Riddle me this… What am I?
Attempt not to grab hold of me (as one individual, organisation or group) wrestle it to the ground and fix it, for I will simply reappear – popping up elsewhere, often as an unheard or misunderstood voice.
The key is to release me. Find ways of getting me out into the open and looking at me from a distance. Give me ears and a voice. Invite others to surround me and to ask me questions. Be kind to me and you will find I have much to teach you.
For I have not just one voice but many, and many stories to tell – I am often part of a tangle of complex and deeply inextricably, intractably connected lineages and histories.
I am fed up with being owned or passed around like a hot potato by different people, communities’ organisations, groups, boundaries, ages, races, genders and all the divisions that have ever been devised.
I want to be seen as a something different. I want to be recognised for my potential. I am tired of going backwards.
I am a web of knowledge – a way of connecting people and a way forward not backwards. I am an asset to a community, a way of learning from one another, learning about each other challenges, capabilities, skills and interests. I can help people connect with each other at a deeper level.
What am I?
I am the thing that gets passed around, labelled and misunderstood. I am ‘The Problem’.
But as world becomes ever more complex I will continue to become more and more matted, wiry and spiky. The key is to realising that instead of attempting to detangle me, separating out what bits belong to who… I need to be seen as something new…
The funny thing is that I often arise from similar wishes, dreams and goals. But these are buried beneath a language of ‘issues’ and ‘deficits’. A language that focuses on what divides and separates rather than unites.
I quite like the sound of becoming ‘The Opportunity’. I realise that the pathway might be more treacherous with many more lows and highs, but at least I will become a pathway and not a boulder or a cliff face where people become static or are pushed back into their common thoughts or hiding places. I will become an opportunity to listen, to hear to understand, to connect.
Is this the new voice of the problem?
Within an ever more complex world, in which problems seem intractable and solutions are never black and white - What is the answer?
Is there ever just one, or is the answer more questions?
…Not the kind of questions that judge or lead, but the kind that are gentle and willing to accept where people are at, accepting misunderstandings and misgivings. The kind that opens up learning conversations that mean questions can be asked again in a new way, offering new insights.
Community building and working in communities is sometimes like working in a microcosm of society and wider political structures. Much of our work in communities is helping to readdress the balance of power often through asking questions – not pointing out problems.
This can be tricky, to say the least. Our immediate reaction is to fix, sort and problem solve.
This is because we often see problems as having owners – the potholes in the street (the council), the isolated neighbour (the NHS), the youths who vandalise the play areas (the police)…
But power often prevails where institutions and also smaller local replicas of these structures feel it is their role to be ‘the problem solvers’.
But by owning a problem, giving it away or by having a problem taken from you – you’ve lost an opportunity to delve into a much deeper understanding of your community and to share the knowledge that brings.
In ABCD, we try to begin with assets – what is right not what is wrong. But what if a ‘The Problem’ itself wants to be seen as an asset and shared as one…
Often when we hold problems together and we collectively discover their value as opportunities to learn more about one another and our communities. We find out that there are real humans, finding their way, doing their best behind these problems in a myriad of different ways.
There is a quote I have been using for a while now; I am not sure where it is from…
“If you take our problem away from us and fix it – that’s stealing!”
This refers to the way that some services, like councils and other local bodies of power can feel they have grabbed hold of a problem in the community and through their own strategies and ‘fixed it’ or made it ‘disappear’. However this is rarely the case, and often local people feel pushed out and side lined by these strategies which do not see local people as assets – experts in their own community, or they develop a deep seated feeling of powerlessness, a disengaging that has been developed over many years.
Begin with: We want to grow, develop, blossom…
What is this here to teach us?
Who have we become?
Who do we want to be?
Why are we here?
Who are you?
Who am I?
Who are we together?
Where do we want to go next?
How can we learn from this collectively?
What is our own personal learning?
Each of your communities of place, interest, commonality having a
deep and untapped knowledge, which we can all learn from.