The Write Idea?

CDJ Board member Dave Vanderhoven reflects on his experience of running writing workshops for community development practitioners and academics.

Academic journals often aim to attract more written contributions from practitioners, to balance the predominance of academic articles. The aims are often to broaden the relevance and interest in the journal, and hence, increase it’s potential impact.

Equally common, is the discovery that supporting practitioners and other new writers towards publication is more difficult than one first imagines. The problem, I discovered in trying to lead an initiative on behalf of CDJ, is the way that we consider it as a ‘problem’.

The CDJ Editorial Board set out to explore these issues by doing some Action Research, (AR) to consider how new writers might be supported effectively. As project lead, I set out to write publicity materials that would inspire potential writers and build confidence of those who sometimes think about writing, only to dismiss the idea before pen hits paper. However, as my ‘pen’ hit ‘paper’ I realised that I didn’t know what the issues were that stop people writing – I couldn’t really articulate the substantial barriers to my own writing practices.

After much thought and procrastination, I realised I couldn’t start where I originally thought I would – I couldn’t write the publicity materials that others would use to recruit new writers, without first thinking about what others go through when confronted with the reality of having to write.

After many informal conversations with respected colleagues, considerable refinement of my own ideas and a degree of crossing my fingers, I sent out invitations to the inaugural meeting of the CDJ New Writer’s Network in Sheffield. Invitations went to people who had expressed an interest and who I knew struggled with writing.

I recognised in the number of apologies, either for absence or lateness and non replies, that the idea of writing, not even the writing itself, could be a source of considerable stress. I modified my approach yet again and thought the point of the first meeting should be to get people talking about the kinds of material that they are dealing with, where I had previously thought we should jump straight into their abstracts (which of course hadn’t been written or weren’t being volunteered for review anyway). The learning I took from this is to get people to talk first and progress to writing in due course, perhaps only later edging towards academic writing.

The first meeting included a group of largely unpublished researchers, a couple of activists with connections to universities, and surprisingly a Professor who admitted that she hates academic writing and a fellow CDJ board member, whose presence was a great confidence booster for me. The discussion was at times intense, but lively and reflective. We barely got past the first question I posed, which was what have you been doing in work. At the end of the meeting, people were genuinely keen and one said he was inspired to write, others that they had really enjoyed the conversation and meeting new people.

I came away thinking it was going to be much harder to get people to write than I thought – mostly because I was absolutely clear that I didn’t understand what was getting in people’s way – they (like me) could talk the hind legs off a donkey, but froze when it came to writing, why?

The second meeting included a different group of people; with two Board members and two new writers from the first session, but this time three new members of the group arrived, with a few others yet to attend. We paired up to consider what we would write about in more detail and spent over an hour sharing ideas and making plans for the next session. People left at different times and so the opportunity to develop a co-ordinated summary slipped away.

From my paired discussion I was left thinking that it isn’t writing that is the problem. It isn’t ideas that are the problem. But that the problem, such as it is a problem at all, is a clash of cultures and all that this might imply. Writing per se, for me at least, is a process of discovering what I have to say followed by a struggle to say it in a coherent way; a process that takes time and energy.

Academic writing contains all the same ingredients, and despite supposedly using the same language, often involves writing with an alien set of rules and expectations. The difference, I began to recognise having been in academic roles for several years, was that it was familiar territory for me, more familiar than I realised. Overcoming the nervousness that seems to emerge in most people, even well published professors (I know a few that might say the same), amounts to developing a higher degree of self-confidence and/or using one’s existing sense of entitlement to have a say in debates.

The ‘problem’ of enabling practitioners to write for publication, follows the problems of class, gender, race and other forms of exclusion and discrimination; overcoming one involves some degree of overcoming them all. That ‘others’ do not write for our journals should be evidence enough that something is wrong. It falls to those of us ‘on the inside’ to make something new happen, if we are to justifiably consider ourselves as relevant?

Accepting that we do not know enough about why practitioners do not write for academic publication would is a useful starting point, against which to try a range of different activities. We haven’t solved the problem through our work in Sheffield, but we have made a good start in trying to understand it better.

Academic knowledge is not always better than other forms of knowing, presuming it is can feel like a judgement on those who lack confidence and can present obstacles to others writing for publication. Learning how to effectively break down the barriers between practice and academic publication is open to anyone willing to try, and in particular those on editorial boards of academic journals – solutions are within reach of the willing researcher?

Empowered Communities: Looking back – to move forward (UK)

The IVAR team are preparing to facilitate a diverse dialogue that will explore the past, present and future of support to communities in the UK.

By Leila Baker, Head of Research, IVAR

The Institute for Voluntary Action Research has been appointed by Local Trust to be responsible for a research project that will ask, ‘What needs to happen to empower communities?’ and ‘Does community development still have a contribution to make?’

We’re excited and not a little humbled to have the chance to work with people across the UK who have important insights and opinions to contribute to this research. What we discover will matter to Local Trust, to IVAR and to the hundreds of people who have already signed up to updates on the project.

A research approach for our times

The withdrawal of the state is leaving communities to do more for themselves, widening the gap between rich and poor, and damaging the infrastructure that supports community action. Cuts and austerity have become powerful drivers for finding different ways of doing a huge range of things – from how we involve people in their own care and wellbeing; to how we finance community building and empowerment. Brexit has sharpened our awareness of division and tensions in communities and subsequent incidents of racism or other prejudice have mobilised and alarmed people across the generations.

So what kind of research is needed? This isn’t a big project. The budget of £40,000 sounds like a lot until you start to break it down across work in all four nations of the UK and with everyone who has something to say. But the money that is available for Local Trust to act on the research is sizeable – a £500,000 legacy from the Community Development Foundation.

Our approach is simple. We want to ask great questions and stimulate dialogue between diverse groups of people. How we do that will vary – we’ll use whatever language, style or approach that will elicit the ‘best’ response. And by ‘best’ I mean one that allows participants to get across their perspective, experience and opinions and that challenges them to think widely and critically. And, yes, we want people to have conversations that they find enjoyable, stimulating and useful for themselves too.

Learning from the past

The dialogues we facilitate will need to connect people with different perspectives, experiences and opinions. That includes creating opportunities for conversations across the generations. Over the past few weeks, I have been struck by the number of conversations and chance encounters that I have observed between people of different generations. These conversations hearten and strengthen, but also inform.

Lessons from the past matter. Being ambitious for the future matters too and sometimes that means doing things in new ways. But let’s not forget that if you are poor, hungry, lonely or isolated, good doesn’t necessarily equate to new. We need the past as much as the present to help us do good.

Join the debate:

Share your views on Twitter using #Empowered2020s

Keep up to date: Sign up to the Empowered Communities project mailing list.

IVAR is an independent charity that works closely with people and organisations striving for social change. We use research to develop practical responses to the challenges faced and create opportunities for people to learn from our findings.

Local Trust’s mission is to enable residents to make their communities and their areas even better places in which to live. We do this by helping residents develop and use their skills and confidence to identify what matters most to them, and to take action to change things for the better, now and in the future. We provide a mix of funding and finance to support people to make sustainable change, maximise impact and make the best use of scarce resources. Our major programme in England is Big Local.

Empowered Communities in the 2020: shaping the future of community development in the UK

Empowered Communities in the 2020s is an ambitious new project made possible by a major legacy donation from the Community Development Foundation, which would have celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. The project is about scoping and supporting the future of community development in the UK with a critical eye for what it needs to look like and who it needs to involve in order to be fit for the purpose of empowering communities in the 2020s.

To start the project, Local Trust and their partners at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have commissioned IVAR (the Institute for Voluntary Action Research) to carry out a research project to capture the contemporary value and future possibilities of working with communities to enable them to develop to their fullest potential.

The research aims to enable a conversation with a wide range of people, groups and organisations in the public, voluntary (including faith and community groups) and business sectors who support individuals and communities, build movements, and operate online and offline.

It will do this through three sets of Dialogues:

  • Dialogues #1 – Exploring policy contexts that intersect with community development and empowered communities, such as income inequality, local ageing populations, housing, immigration or climate change.
  • Dialogues #2 – Visiting the four countries in the UK to hear from people who work with communities regardless of whether or not they have a community development remit as such.
  • Dialogues #3 – Conversations in four communities of place, to hear from people who work with, or in some way support communities — regardless of whether or not they have a community development remit.

The research is led by Leila Baker. You can read more about it – and sign up to the Empowered Communities mailing list – on Leila’s blog.

You might also be interested in a blog post by Local Trust’s chief executive, Matt Leach, to see what the funders want to achieve through the research.

IACD Board approves global definition of Community Development

Following consultation with IACD members, presentation and finalisation of the draft text at the July 2016 Minnesota international conference, the IACD Board has approved a new Global Definition of Community Development.

Community development is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes participative democracy, sustainable development, rights, economic opportunity, equality and social justice, through the organisation, education and empowerment of people within their communities, whether these be of locality, identity or interest, in urban and rural settings“.

Further information can be found on the IACD website.

Open Access: exploring the issues

How can – and how should – academic work be made freely available to a wider public audience?

In April 2016 the Editorial Board of the Community Development Journal invited UCC librarian Cathal Kerrigan to present on the background to “open access” within academic publishing, plus the strengths, limitations and ethical issues associated with various approaches to this.

Cathal has kindly filmed his presentation for wider public distribution. The video and slides can be seen below.

REPORT: The Changing Landscape of Local and Community Development in Ireland: Policy and Practice

tsrcThis is the report of a conference held in University College Cork, Ireland, in October 2015 to discuss research carried out by UCC researchers and the views of representatives from the wider voluntary and community sector on the impact of both austerity cuts and changes to central and local government funding on the sector.

With the onset of the economic crisis on 2008, a range of austerity measures introduced by Irish Government led to severe cuts in funding to the voluntary and community sector in Ireland.  Accompanying this was an on-going process of policy change since the late 1990s, linked to Government attempts to align the sector with central and local government priorities and agenda. The latter culminated in the passing of the Local Government Reform Act 2014, which attempted to bring the community and voluntary sector under greater local and central government control, and included the introduction of competitive tendering for service contracts established by the State, in place of grants for community sector organisations.

Issues raised by the research and discussed at the conference included the implications of such changes for collaboration and co-operation in the sector in an atmosphere of increased competition for resources, community development as a method of work, the independence of the sector, and notions of participative democracy and grassroots engagement.

A copy of the conference report is available here.

 

EVENT: Building Bridges: Mobilising communities in times of conflict

ukraine revolutionSeminar:
Experiences from the U
kraine

Thursday 23rd June 2016

University of Birmingham, UK

Oleksandr Pidhonyy
Nataliya Drozd
(Centre Dobrochyn, Chernihiv)

Seminar Room 710, Muirhead Tower
3.30pm – 5pm

This event is free to attend but places are limited. To book contact Angus McCabe: a.j.mccabe@bham.ac.uk

Event supported by the Community Development Journal

New Editors for the Community Development Journal

Keith PoppleMae Shaw

 

 

 

 

We’re delighted to announce that in 2016 the Community Development Journal will be edited by veteran CDJ Board members Keith Popple and Mae Shaw.

In their first editorial – for Volume 51, Issue 2 of the journal, which is available now to subscribers – Keith and Mae thank outgoing Editor Mick Carpenter for his considerable contribution.

“We commence this, our first Editorial as CDJ Co-editors, by thanking our predecessor Professor Mick Carpenter for the excellent work he undertook over the last six years as Editor of the Journal. Editing a major international journal like the CDJ is a complex task, and our readers have greatly benefitted from Mick’s diligent, focused and strategic approach to the role. It is to his credit that the CDJ has become more influential in the field and remains the leading international community development journal and is in an excellent position to address the challenges of the future. Mick remains on the Editorial Board so we will all continue to benefit from his contribution to the Journal”

50 years of the Community Development Journal

CDJ logo50th Anniversary Edition of the Community Development Journal available for FREE until
14th February
 

For the past 50 years, since 1966, the Community Development Journal (CDJ) has been the foremost journal in its field and remains so today as recognised, among other things, by its current impact factor score of 1.174.

 

To celebrate this impressive record of publication Oxford University Press (OUP) are proud to publish the 50th Anniversary Issue edited by Mick Carpenter, Akwugo Emejulu and Marilyn Taylor: ‘What’s New and Old in Community Development?‘. The articles in different ways address the legacies of the past and community development’s continuing relevance to  present and future challenges. A central issue addressed is the extent to which neoliberal globalization has in the 21st Century narrowed the scope and possibilities for community development based on principles of social justice and collective change. The articles demonstrate that the potential to subvert neoliberalism remains, and assert the continuing significance of the state as a vehicle for progressive social change.
 
In addition to the Editorial Introduction by Mick Carpenter, Akwugo Emejulu and Akwugo Emejulu, there are stimulating articles by Marjorie Mayo, Sue Kenny, Akwugo Emejulu and Edward Scanlon, Peter Westoby and Kristen Lyons, Silla Marie March Sievers, Suyoung Kim, Jacob Lesniewski and Ransin Canon, and Jenny Harrow and Tobias Jung. In addition Martin Mowbray reviews Cynthia Cockburn’s Classic Text The Local State and Matthew Scott’s Review article reviews recent texts on wealth and inequality.