Not just a launch, a lunch and a logo
Aaron Barbour of Community Links writes:
There is a general consensus in the charity sector that a special 'Year' (or a 'Week') dedicated to a cause probably won’t change things very much. A cynical view says that they are little more than ‘a launch, a lunch and a logo’, and to a degree this is right. They might be a helpful reminder of the issue, encourage some people to get involved or put their hand in their pockets, but mostly, once the event is over, we just pass on by.
We didn’t want our contribution to the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion (EY2010) to be tokenistic or a waste of the input. Our work programme for the Year was realistic in what we wanted to achieve. Not the eradication of poverty, clearly – but raising awareness about the issues, by actively involving people experiencing poverty to voice their experiences and identify solutions. This approach emerges from the values we hold and the ways in which we and our partners already deliver our work.
We had a tremendous Year and today publish a short report about our experience. We worked with some brilliant people and organisations during 2010 – including 1,199 people, over 100 organisations, supported by four main partners Church Action on Poverty, Oxfam Cymru (Wales),Poverty Alliance (Scotland) and Northern Ireland Anti-Poverty Network.
An important focus of the Year was to engage with people of working age who had direct experience of poverty. One of Community Links’ founding statements is to never do things for people but to guide and support, so putting local people at the heart of their own change.
We developed a four-stage programme for the Year. This combined with our training and communication activities, enabled people to get involved and contribute through the listening events, dialogue meetings, policy meetings and legacy.
“Lots of opportunities to participate rather than just listen.” (Participant at the Welsh Dialogue Meeting)
“It was very interactive, open to participation.”
(Participant at London Dialogue Meeting)
Many participants commented on how they had not been involved like this before and welcomed the opportunity to express and share their views and listen to others. Through this process participants’ levels of confidence grew, and this experience has encouraged many people to participate in future debates and campaigns. Many of the ideas developed throughout the Year are being further developed by local people and local community organisations in 2011, independently of Community Links and its partners.
We very much wanted to deliver this programme in our way, on our terms – from the ground up and involving service users. This is the approach we’ve taken over the last 35 years, and we will persist in advocating for it to be used by government departments and other organisations when they next do a special 'Year'.
Finally, we’d like to give our heartfelt thanks to everyone who got involved and contributed to 2010. We look forward to working together, as we continue to tackle rising working-age poverty in the UK.