Introducing…The Community Development Podcast
So, here it is: The Community Development Podcast.
A podcast dedicated to Community Development practice; to sharing its learning; connecting its practitioners; and promoting its value.
With a background in Community Development in Wales, primarily in the Communities First progamme, and having produced other podcasts, the time came to combine the two passions. Prior to this I blogged for six years about Community Development at my independent tropical wales blog. I have migrated most of those blogs to this new site and will blow the dust off some of them from time to time when I venture down into the archive.
My hope is that it can play its part in connecting practitioners who can, by virtue of their work, be focused on the local and be fragmented and dispersed. With increasingly fewer FE and HE Community Development courses, certainly in Wales, and those that remain having increasingly fewer sources of funding there is a danger that the learning that is at the heart of successful and ethical Community Development practice is not being shared. Not, of course, that this need be a formal process. The Community Development Podcast can play its part here.
Too much Community Development practice is reliant on public budgets at a time when they are shrinking. As practitioners our proximity to communities and our willingness to listen to people mean we are all too aware of the increasing demand for support and intervention services. The effects of austerity doctrine are too often seeing an ever-shrinking supply being confronted by ever-increasing demand for services. This perfect storm demands of organisations an increasing focus on ‘frontline delivery’. But it is a rhetoric that relegates time not spent with clients, customers, service users – people? – to a less important, or even wasteful, status. What becomes of the reflective community worker who ponders, critiques and learns from her/his practice, records and shares the conclusions? The Community Development Podcast provides access to and facilitates such reflection.
In Wales, the Communities First programme is being phased out during the current financial year. The workforce has reduced from approximately 830 in mid 2016 to about 450 at the time of writing. As government programmes go it has received a softer landing than most by not having its plug yanked out; but what of its workforce? A positive slant on Communities First’s demise is one that sees this diaspora of people to other roles and sectors where their Community Development values and principles take root, grow and pollenate. But there is a danger that the learning, the wisdom – certainly the trust – accrued over the last decade and a half leaches away. At its halfway point England’s Big Local programme is already preparing for the legacies that will hopefully follow the end of that programme. But government programmes come and they go; while communities, people and our values remain. The Community Development Podcast will help retain and share this wisdom so that new programmes continue to be informed by what has gone before.
So, the Communities First workforce will be dissipating, but what of their former communities? Communities First in its sixteenth year resembles little the progamme that tentatively took its first steps in 2002. For instance, capacity building has long been a phrase that dare not speak its name in the programme. It has gradually been replaced by a focus on employability, underpinned by the belief that work is the best route for people out of, and insulation against, poverty. Clearly, work is important but Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s recent in-work poverty research in the UK suggest it is not the guarantee that some would have us believe.
Paradoxically, as Communities First reconfigured to fewer, larger units (“clusters”) there has been a gradual shift the other way in which workers focus increasingly on employability. As this focus as been ratcheted up and up – fueled in part by a desire to wring as much as possible out of the EU pre-Brexit – workers increasingly manage caseloads of individuals and work increasingly less across the broader canvas that clusters afforded them. Even worse, there is an insidious way in which people are defined as eligible for support only if they aspire to work. Correspondingly, a workforce increasingly focused on its own caseload is less inclined, I fear, to collectivise, collaborate and share its learning. The Community Development Podcast can help restore a healthier balance: one that recognsies a role for employment support for individuals seeking to return to work, but eschews the requirement for Community Development to happen in return for people demonstrating certain government-sanctioned behaviours.
With The Community Development Podcast I want to connect a dispersed and diffuse workforce; to catch, reel in and land the sector’s reflections and learning; and to promote the merits of Community Development skills, values and approaches.
Podcasts will be irregular but frequent and will be promoted on Twitter and LinkedIn and will be available on iTunes and this website. Get in touch if you’d like to join me to discuss your CD practice.
Lastly, if you would like to support The Community Development Podcast you can become a patron at my Patreon page.