Friday, 17 April 2009
Tuesday, 1 July 2008
Wednesday, 28 May 2008
I've been thinking of the term 'community activist' and looking at definitions on the internet, although Wikipedia doesn't have a page for this, interestingly, only 'activism' and 'community building' ... On other websites there are references to activism as 'changing the system' and in the findings from a report on the changing nature of community activism 'From placards to partnership'
the phrase 'more subtle approaches based on strategic negotiation within the new local governance structures' is used to describe some of the changes.
In the 1980's I was a community activist in South Lanarkshire, living in an ex-mining village as my children grew up. But if you had asked me then what I was I would not have described myself as that - it was a matter of working with others in the community to create projects and raise funds to allow us to give our children the best play experience and to help others in the community. We were all volunteers, mothers who didn't work and didn't expect to work, living mostly in council houses. I suppose some were single parents although it's not one of the lasting memories. I started with a 'mother & toddler group' then playgroup, forming committees, working further afield on branch committees, visiting other playgroups, getting travel expenses but doing the work for free. We got a community minibus, I was a driver, and we went away for trips, to the beach, the zoo and to the shops.
I remember a council worker helping us with different things - training courses, funding sources, ideas - but it seemed that we were the driving force. Other activies including being on the school board, on steering groups Lanarkshire wide and doing youth work - attending residential training for this which involved 'trust games', being video'd and groupwork activities. We all became much more self-confident and self-aware - of our abilities and natural aptitudes as well as developing new skills, ideas and networking.
Getting back to the 'changing nature of community activism' it's interesting to hear how people are still having an influence on decision-making, adopting a more gentle approach to activism. In the previously mentioned project there is a quote from an interviewee "I think there's another cultural shift which has been the way you get your message across, whatever that message might be .... that you are more sophisticated, that you play the game, that you do it in ways that are less in-your-face" (p59 of report).
Friday, 23 May 2008
Thursday, 22 May 2008
But this is OK as it's not always easy to go along to a new group meeting, people are busy and already attend their own groups. It's easier to meet people where they're at. I've been visiting groups that already meet for learning to find out their thoughts on the learning they've had, how they accessed it and what they would like to do in the future. Common themes include the need for guidance, help with looking at the choices available for careers that people are thinking of in the future, when their children are a bit older or to enable them to apply for more skilled jobs. Another highlighted area is Scottish culture and history for the learners who have come to live in Scotland from another country. Creative writing opportunities is another theme - short story writing, poetry and being able to write articles for the press - practising these activities also helps with their grammar and spelling. And increases self-confidence and feelings of self-worth.
I must have met now with over 50 people individually, local residents and workers, to get a feel for the Muirton and Fairfield communities, their experiences of living and working in these areas, and their hopes for the future. Many of the community activists in Muirton are in more than one committee or group and are keen to involve others and to see change in their community. Fairfield has a core of residents that use the centre and involve people from other areas in their activities. This is a 'tale of two cities' - both regeneration areas but at different stages of the journey.
"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known." Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
Friday, 16 May 2008
One of the websites is IMBY (I'm assuming it stands for 'in my back yard') which has been around since 1996, employs more than 20 staff, has a turnover of around £600K and believes that 'disabled and non-disabled people should be able to live and work alongside each other without anyone being surprised about it'. There is a page on the website that describes a vision of the future: www.imby.org.uk/id20.html and I thought I would share it with you as I found it interesting and thought provoking. The author Mark Powell is the Chief Executive of IMBY and I've heard him before on a podcast talking about social firms, an inspiring speaker who makes you want to find out more about the subject.
Not sure if this is completely to do with adult learning but there is a link I suppose if we think of 'barriers to learning', how to involve people with disabilities and how to be more inclusive.