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Reflecting Back: a collection of notes on Citizens for Change, Leeds By artist-facilitator Sarah Spanton


Citizens for Change, Leeds


Citizens for Change, Leeds

Contents 1. What is this document about?

p.2

2. Citizens for Change from different perspectives

p.3

3. Sarah Spanton / Waymarking

p.4

4. Who was involved?

p.5-7

5. What took place?

p.8-10

6. How I worked with the groups

p.11-12

7. What happened in relation to the seven layers

p.13-18

8. Acknowledgements

p.19

1. What is this document about? This publication aims to lightly document the process and undertaking of the Waymarking project Citizens for Change, Leeds. It will also reflect on what happened and the thinking and learning that took place, both during and after the project. I will offer my reflections as initiator and project leader, where I primarily took the role of artist-facilitator, offering my reflections, as well as presenting perspectives from all those who took part. 1.


Citizens for Change, Leeds


Citizens for Change, Leeds

2. Citizens for Change from different perspectives Citizens for Change was developed as a multi-layered project, formed of a series of inter-connected seams. Uppermost and most visible, Citizens for Change was a tailor-made development programme, set up by myself and undertaken in partnership with Together for Peace. It was set up for Leeds-based community groups who are campaigning for positive social change in their neighbourhoods – and aimed to support them to be more effective in their campaigning. The project can be understood through each of its different layers separately and it can also be thought about from simultaneous overlapping perspectives. From the artist-facilitator perspective, in the daily reality of undertaking the project, the layers co-mingled and were difficult to differentiate from each other much of the time. A. A development programme for community campaigning groups B. A learning/training opportunity C. Supporting community campaigning groups to undertake their campaign actions D. Linked to community development approach in Leeds E. About co-producing knowledge F. An action-research process G. A socially engaged performance/art project

2.


Citizens for Change, Leeds


Citizens for Change, Leeds

3. Sarah Spanton / Waymarking I see my practice as an artist-facilitator as constantly developing, beginning around 25 years ago. The techniques I’ve used have been gleaned from a range of art form areas (sculpture, contemporary dance, performance, live art, photography, video, writing) I’ve worked in a range of settings and contexts with many different groups/ communities; to date this has mainly been in urban settings in South and West Yorkshire (e.g. Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley, Leeds and Bradford). Recently I have branched out and am now working in the North West as well. In 2009, I set up Waymarking (www.waymarking.org.uk), a small arts organisation which seeks to:  Facilitate communities to explore their urban living needs through creative thinking and arts/cultural practice  Make connections and enable dialogue and collaboration between/across disciplines  Research the relationship between artist and social activist  Explore performance/the performative in place-making and place-shaping  Create the context and conditions for innovative and experimental contemporary practice.

3.


Citizens for Change, Leeds


Citizens for Change, Leeds

4. Who was involved? There were four different ‘groupings’ of people (or ‘actors’) who got involved in the project: Four community campaigning groups Seacroft and Gipton Fresh Friends of Dartmouth Park - www.facebook.com/FriendsofDartmouthParkMorley Leeds Fuel Poverty Action - www.facebook.com/LeedsFuelPovertyAction New Wortley Recoil. A number of Leeds-focused community development workers/leaders/strategists Mike Love (Together for Peace), Tony Hermann (COGS), Roger Newton (Better Leeds) Nicola Greenan (formerly of LS14 Trust), Ed Carlisle (Together for Peace), Bill Graham and Sally Crosskill (BARCA), Ellie Rogers (Leeds City Council), Claire Fauset and Laura McFarlane (TIDAL) and Sally Nutman (Space2). Researcher-activist: Daniel Mutibwa, Research Fellow, in the School of Media and Communication, University of Leeds - http://media.leeds.ac.uk/people/danielmutibwa/. Artist-facilitator: Sarah Spanton

4.


Citizens for Change, Leeds


Citizens for Change, Leeds

4. Who was involved?—continued Four community campaigning groups: Fuel Poverty Action This group had been meeting for over two years, campaigning in Leeds to raise awareness of issues around fuel poverty, and to act in solidarity with those in fuel poverty. There was a small core group of two members, with a larger group of additional supporters. Friends of Dartmouth Park This group had been working together for two years previously, campaigning to preserve, sustain and make a positive future for Dartmouth Park in Morley, South Leeds. There were four people in the core group. Seacroft and Gipton Fresh Based in East Leeds, this group, comprising around eight women, had been meeting to work on a health campaigning project, they were new to campaigning. New Wortley Recoil This group, comprising around twelve people, had been meeting as a support group at the New Wortley Community Centre (BARCA), West Leeds, for the previous two years: they were also new to campaigning.

5.


Citizens for Change, Leeds


Citizens for Change, Leeds

4. Who was involved?—continued Leeds-focused community development workers/leaders/strategists I sought out advice on the development of the project and in particular the recruitment of participant groups from a range of community development workers/leaders/strategists, but in particular was supported throughout by Mike Love, Ed Carlisle, Tony Hermann and Roger Newton. Researcher-activist I met Daniel Mutibwa at the Beyond Glorious Conference*, held at Birkbeck, University of London in May 2013. We began to tentatively develop a professional working relationship following the conference, as we shared a mutual set of interests and common ground in terms of academic and artistic research fields. Throughout the process of Citizens for Change, we met and discussed the project’s development, getting to know each other better and were successful in receiving Seed-Corn funding from Leeds ACTS - http://doinggoodleeds.org.uk/leeds-acts.html, which has enabled us to undertake a joint reflection process of the project involving members of each of the ‘groupings’ in June and July 2014.

*http://www.bbk.ac.uk/events-calendar/beyond-glorious-the-radical-in-engaged-artistic-practices.

6.


Citizens for Change, Leeds


Citizens for Change, Leeds

5. What took place? Project development I spent a couple of months developing the project from a standing start in September 2013. To identify campaigning groups to take part in the programme, I held a series of face-to-face and phone meetings with community development workers/leaders/strategists to identify possible groups and designed a PDF flyer to be forwarded via email to potential groups and community development workers, and eventually four groups who opted to take part. Development programme sessions From November 2013 to March 2014, I held a series of between four and six, one-to -two hour sessions with each of the groups. Each set of sessions was tailored to each groups’ needs and circumstances and aimed for each group to:  Think through and discuss issues  Explore new ways of working together as a group  Explore some new skills and approaches for campaigning around positive social change in neighbourhoods. Fuel Poverty Action clarified its goals and vision for the campaign, made a campaign action plan, planned how to recruit new members, developed a membership structure and wrote a campaign slogan which read as follows: Leeds Fuel Poverty Action believes that people in the UK deserve democratically-controlled, affordable, sustainable energy. 7.


Citizens for Change, Leeds


Citizens for Change, Leeds

5. What took place?—continued Friends of Dartmouth Park clarified its goals and vision for the campaign, made a campaign action plan, planned how to recruit new members, developed a membership structure and wrote a campaign slogan which read: Dartmouth Park is ‘our backyard’. We celebrate, garden together, run community events for all ages, encourage wildlife. Join us creating a positive future for our beautiful park. Seacroft and Gipton Fresh initiated a community campaign to connect people together in the areas of Seacroft and Gipton by sharing what’s happening in the neighbourhoods. They set goals for the campaign, made an action plan, wrote a slogan, developed the campaign action of a pilot paper-based newsletter – and 250 copies were printed and delivered door to door. For example, their campaign slogan read: The Gift of the Gab – a newsletter uniting Seacroft and Gipton. Sharing what’s on across the neighbourhood, delivered to individuals door to door. New Wortley Recoil initiated a campaign to challenge the negative stereotypes about people on benefits, in the media and in society. They set goals for the campaign, made an action plan and developed the campaign actions of writing poems and prose to present as a portable exhibition, which was displayed at the centre’s Community Day in May 2014. The group began to devise a local campaign to challenge the negative stereotypes of people on benefits in the media.

8.


Citizens for Change, Leeds


Citizens for Change, Leeds

5. What took place?—continued Citizens for Change Exchange On the 8th April 2014, the programme culminated in a final four-hour event, held in Leeds City Centre, bringing around 40 people together; members of the four groups, community development workers/leaders, other community campaigners, activists and academics. The event enabled reflection on community development in Leeds and heard directly from campaigning group members about their campaigns/activities, using World Cafe and Open Space style discussion techniques. This event offered groups and individuals a way to make face-to-face connections with each other from across the city. I facilitated the day, with support from Roger Newton, Tony Hermann and Mike Love during the discussion activities. There was a crèche and a buffet lunch was provided. Reflection meetings The final phase in June and July 2013 was to hold a series of reflective meetings where Daniel Mutibwa and I met with a group of community development leaders/ strategists, Mike Love, Tony Hermann and Roger Newton and members of three of the campaigning groups, Laura Mcfarlane of Fuel Poverty Action, James Gerrish of Friends of Dartmouth Park and eight members of New Wortley Recoil. Also Daniel held an in-depth qualitative interview with me.

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Citizens for Change, Leeds


Citizens for Change, Leeds

6. How I worked with the groups As each set of group sessions was entirely bespoke, my focus in the first session was highly diagnostic: asking questions, listening carefully to answers and watching how people interacted with me and each other. This way I was able to find out what the group wanted and gained a sense of what else they might need. I then devised and prepared the following sessions to begin to take the group forward, investigating their vision for the campaign, opening up discussion on possible campaign ideas/strategies, actively seeking to keep this discussion open, not allowing it to get fixed down too early. I began to introduce a series of semi-structured activities (sometimes using paper-based resources), exploring the value of action-planning, beginning to action-plan, investigating consensus decision-making processes, looking the value of the planning and reflection cycle. Where the groups had been campaigning for a while (Fuel Poverty Action and Friends of Dartmouth Park), we thought through how the group had been working to date, clarified the common vision/goals by all members of the group and introduced systems and processes to use in future management of the campaign. And in the case of the two groups who had not undertaken a campaign before (New Wortley Recoil, and Seacroft and Gipton Fresh), supported them to begin to develop their campaign actions (such as producing a newsletter, beginning to write about the stigma of being on benefits), and thinking through how to manage a campaign.

10.


Citizens for Change, Leeds


Citizens for Change, Leeds

6. How I worked with the groups—continued I captured what was being said by everyone in each session on large sheets of paper, which everyone could see, and typed these up in a highly visual A4 landscape format, using boxes and bubbles to present the information as clearly and accessibly as possible. Each group received these visual notes from each session in a PDF format for their future use, and were given a folder to collate them all into. The materials and activities used were all newly developed for this project, using both familiar concepts from arts management/arts marketing techniques and researching new (to myself) approaches – and presenting them in accessible and relevant ways to each group.

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Citizens for Change, Leeds


Citizens for Change, Leeds

7. What happened in relation to the seven layers? This section reflects on the project through the lens of each of the layers outlined earlier. i). A socially engaged performance/art project Looking at the project from the point of view of socially engaged performance/art practice, it’s important to acknowledge that Citizens for Change was initiated and driven myself, artist-facilitator Sarah Spanton. My artistic motivations in setting it up were so that I could work in partnership with campaigning groups, and groups new to campaigning in Leeds, who wanted to make positive social change in their neighbourhoods and to create a process that had the potential to:      

Offer alternative perspectives and ways of taking action and engaging Explore different ways of making sense of the world around us Be catalytic and transformative Highlight injustice and challenged the status quo Ask questions and to begin to seek answers to them Bring people together and be communal, connective.

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Citizens for Change, Leeds


Citizens for Change, Leeds i) A socially-engaged performance/art project—continued To date, I have had two strong reflective and critical responses to the project as a whole: 1. I identified that I undertook a multiplicity of roles as artist-facilitator, some only briefly glimpsed, and I’m interested in finding a way to acknowledge the value of these publicly (see Roles image opposite). 2. Looking for an answer to the question: what is it about the key concepts of ‘communication’ and ‘relationship’ and the role of the artist-facilitator on a project like this? There were many new sets of relationships built up on the project: between myself and the groups and the individuals in the groups; between myself and Daniel; and myself and the community development leaders/strategists; and between the groups themselves. The project was also about the ongoing relationships between the individuals in the groups, and the groups and the community development leaders/strategists. It was the hard to quantify qualities within these relationships, defined by how we communicated in each configuration that had the greatest impact over progression and value gained from the project.

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Citizens for Change, Leeds


Citizens for Change, Leeds ii) A development programme, a learning opportunity, support for community campaigning and linked to community development in Leeds. I’m reflecting on the top four layers (p.3) by combining them into one set of responses. The following analysis was compiled by Daniel Mutibwa following the reflection meetings we undertook at the end of the project.  Working with Sarah as a facilitator helped participants to think through and

 

  

discuss issues that they otherwise would probably not have thought of and articulated by themselves. The sessions were crucial in aiding participants to focus their ideas and thoughts, express, document and explain these in an accessible way. Participants in all the groups stressed that the sessions were instrumental in enabling them to get to know, engage and work with other group participants better. They felt they learnt ‘how to communicate’. They felt ‘pushed to do much more’ than would have been the case without Sarah’s facilitation. In the New Wortley Recoil group, internalising the thinking process gave the group enough confidence to want to connect with other groups around shared and common issues of interest and concern. Most participants noted the sessions created a feeling of positivity which not only inspired them to make contributions, but also to learn a range of other skills: developing more ‘positive thoughts’, understanding group dynamics and learning to blend into the group. 14.


Citizens for Change, Leeds


Citizens for Change, Leeds ii) A development programme, a learning opportunity, support for community campaigning and linked to community development in Leeds—continued  One participant remarked that they learnt ‘integrating into group situations more

healthily as a confident individual’.  Some participants felt they were given ‘the space and time to think’ and that the

sessions allowed for ‘alternative ways of thinking’.  Many participants felt they’d build and/or raised their confidence, a skill that

many acknowledged would serve them well in other situations in their lives – both personal and professional.  Some participants felt they learnt other skills including the ability to create action plans, to make decisions as a group and to turn ideas into action. iii) About co-producing knowledge In relation to exploring the notion of co-production in Citizens for Change, I believe this collaborative action took place during the development programme sessions, when I was working with the groups’ participants. I worked in a very responsive way to their needs and wants, balancing this with an energy that took the activities I offered in a direction I thought they needed. It was very organic and ebbed and flowed at times. I did not take an authoritative role of expert coming in to solve problems. I tried to create a dialogic relationship, where I built a light scaffold of activities and sought to encourage the participants to ‘climb up’ themselves, reinforcing with further activities where needed or leaving them to move forward unaided when appropriate. I was attempting for us to jointly go on a journey, both learning and producing new knowledge together as we went. 15.


Citizens for Change, Leeds


Citizens for Change, Leeds iv) An action-research process In relation to understanding Citizens for Change as an action-research project, my over-arching line of enquiry has been to research the development of a new socially engaged way of practising for myself as an artist. This project has allowed me to explore news of working in a live situation, with engaged and willing participants. At the outset of the project, my three key questions were: 1. What is needed to work collaboratively with campaigning groups? 2. What can I offer to support groups to campaign more effectively? 3. What skills/aptitudes do activists / campaigners for positive social change need? 1. What is needed to work collaboratively with campaigning groups. Through the project I realised that the ways of working needed include:  Continuing a dialogic approach with participants, taking the role of facilitator not expert  Ensuring that all participants in each group have a voice and are able to contribute actively  Making sure that participants are ‘signed up’ to the process, with common goals agreed at the outset. Constantly checking that the participants are still happy to work with me, offering them the option to pull out  Creating a framework for working together, that is flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances in each session  Having enough time to begin to build a trusting relationship, needing enough time to complete a cycle of a campaign, from planning, to action to reflection  Ensuring my promised tasks are completed in the relatively short time available for working together, being reliable and trustworthy.

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Citizens for Change, Leeds


Citizens for Change, Leeds 2. What can I offer to support groups to campaign more effectively? Through reflection and discussion with the participants, I’ve been able to clarify through the project the qualities that I bring to working with campaigning community groups:  Enthusiasm, drive, commitment, reliability  Fluidity (an ability to ‘connect the dots’), the ability to synthesise multiple viewpoints  Diagnostic skills, adaptability, clear and accessible communication, inclusivity  Good organisational skills, thorough preparation, the desire to follow through  Practical skills: writing, editing, communications, promotions, networking, partnership working  Identifying and solving problems, tailoring people’s needs to dedicated learning tools. 3. What skills/aptitudes do activists / campaigners for positive social change need...? I’ve identified that activists /campaigners need:  Common purpose / cause / goals / agendas, a shared vision  Individual and group drive / self-belief, commitment, time, energy, focus  A desire to share ideas, to open up possibilities  A willingness to compromise without losing the focus of the group’s ultimate goals  To have a range of skills and qualities in different members of the group; such as organisational skills (setting up systems)  Good communication skills, prepared to learn to use the latest tools (social media), to be clear and accessible  To be able to keep on track, yet able to adjust when needed  To be able to work as a team, in partnership, with good group decision-making skills  To reflect, be self-critical, to learn, to be curious. To know when to react and when to be pro-active  A willingness to embrace and welcome new people/ideas, a sense of group ownership of the campaign. 17.


Citizens for Change, Leeds


Citizens for Change, Leeds iv). An action research process—continued By the end of the project, many new questions have arisen: 4. What is needed to genuinely gain people’s trust? 5. Is it possible to quickly, efficiently gain people’s trust... what approaches are needed? 6. What are the barriers to working closely with groups in a short space of time... to build a trusting/respectful relationship? 7. How can I make what I do flexible enough to support a range of different types of group? 8. How can this work be an aesthetic practice? How important is this? Can there be aesthetic outcomes? Is this necessary or relevant? 9. What constitutes success for an activist/campaigning group? 10. What are the issues around resilience for community campaigning groups?

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Acknowledgements Many thanks to Seedbed Trust for funding this project, to Together for Peace, Daniel Mutibwa and Leeds Acts, and to everyone else who supported the project. I’d like to extend a special thanks to all the participants of the groups, without whom this project couldn’t have taken place; Seacroft and Gipton Fresh Friends of Dartmouth Park Leeds Fuel Poverty Action New Wortley Recoil

Reflecting back  
Reflecting back  

Reflecting back: a collection of notes on Citizens for Change, Leeds By artist-facilitator Sarah Spanton 2014

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