If I could distill just one thing from over 12 years consulting for communities it’s this;
People in any community, no matter how disadvantaged already know how they want to live their lives.
And that’s hard for an ‘expert’ to chew on. Because we are paid to have the great ideas, right?
One of the things that always irked me in my work as a consultant was the risk of an awesome community plan just sitting on a shelf, gathering dust after my contract was finalised.
Egotistical? Maybe. But over the years I’ve come to believe, and experience that there is absolutely no point in creating a plan that a community cannot, and will not bring to life after the consultant has left the table.
You can have all of the engagement you like in the ‘process’ – I’ve facilitated meetings which concluded with standing ovations. But this means NOTHING when the words on the stack of paper fall upon deaf policy making ears, link with non-existent funding buckets and lack the human power to turn the stack of words into action.
Yes, a good plan is important. However, there MUST be action after the initial intoxication of new ideas or the plan may as well be filed under ‘forgotten dreams’.
Action can be boring, monotonous even. But if you REALLY and truly want change in your community, it’s the monotony that will make it happen.
If you are a tired community member / supporter or worker reading this take heed, you are not alone. In fact, if you were to dive into the coffers of many of the local not for profits, community groups in your community (or even, dare I say your local government) – you will find many well laid plans that have come to nothing, and the occasional massive success story.
What can you do as a concerned community member to move into action and away from procrastination? To bring the real dreams of your community to life and to enable the people you live with to lead the lives that matter most to them? Here are a few ideas:
1. Take charge: Don’t have the job title? Who cares? There are literally thousands of things that need to be done in any community and always a dire shortage of people to do them. If you REALLY want change it’s time to step up. Yes, some people will try to put you back in your place – but some (even if secretly) will admire you, and some will even get right behind you. You don’t have to put on the mayoral robes, just take charge of a little piece. Go on, you know you can.
2. Listen to your community: Find ways to listen to a broad cross section of your community, really listen. Pretty soon you’ll work out who is who in your zoo and where a good starting point for change would be. If you are stuck for ideas try these: visit the local pub (I didn’t say you had to drink while you are there), get your haircut at the local hairdresser, shop in the local supermarket, visit a Rotary, Lions Club or CWA meeting, visit the Darts Club or Lawn Bowls – thinking you get the picture by now.
3. Find the do-ers: They are the faces you regularly see out and about doing stuff. They sell raffle tickets, they coordinate or coach at the local Football or Netball club, they do reading groups at school or volunteer at the canteen. These people know people. Ask them what needs to happen, they will have a pretty solid idea and if they don’t they will know who does. Beware: When you speak with the do-ers keep in mind it is very likely they will be hard working, humble individuals who have little time for big noting themselves. Respect their time, and space and don’t suck up, make your intentions clear and keep the conversation real.
4. Find the plans and collate the similar themes for action: Any community (particularly communities deemed ‘disadvantaged’ will have a plethora of plans already written. Yes, some of the plans will not be shared (and as funding becomes more scarce this will increase), don’t let that idea bother you, just keep asking. Eventually you’ll find your allies and together you’ll cook up some incredible adventures (and save resources and funding as you work together rather than in competition).
5. Start a dialogue about action: Move beyond the ideas phase and talk about actions that are ready to go. Tell people about what you are doing and will be doing in the near future and make it happen. Leave the talk about big ideas for the armchair and bar stool philosophers (and the occasional community planning session) and do it. Get your community talking about action and make the small steps count.
6. Don’t be afraid of failure: Don’t wait until you have the perfect plan or the right amount of funding. You don’t need to have everything in place before you move into action. If you make a mistake it’s not the end of the world. Dust yourself off, turn your ears away from the hecklers and try again. Get to know the little things you can do to get started and DO THEM.
(Shameless plug): If you are ready for action in your community check out our new Kickstart My Community 2016 Support Program. I bet it’s just what you’ve been waiting for (even if you don’t know that just yet)… http://evolvenetwork.com.au/kickstart-my-community-support-program/
Kerry Grace is a values based consultant based in regional Australia who facilitates resourceful, collaborative and strengths based solutions.
Kerry works with individuals and collectives of people (in business, not for profits and common cause communities) to connect with what matters and undertake immediate action to fulfill their purpose.