Community Organisers – clarifications

I want to clarify some points in my previous blog post which have led to misunderstandings about some aspects of the Community Organisers programme.

 

1. I didn’t mean it to sound as if Government dictated Regenerate’s involvement – they didn’t. We had written Re:generate in from the start as lead training partner because of our experience of and admiration for their work, and their ‘Root Solutions Listening Matters’ is the core of our approach to what Community Organisers will do. I simply wanted to make clear that they were the only partner for whom specific confirmation was sought (which is entirely reasonable since they were the proposed lead training partner). Whenever I say ‘the Locality approach’ I mean the approach to hosting, training, networking and sustainability that we put forward in the bid and are continuing to develop in partnership.

 

2.    The criticism of the Majorians and Minorians exercise was, as far as I know, a single anonymous conversation reported by Tessy Britton. We had excellent feedback about the exercise from most participants at the training itself and afterwards, and no-one has raised the issue directly with any member of the programme team.

 

3.    While there is scope for bona fide proposals to develop ‘Go Deeper’ training options, not all options will be appropriate to ensure a coherent core programme for the organisers and we will be under no obligation to accept any specific proposals.

 

4.    The Programme Board for the CO programme is led by Barbara Harbinson from the Locality board, with representation from OCS as the ‘senior customer’ and Re:generate as the ‘senior supplier’. The board will shortly be joined by two representatives of the Kickstarters and, in time, by two representatives of the COs themselves.

 

5.    I mentioned that we will shortly be inviting proposals for the formative evaluation/programme advisory role. In the bid this was mooted as one of the various roles to be played by MMU. However, given the fact that Government is unlikely to commission an independent summative evaluation, this work becomes even more important and we have decided that it is essential to put it out to tender in order to test the market, encourage creative and appropriate proposals and undertake the ‘rigorous selection process’ that was not possible at bidding stage.

 

We all have different attitudes to social media. I am generally in favour, especially as it allows me to communicate late at night, without travelling, directly to the interested. However, given the potential breadth and unknown agendas of the audience, there are immense challenges. Since I value the contributions and constructive criticism of people ‘out there’, I will carry on taking the risk of being misconstrued and hope that readers make allowances for the complexity of this exciting and experimental programme. Just to remind you of some of the basics…

 

We aim to nurture a community organising movement in England that is grown directly from the strengths, concerns and hopes of communities across the country. Organisers will be local people, recruited and hosted by local community organisations. They will build trust, respect and networks within self-defining local areas through dialogue and a systematic, broad-based local listening process. This process (Re:generate’s ‘Root Solution Listening Matters’) ‘ignites the impulse to act’ by focusing on what people care about – what they love, what makes them sad/angry/frustrated – and the dreams they have of a better life, taken forward through specific, achievable collective actions. Organisers will listen to residents in their homes, on the street and where they gather, and they will also listen to public service and third sector workers, small businesses and local institutions to help develop collective power to act together effectively for the common good as identified locally.

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3 Responses to Community Organisers – clarifications

  1. thanks Jess , I appreciate your efforts to work transparently in spite of te risks

  2. Rose Green says:

    This is what Community Development Workers have been doing for many years! What is different about the CO approach?

    • jesssteele says:

      Thanks for this Rose.
      I have just responded under a different thread to a similar point – copied below:

      It is probably inevitable that in explaining what we are trying to achieve with the Community Organisers programme it will sometimes seem like a rejection of what has gone before or is happening now, but in fact that certainly isn’t the case. There is a great deal of superb community work underway in many places around the country and has been for many years. What is new is the large-scale support for explicitly grassroots work that ‘brings no message’. In other words, the systematic listening process at the heart of Re:generate’s ‘Root Solutions Listening Matters’ approach, in which organisers listen directly to large numbers of local people without seeking a specific outcome. I have watched with frustration over many years when project leaders talk about the difficulties of ‘engaging’ residents with particular projects or messages. The engagement at the heart of organising focuses only on what people themselves care about, the specific issues that will motivate them to take action. This approach is sometimes – but far from always – at the core of existing community development work (which is too often hamstrung by funder-driven agendas).

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