It’s been several months since I sat down to write a post for this blog. In some ways, that has been right and in some wrong. The material with which I was working – my organising in Walworth SE17 – had become very localised and I found it hard to see how I could write authentically and publically about specific families and individuals with whom I was working very closely. I found that whatever I drafted felt like it was too exposing, made the work too vulnerable. On the other hand, I also felt unable to make much sense of my discomfort and unease with the work until I could regain a better perspective – and I might have done something about that much quicker. So partly circumstances and partly inertia.
Getting going again
The timing of my picking up the blog again is related to a fresh start in the work too. As those who have been with me for a while will know, my journey with community organising this last year has been part of the national training programme run by Locality on behalf of the Office for Civil Society (OCS). I have been working in Southwark as a trainee organiser hosted by Cambridge House and focusing – together with two other colleagues – on Walworth. Well the year’s training has now come to a successful end and I have graduated as a fully-fledged organiser with OCN accreditation in Foundations in Community Organising. (The photo of the team above was taken at graduation at The Admiralty, Whitehall.) The course work was particularly demanding in the last half of July but once delivered, I went on a summer break and returned to the disruption of the Olympics and Paralympics where I was a volunteer steward at the North Greenwich Arena (see photo left). Shift patterns put my body clock into chaos and I could hardly focus on work until about mid-September. I also suddenly lost a very close friend in early August and we played a central role in arranging his funeral later in the month.
Since about June, the team of five organisers in Southwark have been focused on exploring what future we had after the programme’s support finished in September. To cut to the chase, we were made an offer we could not refuse by our host Cambridge House! The OCS has pump primed the recruitment of its qualified organisers by providing a “progression grant” of £15,000 funding for one year on graduation. This has to be matched by an equal commitment from the local area with up to half in kind. In these circumstances, Cambridge House stepped up to enable all five of us to continue for a further year by making a grant to match – in cash and in kind – the OCS grant. For both contributions we are very grateful.
Cambridge House’s interest has been to see the impact of organising on the immediate area around their newly refurbished building in Camberwell (see photo above). As a result, I am taking the lead in establishing work in about half a ward in North Camberwell three days a week. It’s near the Camberwell Road end of the newly re-opened Burgess Park. The agreement with Cambridge House gives us – as self-employed organisers – capacity to continue the work in the other three areas – Walworth, Brandon, Peckham – where team members have been in training this year and to also commit about a full-time equivalent to the new area. We have negotiated a simple accountability structure, Cambridge House’s help in channelling resources such as the OCS grant our way and gained their support in seeking out others who may want to partner us in the work.
It’s all a very new departure for us. Whether this unique model of organising will work we can only wait to see. In the meantime, it seemed something worth writing about and sharing with my friends and colleagues by this means. If you have questions, I’d be pleased to hear from you – by text, email or comment below – and I will try to answer them. More next time!