a report on a Hackney Unites community training event by Teena Lashmore.
HU undertook a chilled training session with newly interested members of the community last Saturday 2 June 2012.
The key developmental point was how to organise communities and empower them to challenge those in a position of power – in order to make a change. Inspiration was taken from a famous quote by Martin Luther King which in summary explained that effective power is: getting those in a position of power to say yes when they would rather say no.
The group looked at the benefits of coalitions and at less formal arrangements such as those the borough witnessed in the ‘Stokey Local’ campaign. In Stokey Local, community members and other interested groups got together to campaign against the proposed Sainsbury development off of Stoke Newington Church Street. As a response to this, Sainsbury made changes to their development, which addressed many of the concerns raised in the campaign. In this regard the Stokey Local campaign was seen as an example of an initial victory for community organising.
Developing peer relationships with one’s community and sharing in the developing of a strategy are seen as instrumental to successful organising and empowering of communities; and one of the key tools used in unpacking this dynamic is Power Mapping.
In this training session we used a case study on organising the community to stop the closure of ticketing offices at local railway stations in the borough of Hackney. Using an axis to illustrate those in influential positions but having less power to those with most power and highly unlikely to agree to make changes, the small groups began to map their community. By identifying these parties and placing them on the axis, it clarified who could be mobilised, which organisations and charities could come together to create effective alliances and coalitions and who the community could call upon to make direct links to the local MP.
Some of us participating in the training had never been involved in developing and empowering communities and it was interesting to see that regardless of where each of us was coming from as individuals, the Power Mapping tool revealed that we all agreed on key stages such as the local MP would have to lobby the Minister of Transport. Furthermore, the tool allowed us to see how we could empower our communities to affect a different outcome for the railway stations.
Power Mapping as a tool not only focused us as individuals on the case study, it also allowed for the further developing of peer relationships – where we could all appreciate each other for our different strengths and skills – thus empowering ourselves!
Our Saturday afternoon of training concluded with a chilled out session in the local bar. Here we drank some cool juice, wines and beers, and even the sun popped out to bless our skins with her warm rays – one could argue this section was the beautiful and unexpected consequences of Power Mapping!