We’ve had a really excellent session at Woodhouse Community Centre today, Communities Creating Change. There were about fifteen people there, and as per my last blog post we were on a journey to understand how people and communities can work together towards change. What do we hope for? What issues do we face? How can we communicate? I would say the discussions have been mostly about communication in various forms.
The dynamics of human relationships as they are played out in our various communities are at the heart of this. We react to people who are different from us, we plot and scheme with those with whom we share interests, we are defensive, sensitive and often afraid.
Just bringing people together is a challenge. The needs that command our attention are often determined by our own stories and sensitivities – more to do with sentiment and emotional state; Money, history, power, the need for survival all swirling in the mix. The rational exploration of need and potential solutions is more likely usurped by a view which is filtered by self interest and personal pride as much as anything.
The mechanics of bringing people together around important local issues is a game played in the mind as much as anything else. We take scientifically gathered data which feeds into open and inclusive discussion – these conversations are engineered to ensure all voices are heard. Emotional feeling are acknowledged for what they are and balanced with more detached input. Flip charts, mind maps, twitter streams and team bonding games (see video below). Getting to the heart of the matter is more like a circus act than anything else, bringing together a thrilling combination of technical agility, risk and entertainment. It’s a messy business and who knows if the audience will applaud in the end.
The important thing is that we are together on the journey and that we are finding ways of bringing people together as members of this daring and unusual circus troupe. We need people of different backgrounds, world views, and abilities to come together somehow. As someone said at the meeting it is the critical need to embrace difference within which holds us together and without problems to solve there would be no community.
We have not only listened but heard some extraordinary stories today. One person said that for the first time he had experienced what it like to have someone really listen. Perhaps there lies the answer to much of this, the ability to be quiet and listen to each others stories.
There’s more tomorrow from Communities Creating Change course and if you would like to follow it on twitter the hashtag is #oblonglearning