I JUST ADDED THIS COMMENT TO THE NATCAN FORUM at http://nationalcan.ning.com/
Reply by dave berry 5 minutes ago
Am new to the forum so please bear with me, the last time that “government” funded real community activists was the Com. Dev projects in the seventies that eventually were shut down by the funders as the councillors who I think part funded it wondered why they were funding people who campaigned against them!
The Government is not funding community activists, it is funding the training of 500 community organisers. The funding is focused on the trainee Community Organisers bursary year, although the support will continue beyond, including through peer networking.
Your point about ‘biting the hand that feeds’ is very pertinent but I’d say three things:
First: the Government, and many other powerful players in a range of sectors, seem to have concluded that challenge is probably exactly what’s needed and are more open to it than I have seen in my lifetime (probably something to do with the rise of social media, citizen journalism, public sector cuts and starkly-justified mistrust of power elites).
Second: the programme is deliberately designed to give the organisers as much freedom and independence as possible. We have all kinds of barriers up in Whitehall to ensure that other government departments understand that the COs cannot be used to get government messages out or deliver departmental policy and programmes, even if that’s about grants available. In general organisers are recruited and selected locally by hosts who have been specially chosen because they ‘get it’. The organisers are employed by Locality and seconded back to the host who will provide a ‘learning environment’ and help with the opportunity to practise. They will be endlessly reminded that they do not bring an agenda, that the knowledge and information gathered belongs to the community and no-one else has a right to demand it (not Government, not Locality, not the hosts).
Third, in many cases COs will support people to campaign. That would always be the result of systematic local listening and dialogue. People will have talked about what they love about their place, what makes them angry, frustrated, sad about it, how they would like it to be, what is in the way of that and what can be done about it. The most important thing is to take *effective* action – so if a campaign is needed it must be effective (although that doesn’t mean it will always win). In other circumstances it would be more effective to take collective action, entrepreneurial or sharing approaches that build on the respect, relationships and trust that the organisers have been building up.
There is lots more information about the Community Organisers programme on the Locality website at http://www.locality.org.uk and also on the brand new (and therefore quite possibly still glitching) CO knowledge hub that will go live at http://www.cocollaborative.org.uk later this week.
Jess Steele (CO Programme Manager)