ABCD Europe

Asset-based community development in action, all over Europe.

James Hampson - Creating Creative Community Space

As Community Builders we have to go to the people, earn their trust, discover their hidden passions, gifts, interests and ambitions for where they live, but then what?  How do we help to allow people to utilise these gifts and share them with neighbours?  That’s when we begin making space.

During a convening of Community Network Builders in Miami to share ...

Space is where people come together, where people meet and share their gifts.  Space can be anything and anywhere.   Space can be an internet Chat room, it can be a social networking site, it can be the pub, a café, a piece of green space or walk around the park. For Example if numerous neighbours have mentioned that a certain area in the neighbourhood is under used or derelict I would create a space in that spot.  I’d Invite all the neighbours down to join me, tell them when we got there that they all said that they would like to do something with the space and encourage them to share ideas, I’d refer to the Assets they’d already mapped and offer examples of how these could be utilised, I’d ask if there is anyone else they would like to get involved or would like to get involved and encourage them to seek these people out.   

2 recent examples of creating space highlight how diverse “Space” is as a concept.  First I had met a local resident who wished to see a Zumba Class in the area, I was aware of a few classes but none that are actually in Lostock, I did however know a lady who is somewhat of an encyclopaedia regarding Zumba and knows everything you could about it and which local classes would suit an individual.  Both of the ladies have busy schedules so after talking with them found it would be difficult for them to meet up, they are however both on Facebook so after asking them if it was Ok to pass on details I put them in touch and created a “Virtual Space”  for them to share knowledge and interests.

Second we have the Allotment Group, a bunch of like-minded residents of all ages but who had never been brought together as a group.  At an event we got to see a disused Allotment space in the area and everyone who viewed it became excited about its possibilities, My Colleague Gary has written a blog about Communities Growing Food...

With the Lostock group I built on their initial enthusiasm and  invited them to come for coffee and discuss what could be done, the conversation flowed and plans were hatched but an interesting by product of the meeting was a local history lesson given by some of the older members of the group to its youngest member who is 13.  The group discussed building and local points of interest long lost by development and building works, ideas about forming a local history group came out and further names added to the ever growing list of people with shared interests and knowledge.

I’m starting to believe that there are 2 key foundations to successful Community Building.  First, and most obviously, we must find the Assets but after that the key is to create spaces for neighbours to come together to share the Assets and have the important conversations and the fun part is where we create the space, how we use initiative, creativity and innovation to create a space where as many people as possible can join in and share.

James Hampson - Lostock Community Builder 

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Comment by James Hampson on June 20, 2012 at 13:48

Hi Lorna, 

In my experience recently I've met people who take the approach both you and myself take and the approach I describe, it's why I was sure to point out that it is not always the case.  I think your frustration about the who is given the title of CD worker is a common one and a case of a few people incorrectly given that title may have changed it's meaning for the wider profession.  Maybe In the best cases CD and CB are the same thing and what all of us in ABCD are trying to do is promote that similar approach and challenge what in some cases has been inappropriately labelled Community Development

Comment by Lorna Prescott on June 20, 2012 at 13:17
Hi James
I see why you think this about CD. The example you refer to is not CD as I recognise it. It drives me mad that people have the title of CD worker or officer but not a blooming clue about what CD is. What you describe as what community building does is exactly how I would describe what CD does. Before I'd even heard the term community development I used to spend hours working alongside people from community groups so that they achieved things themselves, building on their own skills and abilities. I wouldn't fill in a funding form for them (despite them asking me to) or try to solve problems, it takes longer but it's so much more long lasting and satisfying when people do things themselves and can be proud of it.
Comment by James Hampson on June 20, 2012 at 13:04

Hi Lorna,

I think that the difference here between CD and Community Building is a subtle one and while both create space I feel it is the nature of the space created that is different.  I feel that in Community Development (not in all cases I hasten to add) spaces are created for residents to come and have conversations that generate work for a Community Development Worker to do, to possibly fix a neighbourhood or focus on a negative, in such cases creating a negative space.

In Community Building the space is created for residents to come together, share and try to focus on the positive or use something positive, such as passion, creativity and assets, to solve problems for themselves.

Take this Allotment example.  Initially the space was created by a CD Worker, a space was created people said they wanted a Community Allotment and one was started for them.  Once the worker left so was the Allotment.  in this sense it wasn't truly a Community Allotment as there wasn't much investment by the Community 

In our approach a space has been created and people have been encouraged to plan and do for themselves, building on what they have and to celebrate their gifts together.  It will hopefully be a true Community Allotment started by the Community for the Community using their own energy and creativity

Comment by Lorna Prescott on June 18, 2012 at 8:24
Hi both
Thanks for sharing these reflections, and the link to the blog from the Miami gathering, all really helpful. I'm still at a loss to understand how this activity is different to community development, these are exactly the sorts of things that any CD worker worth their salt would be doing. And the concept of created space is hardly a new one, though obviously it can, has and Will also be used for other sorts of outcomes, such as campaigning - which is why what you are talking about James is more specific. It is so fantastic to find people doing this work, and sharing it online - for me it's filling a gap in CD networking, as lots of people I've met in the CD field don't seem willing to get online and share their experiences and reflections. Which is a great shame, we're all loosing out.

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