12 October 2016

Time for change – a delegate’s response to Community-led Approaches to Reducing Poverty

The opportunity to discover more about community-led approaches to reducing poverty brought around 70 people to two What Works Scotland seminars in Clydebank and Dundee.

What did they think of the event and what thoughts and emotions did it provoke?  

We asked one of the attendees at the Clydebank session - Pam Dawson - to write a blog with her response to the event.

Pam is the National Co-ordinator of the Place-based Programme run by the Lloyds TSB Foundation for Scotland (the Foundation).

This programme brings together a group of UK funders including Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Esmée Fairbairn, Tudor Trust and Lankelly Chase.

The programme willI be working in partnership with communities in South Lanarkshire, North Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, North Ayrshire, Fife, Falkirk, East Renfrewshire, Inverclyde and West Dunbartonshire, employing local people where possible to work with the community to support the development of local ideas that will bring about local action and change.

Guest blog from Pam Dawson, National Co-Ordinator of the Lloyds TSB Foundation’s Place-based Programme.

This is the first time I’ve been asked to write a blog and I’m actually quite nervous. Not because I don't know how to, but because I’ve never thought anyone would be interested in my views.

I suppose that echoes what I've learned from years of working with people in communities; and was reinforced earlier this month from listening at the What Works Scotland's conference called 'Community-led Approaches to Reducing Poverty: A Review of Evidence and Practice.'

So here I am reflecting (again…) on the democratic structures in place for community engagement and question (again…) the reasons why so many people don't get involved.

Is it simply because - like me - people don't believe that anyone would be interested in their views?  Or is it bigger than that?

For many years, communities facing a range of inequalities have had negative labels attached to them via the descriptive language of policy.  Language such as 'deprived', 'disadvantaged', 'multiple disadvantage', 'poverty', 'hard to reach' etc. etc. etc.

Does this persistent negativity create a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Has it, coupled with how communities are analysed, robbed people of their aspiration, hope and belief?  Isn’t that where the real poverty is?

And if so, hasn't it been imposed?

How could aspiration, hope and belief be sustained, never mind flourish, in an environment of relentless negative labelling?

Truly, how resilient would you and your neighbours have to be to maintain hope and believe that you can create a better future for your loved ones, if everyone else doesn't?  And if the 'everyone else' holds the balance of power that could make your aspiration a reality?

So where does the responsibility sit for apathy within communities?

I know from first-hand experience that there are skills, abilities, energy and ideas that can make change happen and play an actively and meaningful role in the democratic processes. But at the same time the owners of all these assets lack the belief that everyone else will a) welcome them, b) see their views as valid, c) listen and d) act.

It’s not rocket science - our systems and structures need to adapt to accommodate communities and their people; the negative language needs to STOP; and behaviours need to change.

It is urgent – we need to do this now. Yet we need to be patient - building trusting relationships to develop environments where hope and belief thrives into action will take time.

Resources and discussions

Discussion groups at work at the What Works Scotland event at Clydebank Town Hall
Discussion groups at work at the event in Clydebank Town Hall

Interest in community-led approaches to reducing poverty will continue with new ideas and contribution to the discussion coming from across Scotland. 

If you have an interest in community-led approaches please continue the dialogue and get in touch with us to contribute a blog article or share research findings. What Works Scotland will be putting together a selection of online resources related to the event.

Views expressed by guest bloggers may not reflect the views of What Works Scotland.

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