Last week I was on a Community Development course in Stoke-on-Trent. We spent the week being immersed in the life of a small Urban Expression Community. Anna Ruddick and Carmel Murphy from Urban Life and Livability led it via a CMS course. I really enjoyed being back in a learning environment and because we had the luxury of sleeping in a comfy hotel, visiting lots of different community environments and being fed all week, I felt quite relaxed but energised by it too.
I’ve been in community work for about 11 years now, I kind of fell into it initially, refurbishing a delipidated church space to return it to being a place that was at the heart of the community. I never intended to ‘do’ the Community Work itself once we’d refurbished the building but by the time we finished the building work I began to develop a passion to see the place thrive and serve our local community. I’ve picked up a lot of learning along the way of course, been on day courses and read books but having a whole week to reflect on community development and where I was currently, felt really affirming. I also learnt some great new stuff! I’m 6 months off finishing the initial 3 year contract as the Pioneer Community Worker in New Lubbesthorpe so I’m also taking this opportunity to reflect on that time and the week away has given me plenty of tools to do that.
One of the things that really struck me during the week was when Anna said how ‘community development is a process not a thing’. I have a natural driven personality (ENFP for Myers Briggs fans) which means I do tend to work towards goals, I also come up with lots of ideas so there’s always something new and shiny to move onto. As I reflect on Anna’s statement further I wonder whether recognising this ‘process’ will help me slow down and enjoy the process it a little more. There is no need to rush, especially when we really want to develop relationships not things or activities. Our ‘busy’ culture doesn’t like that of course. There’s always a need to produce something or go somewhere and unfortunately that culture does feed my driven personality.
The words from one of the Northumbria Community Meditations comes to mind which says ‘take your time, go slowly’. Being able to do that means you don’t objectify what you are doing, you sit with whatever is happening and take joy in it. I re-learnt that again over the week, I just hope I hold on to it!