Since early 2014 we’ve been working with academics and local residents to identify some of the key questions, issues and considerations that impact the work of community activists – and the academics who collaborate with them.
In April 2014 Dr Sharon Irish hosted a Praxis Cafe at KWMC exploring activism in the area. Knowle West has a history of grassroots action, particularly among women. Many have set up charities, started community initiatives and continue to strive to improve their area for everyone. ‘Fixin’ it ourselves: women activists in Knowle West’ included discussion, personal testimony and making, and encouraged the women who attended to share their experiences, challenges and successes.
Building on the 20 years of experiece and expertise of KWMC and following the event, we developed the ideas into two sets of 20 recommendations, inspired by the work and advice of the women activists: ‘Tips and Tricks for community activists’ and ‘Tips and Tricks for academics working with community activists’. The advice ranges from being ‘dogged but not inflexible’ to remembering that experts should be ‘on tap, not on top’.
All 40 recommendations are represented by coloured illustrations on two large posters and a set of smaller cards. These posters will soon be available to purchase.
We are currently using the Tips & Tricks format in our involvement with the European Network of Living Labs (ENoLL), when we deliver training and discussion sessions for other organisations. We have supported representatives of other Living Labs and international delegations to explore how they can develop positive relationships with communities, create an environment of trust and openness, and demonstrate the impact of their work. Each group is supported to devise 20 Tips and Tricks of their own to guide their work and ensure that local people are involved at all levels.
With thanks to academics Dr Angela Piccini, Dr Morag McDermot and Sue Cohen for their contributions to this work.