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Playwork as Community Development: interview and podcast with Mike Barclay

In our respective day jobs Mike Barclay, from Wrexham’s Play Development team and Ludicology, and I with Communities First, first met in November 2015 when we began liaising over research into the social benefits of playwork in Wrexham.

We finalised the research brief and in so doing I gained a much clearer understanding of playwork (as distinct from play). But more than that it prompted me to consider community development in a different light.

In the research brief Mike referred to community development in a way that caught my eye. Here is a precis of the interview with Mike in which he expands on this idea.

The full interview is available in this podcast:


 

Russell: What do people need to know about you Mike?

Mike: I have three main roles in relation to children’s play and playwork. One I’m a dad, so working in some support, or not, of children’s play on a daily basis. But then I run an organisation called Ludicology with Ben Tawil. And Ludicology means a study of playfulness, so that’s what that organisation is really about and we provide advice, research and training around children’s play and that’s really about supporting anybody that’s working with or on behalf of children to better understand children’s playfulness and therefore how we work with them. But I’m also the Play Sufficiency Lead for Wrexham Council. So I manage Wrexham Council’s Play Development Team, I support and manage a lot of playwork provision and I’ve only ever been a playworker. I’ve managed to make a career out of being a playworker and there’s not a lot of people who can say that because there’s not many playworkers. So playwork is a real passion of mine. I think the playwork profession has a lot of value that isn’t widely recognised.

Russell: What’s brought us to this situation of sitting around the table now, was that with my work hat on in the Communities First programme in Wales and you with your Wrexham Council hat on, we’re working on a piece of work around trying to better capture, better articulate some of the social benefits of playwork. I’m not going to talk about that now. But as part of the brief there was a sentence that made me stop in my tracks as I was reading, and that was that:

“Playwork might best be understood as play centred community development”

Mike: It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for quite a while and I think for a lot of people who are in the UK who have been in playwork for a long time, this is really the way, within playwork, a lot of those people would have thought about it. But I suppose to make sense of it we should start talking about what playwork is about and in terms of what playworkers do, they are first and foremost concerned with supporting children’s right to play. So the outcome of playwork ideally is more playing. A playworker is concerned with the child agenda of playing which is pretty unique really. If you look at most adults who work with children they usually, and this isn’t to diminish their roles at all, come with some form of adult desired outcome. They are working with children towards some future developmental outcome. And playwork isn’t. Playwork is concerned about whether children are able to play as an everyday part of their lives.

“And so primarily, in simple terms, playwork is primarily about enabling and supporting children’s play.”

But then when you think about how do you go about supporting children’s play and think about the realities of children’s play, most people through their own childhoods or through having children, would recognise that children play in all kinds of places. Children don’t just play in these designated times and spaces where playworkers might be: adventure playgrounds or play schemes. Those places are great for playing, but they’re not all of children’s play lives by any means. And actually if we wanted to really support children’s play it would be about making sure that children could easily find time and space for playing wherever they find themselves. In those communities where children rate a very high satisfaction with playing, you find examples of them playing all over the place and that leads you to think it’s more about developing the conditions for playing rather than only about that specific provision. How do we cultivate more favourable conditions so that children can find time and space for playing? And that’s where I think we start to look at this community development role because playworkers, when they’re at their best, are looking at how do you cultivate a culture of playing throughout a whole community.

Certainly some of the best playwork that I’ve seen and I’m really proud to say that I’ve seen it in Wrexham, is those places where playworkers are right in amongst their communities. They might have a designated place, a junk playground which offers certain things, but they’re also right in the middle of their communities, they’re involved in community celebrations, they’re playing hide and seek on estates, they’re cleaning up patches of grass, creating that kind of sense that children’s play is welcome in this community.

“I think in that way, playworkers are doing community development work; they’re trying to develop communities that are supportive of play.”

Russell: You describe it like that and, well, why had that not really occurred to me previously? And I think it’s because maybe it’s that interpretation or conception of play as a certain thing that happens; and defining it in a certain way. It looks like maybe play schemes or council playgrounds and parks, and I think I feel almost a tinge of guilt that I’d overly simplified it. When we first started working together, I picked up quite early on from you – what’s the polite way of saying this? – that you were quite determined to make the distinction between playwork, play and playing. I didn’t want to say the word obsessive! But playwork is a particular thing that is distinct from other things. And that was something I found myself having to coach myself not to annoy you with.

The principles behind doing this podcast is that you see reference to community development quite a lot and you go, well it’s immersed in the community, it’s well intended, it might one day become community development, but it’s not at the moment. And I sense a sort of parallel between how you are describing playwork.

Mike: I’m now very wary of maybe me using community development in the wrong way! But children are driven to relentlessly try and find opportunities for playing. And what we’ve seen over recent decades, I think, is adults almost trying to take ownership of the word play. There always has to be a why children play. So children play because it’s about learning; or children play because it improves physical activity. That’s not why children play. Children play because they are driven to do it and they’re motivated because of the pleasure they gain from doing it. It is that simple. We don’t really treat children often as people. But playworkers do and we say those kinds of people are very playful, that’s what they do and therefore we should support that because they have a right as a person to do that stuff in their communities. And so for playwork, play is about stuff that kids do for whatever reason they do it. But in saying that, we recognise that all kinds of benefits are coming from them doing it. The irony is that when adults try and take ownership of that play and try and make it purposeful to get to the developmental outcome they desire, we see adults getting involved and making play less playful.

Russell: It’s quite powerful I suppose to say children do it for its sheer, intrinsic value and the pleasure they drive from it.

Mike: That’s what the Welsh Government says.

“The definition in the Play Policy says that it’s freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated. It’s more or less child led. It’s highly variable, it contains all of these kinds of elements of uncertainty and it is done for its own sake.”

And when adults try and support it for some other external goal it isn’t really playing, and children know it. And where they get enough playing they have a better attachment to the places because they can recognise people and instiutions who are supportive of play, and they can recognise communities that are supportive of play. It’s about recognising that children aren’t quite as simple as you might think.

Russell: So playworkers get that

Mike: Hopefully

Russell: And when I say playworkers, in the same way that there’s a particular definition in your mind and the sector’s mind of what is and what isn’t playwork, does that follow the same for what is and isn’t a playworker? The reason I ask that is because in the community development sector there has been for the last few years this drive to professionalise it, and I always use that term advisedly because there is a certain pejorative connotation that that throws up. But to develop, articulate and form that consensus around values and principles and to develop occupational standards. So a community development worker is somebody that does these things, informed by these values and abides by these principles. Is there the same parallel with people who are playworkers?

Mike: Yes, I think so and I think the really important point is like you say there, that I think there has been a danger in the past that it’s seen that playworkers are the ones that work with play, therefore other people don’t. And that’s certainly not the case. And in terms of the things we do with Ludicology and in Wrexham, we’re saying that anybody who works with and on behalf of children and their families would be best placed to do so where they have a good understanding of children’s play and how to work with it. Many of the problems we come across is where we work against children’s innate playfulness. So everybody would be better off understanding children’s play. But I do think playwork has a distinct role in terms of being focused on play as the outcome, not coming at it from other adult prescribed outcomes, and being primarily concerned with cultivating these more favourable conditions and relating to children by supporting their play.

I think there is real value in that profession being appropriately recognised and that’s what playwork has been trying to do. Playwork came out of the junk playgrounds, the concept of which was brought to the UK from Denmark. But it was through that emergence of playwork over probably 60 years that we then worked towards what we call the Playwork Principles which is a kind of ethical framework that guides playwork practice. Only eight principles. But that stuff was only introduced around 2000 onwards. But those values and ideas had been developing for 40 years before that and I think within playwork there is certainly a shared appreciation of what playwork is. I don’t think that playwork’s always been very good at articulating what it is and that’s maybe why it’s not as well-known as it should be.

Russell: People tend to have conversations with each other, within that very, sort of, closed shop. Community development is the same. Communities First as a programme is the same. We talk to each other about things, we learn from each other, we don’t necessarily tell other people or stakeholders and certainly not those people who don’t get it or don’t want it, for whatever reason. I can certainly see a parallel there.

MIke: Yes and I think part of it comes down to going back to play as an outcome. It’s all about how we construct childhood and play in the UK and the fact that play isn’t really currently seen as a legitimate outcome in its own right. Play is not as important as learning or sport or these other things in our society we value more than playing; although the irony is that for children playing is probably the most important one. But if play was really valued, and people really understood what happens when you work in support of play, then I think that position might change.

Russell: So is part of the role of playworker about persuading others – funders, the powers that be, political leaders, community leaders – of its intrinsic value, that it as an outcome is enough in itself? And something else you wrote in that initial brief was about the extent to which playworkers support the development of positive attitudes towards children and that corrected me where you think, ‘Ok, they’re just supervising kids playing’.

Mike: Yes. Advocacy is one of the Playwork Principles and I think it’s advocacy at many levels. As a playworker I hardly do any work with kids now. I still count myself as a playworker but I spend most of my time advocating to strategic decision makers, funders, elected members and parents and other professionals. But we’ve got playworkers out today and they’ll be advocating maybe in a very subtle way to parents and people wandering past. So I think there’s all kinds of little bits of advocacy but really maybe ‘conversations’ is a better word. I think there’s all kinds of conversations to be had about children and their position within communities. And that stuff has to happen on a day by day basis. Also sometimes I think it is taking a stand and I’ve seen playworkers do that, who won’t allow children’s rights to be railroaded. I think there’s a real justice issue around children in communities, particularly around spatial justice and this idea that it’s very easy to overlook children’s rights because they have less power.

“And so often adult decisions and preferences get prioritised, sometimes at the expense of children. And it’s not about saying we should prioritise children’s rights over adults’; it’s about a more equal distribution. So I think often playworkers are mediating between child and adult agendas and giving children more of a voice.”

Russell: In the first place, identifying and drawing attention to those power imbalances or inequalities, doing something to address, maybe even them out a little bit more is I suppose bread and butter to somebody calling themselves a community development worker. The community with whom you are doing that, whether it’s children and young people; whether it’s with communities of interest, based around ethnicity or other characteristics; whether it’s to do with what’s been primarily my background, areas of deprivation and disadvantage, you’re having to redress those power imbalances. And sometimes some of the most deeply rooted ones are not between the haves and the have nots, so to speak, but within the have nots where you’ve got people or some sort of very prominent community role “representing”, in inverted commas, the community. And although that’s important – a traditional representative form of democracy is a staple of our society – you can do it in a participative way and the power imbalances or power struggles that have come about where your traditional councillor has found his or her role a little bit undermined, have been absolutely fascinating to see up close.

Mike: Yes and I think playwork is political and it has certainly been at the centre of many political issues within communities. There was a community recently and they were doing a consultation around the redevelopment of some of the housing; maybe adult priorities are given greater emphasis. But then the playworkers take the children into the consultation and it’s not always an easy situation for adults to be in, but it does start to change those processes and maybe it does enable something that is a little bit more democratic or at least something that’s a bit more just. But as a consequence playwork is always going to be tied to political issues.

Russell: Absolutely. You sometimes hear this within Communities First: “We’ve got to be apolitical, non-political”. The reality is what we’re talking about is the distribution of wealth and resources and power. If that’s not politics then I don’t know what is. That’s been the case for thousands of years.

 Mike: Yes and maybe it’s politics at a local level, with a small p.

Russell: But I think it should be embraced and if we’re talking about trying to create more rounded, more fully engaged citizens, we know there’s a big democratic deficit in a lot of disadvantaged communities. Then surely showing young people or people at whatever formative age that there’s merit in getting involved, in putting their view forward. That can only be a good thing. It comes back to this thing about well why do we have to justify this? There’s clearly an intrinsic value in it; they’re the community leaders of tomorrow, they’re the informed parents of tomorrow.

Mike: And they’re the children of today. That’s a big part of it for me, is about how often do children meet an adult who is pretty much on equal terms with them? I think that playwork spaces are pretty democratic spaces. They should be places where if children go, “Actually we want to pull that down now”, they can pull it down. It’s pretty empowering for kids really. More so now than ever, I think children spend time in environments that are supervised and run by adults and those adults can, I think, overextend their authority.

We were looking at different levels of satisfaction with opportunities for play in communities and a couple of the places where children didn’t just say it was good but the majority of kids in that community said it was great, were the places where they had sustained playwork. I was talking to the kids, and these were in some of what would be seen as more economically deprived areas, and we asked this group of kids, what’s the thing that helps the most? And they were saying, without a doubt the adventure playground. Which perhaps was no surprise but what was really interesting was they then went on to talk more about what the adventure playground did for them when they weren’t at the adventure playground than what happens inside the adventure playground. And they were telling real stories of things that had happened to them. They got chased by a dog, they could go and find the playworker. They forgot their coat and they were cold, they went and found a playworker. There was some scary bloke chasing them, the playworker walked them home and when it got dark they rang mum to say, kid’s on the way. These might seem like really little things but to kids they’re really big things and they build up.

What you get from that is a really trusting relationship, that there are these adults out there who are keeping an eye, who are making the community feel a bit safer, helping them get along with stuff, and as a consequence what you see where you have sustained playwork is this culture of playing.

Russell: Which is why I’m interested in this, it’s about how that can help make, in that instance, slightly more cohesive communities, which might sound big and grand, because it might be what you’re talking about is a little cul de sac of 20 houses, but then a lot of people talk about how they don’t know their neighbours anymore. So we can overlook the significance of that at our peril.

Mike: I think play is just a really important part of the human condition. And when we talk about community development, like you were saying, redistributing power and stuff like that, often the ways in which we do that are through a form of playing or another, whether it’s bringing people together to have a bit of a picnic or a water fight. It isn’t done for some external reward, it’s just something everyone can do. And I think there is something very powerful about adults being around children playing. I think that’s some kind of evolutionary thing where we benefit from seeing kids having a good time.

Russell: I think that’s absolutely right. That’s fascinating. I could probably talk for another couple of hours. Do you want to give another little plug for yourself and Ludicology?

Mike: Yes, so people can visit the website www.ludicology.com where we also do a podcast, so there’s more on there really about playwork and the concept of play sufficiency as an organising principle for communities. If people are interested in this stuff they can find out more there. And in terms of the work in Wrexham they can visit www.wrexham.gov.uk/play and find out more about what we’re doing in and around Wrexham.

And if anybody ever wants to come and visit stuff we’re always open. We have visitors from all over the world coming to Wrexham. It would be nice if we made more of it in Wales and particularly in Wrexham ourselves. But there are still many other places where good playwork happens in the UK. Unfortunately in Wales we have seen a significant reduction in it as a consequence of reductions in public funding.

Russell: Which is an ongoing challenge for a lot of us in this sort of work. Mike, diolch yn fawr, and it would be nice to do this again some time.

Mike: It was a pleasure, thanks for having me on.

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Legacy or impact? Succulent lamb journalism vs community development

I was familiar with the concept – living in Wales with its tiny media, political elite and intelligentsia makes it difficult not to be – but it was the ever excellent Gerry Hassan in his blog on the demise of the previously hegemonic institutions that ruled Scottish society – Glasgow Rangers, Royal Bank of Scotland, and the Labour Party – that familiarised with me a term for it: “succulent lamb journalism”.

It refers to the manner in which journalists, both print and broadcast, in effect collude by “refusing to risk their access and rights by asking difficult questions” of hegemonic and ruling interests while they “feast at the table” with them.

I fear the same is happening in Wales in respect of the legacy of sporting events. The term ‘legacy’ is being used as much genuinely as it is with abandon. There appears to be inconsistency across politics, the media, government-sponsored bodies and sports governing bodies about what legacy actually means, as distinct from what the legacy will be (e.g., more people taking regular exercise, a reversal of the sale of school playing fields, reduction in obesity, a cementing of class divide, etc.). That the latter debate is political and value-driven it is probably to be expected that the definition about what legacy means is similarly contested.

But when The Western Mail (25th August 2012) appears to agree with Visit Wales that the presence of five Chinese tourists on a Gower bus is proof of the legacy of the Olympics then my fears that succulent lamb journalism is alive and well in Wales prove well-founded. That the Chinese visitors quote the Olympics opening ceremony as the motive for visiting the Gower is not irrelevant, and is to be trumpeted, but a legacy it is not. It is merely impact of the games. Hopefully it is the sign of things to come; an increase over coming weeks and months of Chinese, and other, visitors. Only if the absolute numbers of Chinese visitors to Wales continues to increase or plateaus as a level higher than has been historically the case can we start to talk about a legacy for tourism.

Surely, The Western Mail should be challenging and scrutinising what vested interests are saying about their sector, rather than being a voicepiece for their PR. Indeed, it should be doing likewise across all sectors: economy, sports, health and education. Instead it appears to be in collusion with them.

Further proof is the lack of scrutiny of the legacy of the 2010 Ryder Cup. Much vaunted, and publicly-funded, talk of its legacy has tailed off completely. Quotes about American tourists, golf tourist visits, golf participation rates, and new demographies playing golf were plentiful in the immediate aftermath of the event. But have they been maintained? Have initial statistical ‘spikes’ translated into established trends? If not, then what was being labelled as ‘Legacy’ was merely ‘Impact’. It is principally, though not exclusively, the media’s job to hold the vested interests to account.

This is not to say there is not a role for the media in defining what legacy is and what it should be after such sporting events; that it must remain aloof to such discussions. I fear however that the media is disinterested in or disinclined to report from the grassroots where modest impact happens, and which aggregated together over time is what actually shapes a legacy. It prefers to talk about the millions of pounds, the investment: the ‘panoramic’. For that is what the top table talks about while it feasts. Neighbourhood level activity probably does not figure

There is, for instance, presumably no story forThe Western Mailin seeing how many young people, ethnic minorities or women from Ringland or Pillgwenlly are reguarly playing golf at local clubs and reporting what positive impact the sport has on their lives and aspirations. But if the media is not interested then community development workers are perfectly-placed to lobby, collectivise and mobilise communities to report it for themselves. They will hear people articualting a change in attitude because of Jade Jones or Mo Farah or because the Ryder Cup was in Newport. They will also witness how, when and to what extent this translates into greater participation in sport, citizenship or democracy activities. Community development workers will also be able to record and report the impact on crime, health and educational attainment that these choices end up having. If the media will not come to us, we must go to the media.

Community development workers too, however, need to be disciplined and balanced in what they believe is legacy or impact otherwise they run the risk of pulling up a chair and joining the succulent feast at the top table.

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How community development can help establish an Olympic legacy in a ‘place like Flint’

“Things like this don’t happen in a place like Flint. It’s a once in a lifetime thing for Flint. It’ll never happen again in my lifetime”

Among the triumph and exuberance of the celebrations for Jade Jones’s gold medal at Flint/Y Fflint Sports and Social Club, BBC Radio Wales broadcast this comment from a local woman this morning.

Perhaps it is a throwaway comment, one said in the heat of the moment. But does it hint at a broader mindset? A mindset that sees individual sporting success as exceptional, disconnected to community life, something ‘achieved by others’ and something that happens ‘despite living here’? If it does then a more grassroots-focused, collaborative approach is required that, if underpinned by community development principles, stands a good chance of achieving a genuine, lasting legacy for the 2012 London Olympics. In a place like Flint/Y Fflint, and many towns like it, a true legacy would be one that does see it happen again in her lifetime.

So what needs to be done?

Start by mobilising the community itself to organise itself to lead change. For instance, a community is well able to identify its sporting and leisure resources, strengths and opportunities. Shiny, expensive velodromes and the like are not the answer on their own. The Street Games movement at its heart recognises that sporting opportunities need to be brought to the doorstep at a time and cost that is appropriate to participants.

It needs to be all-inclusive. In truth there are many culturally-entrenched assumptions based on ethnicity, age, class and gender about which sports will appeal to which people and for which ones they will have an aptitude. These are slowly being broken down and for British medals to be won by women in sports such as boxing and taekwondo will help nudge this along. The commitment that community development has to supporting and advocating for marginalised and under-represented individuals can help collectivise participation in all activities including sporting.

History tells us that when people collectivise, change follows. That change usually centres on the re-balancing or re-distribution of power. Community development promotes participatory democracy. So as good as it is for the marginalised and under-represented to take part in sport, to contribute to decision-making processes about the activities in which they take part can lead to rich, imaginative and more empowering sporting experiences. In keeping with the Welsh Government’s desire for citizen-centred services – and a rejection of a consumer model – we might not merely consume sporting activities but shape them as well.

Community development recognsies that it might take time however. Usually it is the communities themselves that are most willing to recognise and commit to this. Funders and agencies need to do so too.

Community development, if done properly, is a reflective learning process, and a process in which all should participate. Learning in this context is very broad. For others to follow in Jade Jones’s footsteps requires there to be formally accredited coaches and mentors. But it also requires the recording, retention and transfer of informal lessons: why do some people ‘drop out’; why are some people taking part and not others; what are people’s true views about facilities and opportunities; what is the impact of external factors; what complements and helps embeds sporting activities and the values that can be gained by participants, and so forth.

Lastly, a community development approach ought to rage against the compartmentalisation, categorisation and thematic labelling of activity in favour of a more holistic approach to activities. For people to take part in sport and to try new sports there needs to be an alignment of local activities and agencies (schools, sports clubs, youth clubs and drop-ins, parental support, local projects of national agencies) with national, regional and programme-level strategies and priorities. Employing the other components of a community development approach outlined here allows for the reconciliation of these vertical and horizontal trajectories. So it is not just sports clubs, infrastructure providers and national sports governing bodies that have a role but schools, local employers, health agencies, planners, and so on. Community development can be the bond that coheres these various interests.

Neither are community development principles confinced to grant or publicly-funded Community Development Workers. Any of the stakeholders referred to here can apply them. So as part of our discussion about the legacy of London 2012, in addition to the inevitable talk of new sporting facilities and top down government programmes, let there also be a brave, imaginative and determined commitment to mobilising all communities to unearth their own future Jade Jones.

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Reporting on our community development work – are our priorities correct?

Working on a government-funded anti-poverty programme brings with it the inevitable duty of regular reporting on progress. Communities First/Cymunedau yn Gyntaf is no different. Though the format has changed numerously, quarterly and annual reports have been a way of life for the programme for a number of years.

Reporting the incremental progress against planned objectives, which are themselves increments towards aspired-for, longer-term outcomes, is a primary purpose of the reports. The other primary purpose they serve is to accompany financial claims to government for the money that pays staff, funds premises and activities and fundamentally helps lever in funding from elsewhere. The ‘bottom line’.

However, it is commonly held among community development workers that acknowledgement by government officials of the reports let alone comment on their content, is rare, especially for quarterly reporting. It is also commonly held that doing the reports is a bind. They tie community development workers to their desks reducing their visibility to the community; they divert development time from community engagement and contact; and long-term community change is difficult to illustrate over short quarterly increments. Governments no doubt recognise that tying workers to their desk is not cost-effective use of public money, and I am sure civil servants do not wish to read reams of information. There is a real danger that a vicious circle occurs where reports that don’t tell very much, are sent to government officials who don’t feedback their comments to the authors, who hated the process of writing the reports in the first place and are now dreading even more the next reporting milestone.

It does community development a massive disservice for the reporting process to become such a burden and stress. And necessary as it is to ‘get the [public] cash in’, and be accountable for the spending of it, community development workers need not be beholden to government officials and the timetable they set us. Yes, they are important but why do we place them on a pedestal to the extent that we do.

As a general rule I believe we can do more to report progress to strategic partners, local stakeholders, other funders and, perhaps most importantly, the communities in which we work. If we do this on a more routine basis we will be gathering the data and narrative required for the government reports (thus making the exercise of compiling these less time-consuming) and the feedback we receive from these complements and validates our narrative.

For instance, if residents in a street anecdotally report that anti-social behaviour, which they rarely report to the police, is down for a third consecutive quarter then the dialogue that community development workers can initiate with the police, community safety, housing and youth services that might corroborate or contextualise this anecdotal narrative is far more informative to government. And in informing and reflecting our practice.

Such a scenario doesn’t reduce community development workers’ visibility and doesn’t bureaucratise their work; rather it enhances its credibility and is probably of value to the partners.

Neither should community development workers confine their reporting to merely the written print form. Use of online blogs to report achievements on a regular basis and to locate snippets of evidence (e.g., satisfaction survey results, testimonials, before-and-after pictures, digital stories) provide a visual means for communities, groups and partners to be involved in the reporting process. Inclusion of hyperlinks in the government reports to such online evidence allows for more to be communicated with fewer words and email attachments.

Why not consider reporting via the spoken word with simple, short video blogs (‘vlogs’). These can provide for the communication of the headline issues that more detailed written reporting can follow up. They are also more likely to catch the eye of people in the community, the media and partners. They too can be publicised via hyperlinks on social media, written reports and emails. Web 2.0 internet platforms and digital technologies also enable communities, with the right support and inspiration, to report change for themselves thus simultaneously freeing-up community development workers, empowering themselves and fostering an organic civic engagement by doing rather than being told. Naysayers will always find it easier to dismiss evidence if paid or vested individuals are reporting it. In a community development context communities reporting change themselves is extremely powerful.

Adopting this approach to reporting and evidence collection reports to government become an exercise in ‘mopping-up’ the most informative and illustrative data and narrative; literally (and unapologetically!) a cut n paste exercise from other sources; and a more reflective exercise for community development workers. It also removes the pedestal from beneath government officials, empowers and involves communities, fosters partnership working and encourages the use of technology.

Sadly, it doesn’t guarantee for any acknowledgement or feedback from government officials…

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