Community development is, officially at least, dead. Community engagement is no more. We are all now community organisers, doing social action. But government pronouncements about the ‘Big Society’ (apologies to all readers) and ‘communities’ do beg some questions.
What kind of social action? Is it the Occupy Movement that is wanted, non violent direct action – or is it about tenant’s painting their own front doors and running the local library as volunteers? More active citizens are needed – but this at a time when grassroots community groups are under real threat. And not only from the cuts. There is the loss of free/affordable places to meet. Less (or no) access to pro bono support and advice. It’s harder to get volunteers as people become increasingly anxious about their jobs – if they have one – and are working longer hours etc etc.
It’s all about localism and open public services – at the very time that small community groups are being excluded from even the possibility of tendering for the local services they are supposed to run.
After 30 odd (some very odd) years in the voluntary and community sector, I have days full only of despair…..and then I go down the allotment and remember. The grass roots grow everywhere – except where the gardener/bureaucrat wants them or thinks they should be.
For more discussion of these issues, join our seminar 'Working with the grassroots' on Thursday 28 June. Seminar details here