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David Wilcox

Add your views and ideas on how to strength communities

Next week there's another chance to engage with researchers looking into how community groups and activists can achieve their aims in today's hard times. 

The Third Sector Research Centre is running a live online discussion in the evening of October 19 with a panel from our sister online community, the National Community Activists Network. There's a summary of an earlier online discussion hosted by Guardian Voluntary Sector Network here

You'll find a link to next week's discussion on the Beyond the Radar site here, where there is more background and a report from Razia Sharriff of the day-long workshop held in July. Razia writes:

"A key theme was power and equality: who is being empowered, who is more able to engage? Social contexts explored under this theme included the power between communities, how much we are being expected to conform in order to be ‘good’ and the policy blindness to social inequalities. Political contexts highlighted the different agenda’s of councils, how the structures that challenged marginalisation are being lost, and questioned what is actually meant by localism, which communities now have the power? Economically, the participants raised concerns over the crowding out by the wealthy, and how resources for BME and marginalised communities are being lost.

"Another theme centred around the individual citizen, their motivations and time available, and how their relationships were shifting because of new contexts and forces. The social contexts included the changing culture of services, government and the formal sector and their perception and use of the citizen. Politically, the context and nature of empowerment was seen to have moved with competition between the individual and the citizen, and there was concern over true government accountability as regulatory frameworks were being abandoned.

"Economically, the cuts and their impact on resources to support local communities and individuals who used to support local communities were raised.

"The third theme focused on BtR groups and the indirect and unintended consequences of voluntary sector reconfiguration. Socially, there was the issue of maintaining independence and activism and how to understand activities beyond ‘community anchors’. Politically, there were questions raised about how realistic asset transfer could be in offering sustainability for groups, the impact of the funding cuts and changes to contracts, the lack of understanding politically of community development, communities and the issues they faced. Economic contexts included the cuts to shared resources for local communities, the impact of the bonfire of infrastructure organizations and the difficulty of engaging in the bigger contracts that were available.

"The final theme that emerged was that of Government and the contradictory agendas and messages. This theme echoed many of the socio, economic and political contexts already mentioned and there was a sense of confusion as to whether markets or communities were the government’s preferred mechanism for change".

Drew Mackie and I ran a session at the July event to develop ideas for action, based in part on ideas first generated and mapped on the Our Society site. You can vote on ideas and add more here.

Today TSRC launched the Third Sector Knowledge Portal, backed by £200,000 from the Big Lottery Fund. More here at Third Sector magazine online.

The website will feature materials such as academic research, reports by voluntary organisations, government publications and training materials. Links will be provided to relevant materials at the British Library.

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Tags: btr11, tsrc

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Jeff Mowatt Comment by Jeff Mowatt on October 23, 2011 at 10:31am

By coincidence, I find Howard Schultz in Harvard Business Review singing from the same hymn book.


Invest in communities to advance capitalism

Jeff Mowatt Comment by Jeff Mowatt on October 17, 2011 at 9:18pm

In my interpretation localism equates to post growth economics where production is geared to the needs of the community. Focus is on empowering the individual and where need is greatest.

A practical illustration is using sustainable energy to create local employment and re-invest surplus revenue for further social benefit.


Local and people-centered economies  

David Wilcox Comment by David Wilcox on October 17, 2011 at 11:27am
Thanks Phil for picking out Eileen's brilliant analogy. As I understand it, Eileen is saying that small "Below the Radar" groups are like the very small particles that physicists have studied; they turn out to be energy rather than matter as usually understood. Just as we need a different framework for understanding small particles, we need a different way of understanding small groups, rather than trying to fit them into the systems for working with bigger organisations. I'll see if Eileen can give us  more.
Phil Green Comment by Phil Green on October 15, 2011 at 9:26am
Particularly liked Eileen Conn's comments (2nd video, here ). The next speaker, James Devlin, touches on it, but I think a lot more thought needs to be given to how the 'energy waves' (love that description!) Eileen mentions can both support each other and be supported by the "more familiar / world of work" bit.

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