Posted by: nickgardham | July 13, 2011

June – reflection from the front line

June has been an excellent month and on closing the first quarter it has been useful to take stock and reflect on what has been achieved… and after taking a step back, a lot has gone on!

What’s going well?

‘The conversation in the Parish is certainly changing. It’s starting to move from what does not happen, to, what ideas do we have that can start to happen!’. Parishioner.

The month started with the prearranged visit by Will Perrin and Nicky Netgood from TalkAboutLocal. A huge thank you to NESTA for introducing the TalkAboutLocal team. They came with great insight and knowledge and challenged us to think about the strategies we are using for social media… This challenge brought about http://www.WeLoveNewark.org.uk. Our new brand for activity and action… It was decided that the Ning! site that we had developed would become a more generic brand for Newark which would be used to engage local people into online discussions. The platform would be the online network for the relationships that are nurtured and developed on the ground. As we listen, build trust and support action on the ground we would engage people in the site as a way of keeping people informed and the developing the listening dialogue further.

At the heart of RE:generate’s work is the linking of people’s personal growth, to local action that in turn influences the wider society. This means that we always start with the individual. We start by simply listening. Up to now we have listened to well over 200 people, (both Parishioners and the wider community) and have started to challenge people into taking action around what matter most to them. Some are starting to think about how they can develop their own projects in response to where gaps in provision may exists. Others are linking in with things that they didn’t know existed and strengthening existing activity in the Parish.

Two great examples are:

  1. As a result of the Listening training, one Parishioner started to listen to their friends, family and members of the Parish. It was clear that there was a need for Youth Provision in the Parish. A grouping of young people and adults were brought together to explore how this could be developed. After a listening session, collective actions were agreed about the development of a family night that would be welcome to all ages at the centre. (http://bit.ly/nXrbo0)
  2. Again following the listening training, and a follow up 1:1, a member of the Parish started to listen to her neighbours. She already had an idea about developing her own project around Parents and Toddlers but was keen to listen to the views of others. The listening showed that people felt dissatisfied with the local service provision provided by the NHS. As a result, collective actions are being explored to develop a voice for local people that will be able to challenge and transform the experience and way in which NHS service provision is provided locally.

Importantly though, whilst work develops on the ground, other members of the team are working to develop relationships with the Statutory sector, Agencies and the Community and Voluntary Sector. This element of the work is crucial. It starts to build a sustainable platform for this work, as well as starting the process of transformation that will ensure that there is collaborative action between the ‘wider society’ and people at the grassroots. Throughout June we have started to plan our strategy for the engagement of the Voluntary and Community Sector, the Local Authority and Elected Members in the Neighbourhood Challenge.

A personal highlight for myself was speaking at Mass. Speaking at Mass gave the opportunity to present the project to over 500 Parishioners (and importantly dispel any unanswered questions). A transcript can be found here: http://bit.ly/k2YmJk. The purpose of this was to plant the seeds that would start to get thinking about their own role that they play in relation to the Parish and how they can get involved.

The challenges:

After completion of the Listening Training to over 25 Parishioners the formulation to the Parish Listening Team is well underway. However, those who have been involved with the training have had mixed feelings about how they would approach people, how they would use the listening skills that they have learnt to best effect and most importantly, how they would overcome their nerves of approaching someone for the first time.

Despite these challenges 4 Parishioners have tried out the Listening process. As the work develops and more ‘try it out’ it the numbers in the team will without question increase. It is crucial though that we do not forget our role, to support the emergent Listeners to engage and reach out to others and provide mentoring and training that will enable them to do so.

To continue the successes that we have achieved so far we must build on the passions and strengths of people. It is important that we support those who want to be active and reach out to others and lead by example on building trust and reaching out to members of the Parish.

Is the community involved:

YES! From the outset the Partnership between Holy Trinity and RE:generate have placed reaching out to new people at the heart of the project. This reaching out is starting to identify new people who want to develop projects that will respond to local need. New people with newrojects include:

  • A micro Neighbourhood Challenge in the outlying village of Carlton
  • ICT classes for the elderly
  • Bereavement Support Network
  • Band night / Music evening

What’s surprising?:

For the team at RE:generate it is refreshing to see the lack of distrust between the Church and the wider community. Faith based groupings can be met with trepidation in the wider community due to a misconceived prejudice about their agendas. This is not the case with Holy Trinity. Those we have engaged who are aware of the centre see it is an important asset to the community – an asset that can be used to be a support the development of project ideas and be the base for new action and activity in the community.

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Responses

  1. Great to hear how things are going – both the successes and the challenges you’re facing. It really is good to understand how the project feels to people who are involved in delivering or participating in it – I’m looking forward to seeing how things develop and reading more. Thanks!


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