“Community knowledge is communal…”

This was how the scene was set last week, at the W3RT event, Rekindling Democracy, with guest speaker and author Cormac Russell. The event was an open debate that stimulated participants into talking about actions that we, as society organisation helpers, could put in place to help community members take ownership of their own infrastructure within their neighbourhood environment. The impact of which would mean that individuals can have far more say over how their neighbourhood assets serve them, meaning the “helpers” could then become the “ethical practitioners” in aiding this process.

At breakout sessions over 70 attendees were asked to answer, in small groups, influential questions such as “what crossroads are you at right now as a helper to your community” to “how do we then shift the way we do things and plot a revolution”.

Joining back up, participant then had the opportunity to share their findings, and to hear more from Cormac Russell’s insights.

Debates then shifted toward “what is power?” and “who has it?” as well as “what acts can we then do as key helpers?” in a changing of mindsets, and how to empower individuals in asking for the right “tools” to equip their neighbourhoods with.

Gill Main commented on twitter, replying to Bob Jones and Cormac Russell:

“Such a good session. For me the idea of ‘bestowing’ power is starting from the wrong place, for others it is semantics. Either way, we can create conditions for building agency.  Helen Bevan tweeted about this & it created some interesting discussion.”

The debate went on make refence about “enabling” not “empowering”, and how language can be critical in what it is we are trying to do and help any misconceptions.

Helen Bevan made reference after reading the book “Rekindling Democracy”:

“It makes me uncomfortable when leaders & improvement folk aim to "empower" patients & frontline colleagues. "Empowerment" reinforces imbalances in power rather than changes power. There's wisdom in this classic article by @JohnQShift.”


Changing the way in which they were thinking was key. Instead of talking to community members as helpers, participants were encouraged to think of things from the members perspective, creating the tools and as part of the “new normal”, and encourage that much needed change as we go forward into 2021.


For more information on this different way of thinking, and on the inspiration behind this, please visit Nurture Development to see more about the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD), and hear about case studies from areas such as Leeds and West Croydon.

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