Community Organisers Blog

The adventures of Martha and Matt…

by | Oct 22, 2018

When Community First said that they would be having some work experience students for the week we jumped at the opportunity to take them out and give them a taste of Community Organising.

We started their day by running through the Community Organiser’s Code of Conduct and explaining a little about what Community Organising entails.  The two students were from the same area and so we gave them the choice of where they would like to go door knocking.

At the moment Katrina and I are supporting our Village Halls Advisor; Helen. Helen is talking to communities about some funding that is available for them to utilise their community spaces whilst increasing participation in leisure activities. Whilst out door knocking we have been asking people what they love about where they live and during the conversation (if appropriate) we have been talking to people about how often they use their local community space. It has prompted some really good discussions and ideas where people have then been able to apply for this funding for community projects. So far we have had X community project applications. We thought this would be a great project to go out with the work experience students with..

The students chose knock in a rural area close to where they live called Mildenhall, near Marlborough.

Martha and Matt paired up with us and shadowed us while we spoke to people in the village. Prior to the experience it is fair to say that they both had different feelings about the experience. In our morning reflection Martha was very excited and Matt was a little apprehensive about the method of door knocking itself; would people actually speak to us? Would they even answer the door?

It made me remember when I started as a Community Organiser back in 2013. Everyone telling me to ‘trust the process’ and such emphasis on a very relaxed and flexible, unstructured approach; but would it actually work? Who answers the door and talks about what they love? Would this really ignite power and change?  I shared this with Matt and explained that all he could really do is get out there and start listening to people.. try it out and see for himself what happens.

Sure enough we saw just how fantastic Community Organising can be. People were friendly, happy and welcoming. I always love how much people are willing to share on the doorstep. Some people just wanted a conversation some wanted to tell us what they were passionate about.

I tried to explain to Matt that sometimes when you are out in a community you will knock on a door and a person will seem to literally spring into action from behind the door- It really is like they are waiting for you to come! But this is not something that is easy to describe. Luckily i did not have to rely on my explanation alone. On the final door that we knocked on we met a lady who was exactly that. Her energy was incredible and infectious. She told us of the amazing ideas she and her friend had- and how they wanted to involve more people. In half an hour she had told us all about the dynamics and her view of the village. Matt and I stood in awe as the lady spoke to us about her ambitions and dreams for the community. We were able to take some details and found that the lady would like to attend the Social Action Hub’s training to find out more about Community Organising- and meet others in Wiltshire and Swindon to share ideas and experiences. She closed the door visibly energised and uplifted, and she wasn’t the only one.

As we walked away Matt was silent for a while. We went and sat on a bench nearby and reflected. He said that after just one day he could see how beneficial listening in communities could be….It was so great to hear him say how he now understood what Katrina and I had been trying to explain. Trust the process… it just works!

Sharing a day with these two was brilliant. Two very different individuals with such different approaches; but both fantastic! Martha was even asking to take the lead with Katrina on the doorstep and initiating the conversations. We are so grateful for their enthusiasm and for trusting us and opening themselves up to what we do. For me; watching two 15 year old students do so brilliantly secured my views on how powerful yet simple what we do can be. I hope that more people of all ages choose to give Community Organising a chance, because if this can be achieved after one day; then what could be done if we had Community Organisers in every community all the time!

If you would like to know more about our project with Helen for Increasing Participation in leisure activities and Community Exercise in rural areas; please contact Community First or the Social Action hub on the details below and ask for information about our Lace-up project.