Confessions of a Community Organiser

posted 12 Apr 2013, 03:43 by Shabana Najib   [ updated 12 Apr 2013, 03:54 ]


My Journey (April '12 - March '13)

So, here I am. Little old me trying to muster the courage to ‘knock’ on the door. This is going to be my first listening… I hope. Who will answer the door? What will they say? I can feel the butterflies in my stomach, a strange nervous energy runs through my veins, yet I am hopeful. Hopeful about the possibilities that my role can bring so I straighten up, put on a big goofy smile and knock!

No answer. I knock again, still no answer. 

I knock on all the doors of a terraced street. I get no answer, not even a twitching curtain. People passing by give me strange looks. My ego is bruised. My heart sinks.

I try another street. My knock gets louder, my smile even goofier! Lo and behold, a little old lady answers the door but only to tell me she has nothing to say. Another knock, another answer ‘I’ve got to drop the kids off, sorry’ the door slams shut in my face. A few days pass by in a similar fashion. Some residents start opening up but just a little. I see the caution and uncertainty in their eyes. I try and probe deeper into their thoughts, trying to connect their feelings with some positive action.

I soon learn that this is a community that has been ‘done to’ just a little too often. They are tired of being consulted with, tired of empty promises and new people coming to the area with big ideas. Ideas, which do not turn into fruition, leaving a big hole in their poverty stricken lives.

Wow, what a challenge. I want to learn more about these residents.

The more listenings I do, the more I understand. Many folk tell me that no-one has asked them ‘these questions’ before. Really? No one has ever asked them what they love about the area or what their concerns are. I find myself asking exactly how were they consulted in the past and whoever did it really left quite an impression on them. I was determined not to be tarred with the same brush. 

After answering endless questions about our work and introducing residents to a fresh new way of thinking I edged closer towards deep listenings. The good stuff! Residents started opening up, sharing their life stories with me. Some listenings took hours. I was smiling. Success at last. Little old me must have done something right. Doors were opening. I was being invited in!

I started doing group listenings and found more and more folk had like-minded visions. By bringing these people together many project ideas formed ranging from a community launderette to local day care services for the elderly. 

Our work may have been challenging at times but over this last year if I have learnt anything it is that relationships do not work without trust and respect – they take time and need to be nurtured. As for actions, they come gradually.

What a journey this last year has been. I now look to the future with hope towards progression because you see there is still much to be done. Many more doors to knock… 

Shabana :-) 

Comments