a method of community organising that is developed here, that befits England as it is today (many cultures & voices) but that challenges us all on how best to create & sustain lasting change. Practically speaking, the programme will be England-only as this policy area is a devolved matter for the other UK administrations. I’m not sure we should be bashful about using the word ‘English’; perhaps as St Pete’s have done, there is scope to reclaim the word from less helpful factions and ensure is stands for inclusivity.

    Which more widely brings me to the role for government and the need, or otherwise, to ‘reclaim Big Society’. I wondered what thinking underpinned this statement & what people think government’s role should be? Just pay up & put up, or a fuller role? Does this approach help achieve the changes that might help a bigger, more responsive society flourish, or does it risk ‘digging trenches’? What will encourage the better response?

    I’m glad to see there us so much interest in this programme. Whatever your views, I hope we can all welcome this as an opportunity to critically & constructively reappraise the excellent work of so many that looks to help communities make the changes they want to see.

    • jesssteele says:

      I think we’re using the phrase ‘liberate this programme from government’ (ie support Community Organisers out in communities and ensure they are not treated as messengers from Govt or anyone else) rather than reclaiming Big Society itself… but I can’t police what people say!
      There are many who approve of the general concept of Big Society but are cynical about Government’s use of it. We’ll make best progress by carving out space that is independently owned by communities – whether literally or figuratively – with useful, respectful support from the public and private sector where it intersects with their interests and responsibilities.

  5. Regenerate is proud to be part of the strategic team that is developing Community Organising. For over 20 years we have been developing our home grown organising and animating techniques in villages, towns and cities across the UK. The Community Organising project management team is working hard to develop the structure to take this work into it’s next phase. As Jess Steele, Locality and Julia Olsen Regenerate say we want to develop this work with input from many. So much work has been done by so many in the past and it is these shoulders that we stand and build on. Our histories and inputs over the years is what will make this project strong.

    In Regenerate we have developed a deep experience of listening, building trust, respect and relationships in communities, linking people’s personal growth to action locally and into the wider world and society. Reflecting with organisers, animators and communities on the power dynamics and actions that affect their everyday lives has been the foundation. Structures have moved as they have felt the impact locally and nationally.
    Building networks through the Listening Matters process and supporting people through training to identify their generative themes, those that will catalyse actions, and use the codes to mobilze the networks to act to transform their communities is the heart of our work. Entrepreneurs, volunteers, voters, listeners, new customers and clients are found through the work and all live in these networks. Digital applications like facebook and twitter have a very important impact on communications. Taking actions on power structures to encourage them to consider community concerns and aspirations has been an important aspect of our work, acilitating movement of power in the direction of the community. All this is experience that we look forward to introducing into Communiy Organiser Training and strategy and the development if the Institute of Community Organisers.
    Our key one liners include:
    In the Root cause lies the root solution
    Never do anything for anyone that they can do for themselves
    Show me someone who has never made a mistake and I’ll show you someone who has never made anything
    Community Actions speak louder than words.
    Never promise anything you can’t deliver
    What part are you playing in what us going wrong in society.
    When you are about to lay blame, take a good look in the mirror first.
    Looking forward to working with everyone.

    Stephen Kearney

  6. Nicola Greenan says:

    Hi Jess
    It’s wee Nic from Seacroft (ls14 Trust), to be 100% honest I have never really done the blog thing and thought it was all a bit too random & confusing. Reading your blog has made so much sense to me and has made me feel more normal. Although my life is not as diverse and as hectic as yours it certainly made me feel happier about spinning plates which i am sure so many of us do.
    Keep up the great work & come & visit us one day in sunny Seacroft, we don’t have a pier or any sea but a cracking beck & the best views across Leeds 🙂

    • Nicola Greenan says:

      if you need ever need a soundtrack for spinning plates check this single out , Spinning Plates by Middleman

      Nic x

    • jesssteele says:

      Lovely to get your comment. Hope you’re well.
      Have a look at the latest blog on here that I’ve only just posted after quite a long break from it. I hope to keep posting them every week or so.
      Planning an extended trip to Leeds in July so will definitely come and see you.

      • Nicola Greenan says:

        great stuff, look forward to it .The Meanwhile project has had such an impact and brought about excitement and change. Amazing to see what one small , derelict old rent office with a bit of paint and some PC’s can mean to a community. We need the entire parade now 🙂 I guess this is how it starts ??

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