Friday, 17 April 2009

one year on ....

It's now one year on from the start of this Blog and also the start of my Blogging. It was a very useful tool and good practice for future Blogs .....

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

research report completed!

I've written the research report and Emailed to the Project Team - phew - hope it is useful and a 'job well done' - it's been good to listen to the recordings, read the notes and remember the meetings with the Fairfield and Muirton folks and their stories about learning.

The research journey began with a walk round the areas, crossing the bridge between and getting used to the differences and similarities. And always the people. Who make up the communities, who care about their communities and were keen to describe their learning experiences but also wanted to know about the other learning opportunities that are out there or could be in there, in the community.

I'm creating some personalised postcards to give out as a 'thank you' to everyone who participated in this action research project, I couldn't have done it without them and without you. The highlights have included - meeting lots of interesting individuals and groups (I really like meeting new people), being invited to committees and lunch clubs (roast lamb and home-made soup), seeing the community through someone who lives there's eyes, having a McDonald's with some young folks and hearing about their hopes for the future (apprenticeship, sports coaching), listening to the workers' stories about learning and their commitment to the people, and many other memories.

To be continued .....

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

community activism

I've been thinking of the term 'community activist' and looking at definitions on the internet, although Wikipedia doesn't have a page for this, interestingly, only 'activism' and 'community building' ... On other websites there are references to activism as 'changing the system' and in the findings from a report on the changing nature of community activism 'From placards to partnership'

the phrase 'more subtle approaches based on strategic negotiation within the new local governance structures' is used to describe some of the changes.

In the 1980's I was a community activist in South Lanarkshire, living in an ex-mining village as my children grew up. But if you had asked me then what I was I would not have described myself as that - it was a matter of working with others in the community to create projects and raise funds to allow us to give our children the best play experience and to help others in the community. We were all volunteers, mothers who didn't work and didn't expect to work, living mostly in council houses. I suppose some were single parents although it's not one of the lasting memories. I started with a 'mother & toddler group' then playgroup, forming committees, working further afield on branch committees, visiting other playgroups, getting travel expenses but doing the work for free. We got a community minibus, I was a driver, and we went away for trips, to the beach, the zoo and to the shops.

I remember a council worker helping us with different things - training courses, funding sources, ideas - but it seemed that we were the driving force. Other activies including being on the school board, on steering groups Lanarkshire wide and doing youth work - attending residential training for this which involved 'trust games', being video'd and groupwork activities. We all became much more self-confident and self-aware - of our abilities and natural aptitudes as well as developing new skills, ideas and networking.

Getting back to the 'changing nature of community activism' it's interesting to hear how people are still having an influence on decision-making, adopting a more gentle approach to activism. In the previously mentioned project there is a quote from an interviewee "I think there's another cultural shift which has been the way you get your message across, whatever that message might be .... that you are more sophisticated, that you play the game, that you do it in ways that are less in-your-face" (p59 of report).

Friday, 23 May 2008

change of plan

We've just been involved in another focus group, this time an established group of more than 2 years, and we began as usual with the semi-structured questions. But found that the group had other plans and wanted to discuss their concerns about the future of their group.

So we listened to their concerns, wrote down their achievements and questions that they had for the 'powers that be' on a flipchart and then in a letter that they could adapt as required.

This was an interesting development and although we didn't manage to work through our list of questions we did get some answers in our research into learning. We found out that this group were able to speak out about their concerns, they were articulate and expressive in listing the reasons as to why the group should continue. And they had an impressive amount of evidence as to the information learnt and the social benefits. It demonstrated that the learning needs were being met and that there was reflection on this.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

muffins uneaten

Just to let you know that we did not have anyone coming along for the focus group at the centre, we'll just have to take the muffins home ...

But this is OK as it's not always easy to go along to a new group meeting, people are busy and already attend their own groups. It's easier to meet people where they're at. I've been visiting groups that already meet for learning to find out their thoughts on the learning they've had, how they accessed it and what they would like to do in the future. Common themes include the need for guidance, help with looking at the choices available for careers that people are thinking of in the future, when their children are a bit older or to enable them to apply for more skilled jobs. Another highlighted area is Scottish culture and history for the learners who have come to live in Scotland from another country. Creative writing opportunities is another theme - short story writing, poetry and being able to write articles for the press - practising these activities also helps with their grammar and spelling. And increases self-confidence and feelings of self-worth.

I must have met now with over 50 people individually, local residents and workers, to get a feel for the Muirton and Fairfield communities, their experiences of living and working in these areas, and their hopes for the future. Many of the community activists in Muirton are in more than one committee or group and are keen to involve others and to see change in their community. Fairfield has a core of residents that use the centre and involve people from other areas in their activities. This is a 'tale of two cities' - both regeneration areas but at different stages of the journey.

"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known." Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)


Hi there - we're at Fairfield Neighbourhood Centre at this moment waiting for folk to appear for the pre-arranged focus group on learning - it's now 10.10am, the group was meant to start at 9.45am - the muffins and chocolate fingers are waiting to be eaten - looks like we may have to eat them ourselves ....

Friday, 16 May 2008

a vision of the future

I've just been looking up some websites about social firms - businesses created to provide employment opportunities for disabled people. A disabled person in this instance could be someone with a physical impairment or mobility problem, have an understanding or communication difficulty, a mental health problem, impaired sight or hearing.

One of the websites is IMBY (I'm assuming it stands for 'in my back yard') which has been around since 1996, employs more than 20 staff, has a turnover of around £600K and believes that 'disabled and non-disabled people should be able to live and work alongside each other without anyone being surprised about it'. There is a page on the website that describes a vision of the future: and I thought I would share it with you as I found it interesting and thought provoking. The author Mark Powell is the Chief Executive of IMBY and I've heard him before on a podcast talking about social firms, an inspiring speaker who makes you want to find out more about the subject.

Not sure if this is completely to do with adult learning but there is a link I suppose if we think of 'barriers to learning', how to involve people with disabilities and how to be more inclusive.