“Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd” – Voltaire
As World Cup Fever consumes the nation, doubts start to come to the surface in all 4 corners of the UK for very different reasons. In England, many people have their reservations about the distance their newly invigorated (?) national team can progress in the tournament before the inevitable dramatic exit, usually to Germany, usually on penalties.
In other home nations, we all hold separate doubts about how quickly our countries are able to shake the disappointment of the recent qualifying campaign and hit an early stride in the quest for Euro 2020 qualification.
This week in Coastal Housing we welcomed Cormac Russell to speak to staff about Asset Based Community Development.
After attending a 2 day course with Cormac in Croydon back in February, discussions quickly progressed about bringing one of the leading speakers on ABCD to Swansea.
Rightly or wrongly, I imposed pressure on myself for the 2 days to go well and be viewed as successful. So this was a big moment for me. But let’s be honest, it was totally out of my control. People will get what they give.
In Coastal, we are keen users of ‘Systems Thinking’, only recently revising our ‘void and lettings’ process, along with many others in recent years, and designing systems around the things that matter to our tenants. We also have huge regard for the maintenance and repairing of relationships, and achieve this through our commitment to Restorative Practice.
I suppose one doubt I had, after around 3 months in Coastal, was whether there was simply enough capacity for colleagues to be using each of these approaches. In short, was ABCD going to be ‘another thing to learn’, and not be received as I would have liked?
But, there have been many positive signs in my first 9 months. Over 130 colleagues attended sessions we ran offering ‘An Introduction to ABCD’, and naturally, conversations from this have progressed.
What I’ve realised since Christmas is that I’d possibly seen each of these approaches exclusively. I know others had too as they have been humble enough to admit that to me. The truth is there’s a time and a place for each. It isn’t one or the other. They all form part of a toolkit for staff to dip into and use when the time is right.
The Community Asset Team, and our Extra Care colleagues particularly, have embraced ABCD and their results have been plentiful, albeit not always successful. In recognising the potential rewards, team members have continually picked themselves up when things haven’t gone to plan, and they’ve gone again…. and again. As a manager, you cannot ask your team for more.
You only have to follow @ryan_harris1 and @charlinabevanj on Twitter to see the great work that has gone on in Ty Twyn Teg, our Extra Care scheme in Neath.
Their efforts to welcome the people in with both hands repeatedly pay dividends and ‘community’ has indeed become a verb, rather than a noun. In being humble enough to recognise we have previously been occupying space that would be far better owned by the community, our fortunes have improved.
On Day 2 of our time with Cormac, when joined by the highly experience Chris Shinnock, we were invited to openly speak about resistance (internally and externally) and our doubts, particularly those in relation to ABCD in Coastal.
I found this exercise extremely valuable.
One Housing officer doubted what could be achieved if agencies and communities weren’t on the same page.
One thing was for certain though. When we lay ourselves *vulnerable* to ‘let the doubt be spoken out’, we immediately show that we don’t have all the answers. I took great solace from the fact we did this only the week before in our Morriston project, with community members in the room.
*If you haven’t yet listened to the wonderful Brene Brown’s TedTalk on ‘The Power of Vulnerability” I recommend you go now….. just as soon as you’re finished reading 🙂 *
The vulnerability we are willing to show also readdresses the power balance in any relationship. Communities inevitably look to institutions to set the tone and identify the path, and when that doesn’t achieve its successes, it can hinder the buy-in from that community.
“You don’t know what you’re doing”.
Sometimes ‘institutions’ don’t know. But because they haven’t felt able to show this to communities, they have paid the price.
Friday, in letting our doubts be spoken out, this culminated in various people in the room pledging to take things forward themselves as a result of the doubts they had. Others were invited to stand behind that person if, indeed, they shared the same doubts.
This was a truly powerful exercise and summed up beautifully by Support Worker Katy Phillips (@Katy_Coastal) who said ‘when I spoke up and said what I had doubted and what I would now do, others came and stood behind me and I immediately felt stronger. I took that as a symbol that I had their support and that makes it easier to face the problem’.
On Thursday Morning, one of Cormac’s first questions to the group was “How much risk are you prepared to take over the next 2 days?”. This comment from Katy was proof if proof were needed, that she had indeed taken a risk to be vulnerable, and that had garnered a response from those who shared the same doubt.
Let’s be honest (in itself not always easy), we all have doubts. We have doubts in our personal lives and in our professional lives. I agree with the notion that doubt will kill more dreams than failure ever will.
Professionally I’ve had more in the last 9 months than I care to remember. They’ve not stopped us achieving some good things.
Now I know they won’t stop us achieving great things in the future either.