Last week I was invited to attend an Asset Building Community Development Training organised by Dawn Carr, the speaker being Cormac Russell, which took place at the Public Art gallery in West Bromwich in the West Midlands, UK.
The training covered two days. I came to realise that most of the things Cormac Russell spoke about we were already doing, but we did not have the language for it before until now, which is ABCD, which is `Asset Building Community Development’.
It took me back to the early 1980s, where I lived a community in Nottingham, which was not a rundown area, but it was heading that way, and we, as a community. decided to do something about it, before the area descended into a situation of no return.
We did this by talking and recognising the ills of the community and how to improve. We did this by embracing the things that are right, and challenging those areas, within the community, that are wrong.
Over the following few years things began to improve, people started talking, cooking and playing together, we had no Community Development workers/officers, no local councillors and no funding either, we recognised what we had in the community and used it to our best advantage.
Some years later the language of what we did in that community, was developed, it arrived after the murder of Stephen Lawrence in April of 1993, that language we now know as, Community Cohesion.
I began to think, whilst I was at the Asset Building Community Development Training, of Crick and Watson, the two men who looked down the barrel of a microscope and they saw something that was already there, they then made sense of it and called it DNA.
We as a community can also look down the barrel of a microscope and see something that is already there, the community, the people who live in that community and the facilities within the community, and then try to make sense of it all.
I also began to think of those who are always there, not necessarily the paid workers, who are only there during their working hours, but those who volunteer, who are there 24 hours a day. They who do everything, those who get involved in everything, and who are always organising to improve the community, these people are unfortunately, very few.
These people only make a very small percent of the local population, and it is so important not to put too much pressure on them, because they are only human, like the rest of us, with emotions and feelings, and they can break at anytime and simply walk away, never to be seen again. As a result of this it may be suggested to work on a collective basis and share ideas as well as sharing the load.
While looking down the barrel of a microscope, we can see those with skills, those with talent, the question is, how to access them, who to include them, and how to ask them ?
Some years ago I was talking to a unionist, and she said that unionism is in decline, I then as why, she then replied, `unionism is not talked about in the home anymore, that is why unionism is in decline’. This got me thinking about the community, if people are not talking about the community in their homes, then community involvement will so fall into a downward slope, a gradual decline.
During the Asset Building Community Development Training, Cormac Russell mentioned, changing the conversation, that is fine, which I agree, but it needs more than that, it means bringing the conversation into the home, the nucleolus of family life. Where the conversation can then begin, where the ‘community’ is spoken about in the home, then take that language out of the home ad=nd into the community, easier said than done.
Cormac Russell mentioned the ‘inside story’, maybe this is the answer, however, there are many obstacles that get in the way, such as politics, religion and general intolerances in attitudes that is at the centre of some peoples’ lives. Breaking down barriers can be difficult at times. However, as mentioned above, it means putting more work on the ‘few’, ‘the committed’ and the’ faithful’, who do everything.
The inside story could mean `building common ground’, so the conversation can begin` by using everything we see, while looking down the barrel of a microscope and try to make sense of what we see and how to bring it together.
The community is already there, the facilities we need is already there and so are the people, we are already there, and we need to capitalise on this and learn use it to our best advantage while bringing people together in a good way. It only needs the power of conversation and how to use that language, which can then be easily understood by all member of the community regardless of ability, mental of otherwise.
I am rather happy I attended the Asset Building Community Development Training. Because I was becoming very disillusioned and thinking of giving it all up, find an island to live on where I can be alone for the rest of my life. Away from the talkers, who do nothing but talk and offer no action. Away from those who argue, and those how exclude.
Dealing with those people who all have a tendency to talk at the same time and listen to nothing, can be rather exhausting, stressful and depressing at times. The Asset Building Community Development Training gave me a new impetus, a new outlook. A new beginning to focus on what we already have and how to use it, even though we already knew this, but we needed someone like Cormac Russell to put it into a language, a method and an understanding, which gets you thinking. Over the past few days, I have been doing just that, `thinking’.
The people who were there we exciting and engaging with different stories, local stories, different lives, from all parts of the country, I will use their stories too to improve what we do in our the community.
To conclude, I have been to many conferences in my time, met many different kinds of people, heard many different speeches and listened to many different talkers, but Cormac Russell knows how to deliver, knows what to say and how to say it, whereas the other didn’t.
For the first time, I can honestly say, I was truly inspired by the whole situation. Furthermore, holding the conference/ the Asset Building Community Development Training in an Art Gallery is a stroke of genius. It was not held in a hotel conference room, as expected, it was held on common ground, a building open to the whole community, which is inspiring too. The last Fair Share conference I attended was held in a college, again, common ground open to the whole community, which is what I like.
The challenge now is the implantation of ideas, how to identify the nucleus of the community. How to find the ones who will be committed to the future development of the community. As mentioned, two men looked down the barrel of a microscope, we need the whole community to look down the barrel of a microscope and share what we see `together’. The challenge now enthusiastically lay ahead with a new insight and a new beginning, a new method as to assetly build the development of the community.
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