You can't get practical experience from a book. Or online.

After chatting with Richard Edwards from Manton Community Alliance, at the Your Square Mile launch, about their success with participatory budgeting, we turned to ways in which people could share ideas and experience of what’s working in their community.
As Richard remarked, it has to be more than exchanging leaflets at a conference, and even if you are engaged by someone else’s bright idea, there’s a lot more involved in actually making things happen.

Richard believes that there is no substitute for learning by doing: people can’t learn project and community development from books, and have to build up their confidence and skills through on-the-ground experience. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a scheme by which people could spend time at each others’ projects working side-by-side in order to develop practical experience?

This led us on to talking about mapping the assets and expertise that we have, in order to make best use of these in facing new challenges. Increasingly that is done locally, and is the basis for the practice of Asset Based Community Development, as explained by Jim Diers at a People Powered Change seminar in June.

However, if we are going to share knowledge nationally, we need to do some national mapping. As part of our work with Big Lottery Fund we’ll make a start on mapping the national networks and online spaces. While it may then be easier for people to see who is doing what, and to connect online, in Richard’s opinion they’ll need to make the physical trip to achieve some real learning. As he said, we have the skills and experience … we need to unlock the potential.

Is there a case for funding the people exchanges as well as the technology-based connections?

  1. Hi David & Richard
    When I was a NAVCA we ran a very successful ICT Exchange Visit scheme. We’d compile a list of good example of ICT use by VCS organisations and then advertise them inviting the wider sector to apply for travel bursaries to visit the exemplars we’d identified.
    We tried to keep visits within or to nearby regions, but covered (reasonable) travel expenses and as a sign of appreciation paid a small fee to the host organisation for their time and trouble.
    It was a greatly appreciated scheme – indeed some of the links made back in 2007/8 are still active!
    Totally agree, Richard. Sitting alongside someone as they do their job / role and being able to ask questions and learn is so much more rewarding than reading a paper case study or even watching a video.
    Happy to share outcomes / be involved in developing this further.

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