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Grass roots vs professionalisation

posted 20 Apr 2013, 23:41 by Unknown user
Many community groups struggle when it comes to achieving a sense of 'legitimacy'- often the groups are formed with a sense of purpose to represent the community and be different to what is offered by the state and the private sector. However, they soon find that in order to operate they are increasingly pressured to become more professional and to achieve targets set by external bodies. This can tend to distance them from their grass roots origins and their unique identity.

Sneinton Alchemy hosted a talk by Dr Heather Watkins on Tuesday that explored these difficult questions. Her research since 2009 has examined how community activists and organisations have coped with a changing political environment since the end of Labours 'New Deal for Communities' and through and era of 'Big Society' and spending cuts.

She identified two competing 'realities' for community groups: a deep level of participation (local people taking full control, hierarchy replaced by trust and respect) and professionalisation (typified by enterprise, service provision and competing for external funding). The first approach is necessary to achieve legitimacy within the community, the latter to gain it from outside.

In her conclusions, Dr Watkins provided some useful tactics for groups such as Sneinton Alchemy which value deep seated community participation and have to understand and engage with local and national markets and policies. She also reminded us that this takes time and requires reflection- two things that are hard to come by when faced by the day to day challenges of keeping a community group running!

This talk was a useful reminder to community groups to remember why we are doing what we are doing- we would like to thank Heather and recommend reading the synopsis of her talk which is attached below.

Above: Heather (second from right) with Alchemy members at her talk.

Unknown user,
20 Apr 2013, 23:41