The afternoon of Tuesday 9th October saw over 50 people from Croydon and Gloucestershire coming together in a community centre in Brockworth to share their stories about what they were all doing to make their communities better and more hospitable places to live.
With support and guidance from Nurture Development (www.nurturedevelopment.org), Barnwood Trust and Croydon Voluntary Action are both committed to using the principles of ABCD (Asset Based Community Development) to support and enable local people to use their many skills, talents, local knowledge and connections to take action and improve the things that they care enough about to want to change.
As planned, the afternoon gave everyone the ideal opportunity to learn more about and celebrate the many achievements, the courage, compassion and persistence of the remarkable people from inner city Croydon and leafy Gloucestershire who are involved in leading a whole new approach to community building. Their commitment to wanting to see even more people get more connected in their community was obvious for all to see and their enthusiasm was infectious.
After a very warm welcome and much chatter over lunch, those that had made the long journey from Croydon shared their experiences of ABCD in action. Sarah, from CVA, and Jennine and Paul, their Community Builders, recounted the story of how the original modest ABCD project in Thornton Heath had unearthed an abundance of community spirit and a desire amongst residents to connect and come together around their common passions, skills and interests. The ABCD work there has since expanded into Selhurst, Broad Heath and New Addington and the team have identified 78 local people as ‘connectors’ – those people in any community who love talking to people, know what’s going on and most importantly like to help make stuff happen. The new, positive conversations, ideas for community development and caring relationships, brought about by the activities of the connectors, has led to 77 neighbourhood projects being set up over the past few months alone.
One such project was described by Ashley, from Thornton Heath. As a result of all the bad publicity following the riots in Croydon young people living there had been labelled en masse as anti-social and potential criminals. Ashley and his friends have therefore produced an online magazine featuring stories of all the great things young people in Croydon are doing. It is a celebration of their many talents, social responsibility and their plans for a brighter future for all. A paper version of the latest edition is also being distributed by hand to 4,000 homes in the area.
For the rest of the afternoon we split into groups to share stories about the times when we had come together to make things better in our communities. The event ended with the groups feeding back they key things they’d learned fromwhat they had shared, (copies available from Barnwood (email firstname.lastname@example.org).
Of the many words of wisdom exchanged, here is just one: when asked what her role as community was in essence Jennine told us she encourages the connectors, helps them shape their ideas, connects them with what they need and then stands back and lets them do it for themselves.
Rob from the Gloucestershire group brought proceedings to an appropriate ending with a simple statement that embodied what the whole afternoon, and all of the ABCD work is about:-
‘You only get out what you put in’.