Community Organising LAB – coLAB is a framework for cooperation between 4 (+1) organizations each from one country of the V4 region. This „colLABoration“ is happening on several layers with several outcomes.
The aim of coLAB is to create a Tool-Box for trainers and community organisers based on the community organising methodology combined with community development and the principles of Teal Management (described by Frederic Laloux).
This project is financially supported by Visegrad Fund.
Four main topics of coLAB:
Community Organising & Development
The project coLAB is composed from two big parts:
1) First part of the of the project is focused on an online training course combined with personal mentoring and dozens of hours of practice for new community organisers from each involved organisation.
2) Second part of the project is about implementing community organising (CO) methodology and Teal Management principles within involved organisations.
By recording, reflecting and evaluating these two parts we create an online Tool-Box for the future trainings of organisers and other organisations to learn about CO and Teal Management.
Basic Facts on Community Organising
Community organizing is a revolutionary political activity geared towards social change. This involves building structures of power around material struggles, which can endure and grow over time to yield tangible change for the base.
Four Types of Community Interventions
There are four fundamental strategies available to address community problems: community organizing, advocacy, service delivery and community development. There is no right or wrong strategy – every community needs all four strategies, to some degree. Each group should specialize – the skills needed to do a good job in one are seldom those needed for another. Sometimes, groups use a combination of strategies. What is important here is that you know what you’re doing – that the method matches the strategy you’ve chosen and they both match the mission the group has adopted.
Community organizing is characterized by the mobilizing of volunteers. Staff roles are limited to helping volunteers become effective, to guiding the learning of leaders through the process, and helping to create the mechanism for the group to advocate on their own behalf. Community organizing almost always includes confrontation of some sort. When the people who want something get themselves together to ask for it, often the people who could give them what they want get jumpy. Community organizing strategies include meeting with corporate or government decision makers to hold them accountable for their actions, designing programs that meet the needs of the community for others (not the group) to implement, and aggressive group action to block negative developments or behaviors (for example, highway construction that leads to neighborhood destruction).
Advocacy and Service Delivery are both characterized by doing FOR people. Often professionals like lawyers or social workers will attack a problem on behalf of those perceived as unable to speak for themselves. Job referral services, social work, training for job readiness, homeownership counseling, business plan preparation training – these are methods which fit into the Advocacy or Service Delivery strategy. The advantage of these approaches is that they alleviate the problem relatively fast. The downside is that they don’t always tackle the root of the problem, so the community is not prepared when the same or other problems surface.
Community development is a strategy that gets the group directly into the business of delivering a physical product. Generally, groups select a development strategy because the normal course of events is not meeting the area’s needs. The profit motive either does not bring private developers into the area – they can’t make enough money – or it brings them in to do the wrong thing – they are converting moderate cost rental units into yuppie condos. Development could mean housing or commercial or even industrial development. Development methods require, like the other two strategies, particular skills. Many groups have struggled to achieve good results in housing development with staff whose training, experience and interests are in community organizing, causing pain and suffering for the group and the staff. This is unfair. If we understand the distinction between the strategies, we can see the different resources needed for the methods that fit within them.
summarized by Veronika Strelcova
Power & „Stairs“ into the Community
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Asset Based Community Development & Community Mapping
Mapping the community
Terms and definitions
COMMUNITY MAPPING means when community and its members are providing data about a specific topic, so it means the data is not collected by any authorities. Typical examples are city improvements actions, housing problems, local weather information, rain and cloud tracking or tracking rare or invasive animal, plant species.
- A website where people could report about bad roads, Bratislava and Slovakia.
- A website where people can report about any problems that concerns public spaces (road) Budapest and other towns in Hungary. After the incidence is reported the volunteers of Jarokelo start to proceed to solve the problem.
- European Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. As a joint initiative of Butterfly Conservation Europe and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, this website is a home for promoting butterfly monitoring schemes across Europe. The website is providing clear methods how to monitor the butterflies, people can register and contribute data.
MAPPING THE COMMUNITY means when one is willing to gather information about a community and aims to have a deeper understanding of a community. We can talk about two types of communities: interest or value based (LGBTQ+ communities, football clubs, senior clubs, homeless people association), or geographically identified community (all citizens of a district or town). The carry out a mapping requires a neutral approach from the observer to really be able to see what is the current state of a community.
It is very important to note that a mapping process is already an intervention that could influence the unique internal processes of a community. While doing the mapping we can build relations and trust. We need to be aware that with the questions and topics raised in the mapping process can already influence the reality and therefore it can be used or seen as a tool for facilitation initiatives or supporting change within the community.
What could we map?
The topics of the mapping can be diverse. We collected the following ones with the participants.
- Natural environment
- Demographic information
- Who are the members of the community
- People’s needs
- Existing groups/communities
- Networks, connections
- What they already tried to solve the specific problems
- Communication channels
- People’s values, goals, dreams, fears
- Real and perceived threats
You can read many case studies on different mapping processes that aimed to initiate social change in the ‘This is not an Atlas’ book. A film about the book is available here (English version with Hungarian subtitle).
Methods of mapping
Desk research is a research that you do at your desk. Whether before you go out to the field, community or after you made some interviews and you would like to cross check what people told.
Observation is an act of noticing, perceiving, regarding attentively or watching for some purpose (to gain information). The point is that you keep yourself outside and don’t start to interact with the people, spaces, events you are observing. It sounds easy, but it can be challenging to stay in this neutral mode, not to react, not to interact. You can sharpen your observation skills while practicing meditation, where the main focus is to observe what we sense and see without judgement.More information on that: here
Surveys/questionnaires are an easy format to spread in communities, especially nowadays with the available online tools that help us to create questionnaires and collect the answers as well. The practical tools are in our hands but still the mastery of creating the questions needs more explorations. How do we formulate the questions, what should come first and what after it?You can read more on that topic here
Open talks can be a good tool for mapping as well. Sit down somewhere and start to talk to people. Even though ethically is more correct when we introduce ourselves and also introduce why we are interested in certain topics
Interviews are set of questions asked directly from the interviewee face-to-face or nowadays online. Interviews differ from questionnaires as they involve also social interaction. Researchers need training in how to do the interviews. Researchers can ask different types of questions which in turn generate different types of data. For example, closed questions provide people with a fixed set of responses, whereas open questions allow people to express what they think in their own words.More information of the strength and limitations of interviews you can find here.
Photovoice is a process in which people – usually those with limited power due to poverty, language barriers, race, class, ethnicity, gender, culture, or other circumstances – use video and/or photo images to capture aspects of their environment and experiences and share them with others. The pictures can then be used to bring the realities of the photographers’ lives home to the public and policy makers or just to initiate discussion on the topic the pictures where taken of.For a detailed description how you can carry out photovoice processes you can visit this website
Emotional or mental maps are a person’s point-of-view perception of their area, living enviornment or any other space. A mental map is a tool to get subjective interpretations of people about a certain territory.You can read more here
Focus groups interview is a qualitative approach where a group of respondents are interviewed together, used to gain an in‐depth understanding of social issues. The method aims to obtain data from a selected group of individuals rather than from a statistically representative sample of a broader population. Focus groups allow to see the interaction between the members.More information on that: here
Walking is a specific way of observing. We can just observe by walking but we can also make interviews while walking and see the interaction between the interviewees and the neighborhood. It can be also individual walks or even group walks.You can find a scientific text about walking as a method for urban observation.
How to get out of our bubble?
We do research to find out new or unknown information and not for confirmation for what we believe. Ideally it is useful if we can reach those who opinion is unknown for us. Here are few methods that can support this process.
snowball sampling: where existing people recruit future people from among their acquaintances. The sample group grows like a rolling snowball. This sampling technique is often used in hidden, hard to access populations (drug users or sex workers). As sample members are not selected from a sampling frame, snowball samples are subject to numerous biases. For example, people who have many friends are more likely to be recruited into the sample.Source
door to door survey is method where the interviews are conducted in a concrete area while knocking on the doors of homes to find respondents. This method van be time consuming but when it comes to communities, and especially if we would like to get out of the online reality it is worth to take interviews, questionnaires really by every door and see what we can find.Further readings on the method.
randomisation is a good method to hack our brain. A concrete example would be when eg. taking interviews with people on a public square. Naturally we would stand ont he square and look for those who ’look like’ asnwering our questions. Therefor we would really influence whom we would ask. Of course we could ask everybody, but for that we dont have a capacity. Than we can create rules, random rules: we ask only every 4th person, you can even use a dice and change it every hour what would be your random number.
summarized by Cecília Lohász
Base Building & One-on-Ones
After the community mapping – including door knocking/snowball approach – the organiser ends up with a list of contacts of the people whom they want to involve into building a base:
Core Leaders are aligned with the organisation’s values, vision and mission. They are a strong part of the organisation – ready to take action. They have the capacity – time, skills, knowledge, attitude, values & motivation – to act as an organiser and a bridge between the organisation and the community (organisations target group).
Leaders & Active Members of the organisation are actively involved in campaigns and actions of the organisation. They are go-to members for events and specific actions. Typically they can connect on an issue level.
Members usually attend the meetings/actions. They have a limited role in planning, because they are in a development stage – they are gaining their capacity and aligning w/ organisation. (typical example are organisation’s volunteers)
Potential Members are people interested in organisation and its activities. They share their contact w/ the organiser and express their interest to learn more.
Community Members may know about the organisation, but have not been reached through one-on-one outreach. They are affected by the issues.
(based on the description from Rusia Mohiuddin, Universal Partnership)
In order to build a core of leaders, there is a need to understand leaders personal “cores” – their motivation, passion, psychological criteria and sometimes even trauma.
When it comes to community organizing, there is no substitute for direct person-to-person interaction. Personal interaction and shared experience establish the strongest bonds, and provide the most compelling incentive for engagement. This is why one-on-ones are a bedrock technique for bringing new people into chapters and teams, for developing leaders, and for maintaining relationships with active members.
One-on-One Meetings (1:1s) are intentional, pre-scheduled meetings with a member, potential member or community member to build a public relationship and to exchange information that ultimately reveals their “core” and possibly connects them to the organisation. A successful 1:1 meeting ends with a commitment to take action that includes a specific date, time, and goal.
Preparing for a one-on-one meeting
1. Identify people who might be interested in your organization. Think about your community networks. They could be neighbors, classmates, colleagues, community members, or family members. You can also go to community events to talk about your issue with folks and invite anyone who is interested to have a one-on-one with you.
2. Do some preparation.
• What do you already know about the person you’re meeting with?
• What questions do you want to ask them?
• What do you want to share about your experience?
• What commitment do you want to get, and how do you want to make your request?
3. Set a time and location for the meeting, and be intentional about the setting.
• Are you going to be able to talk about some potentially personal things? If so, is the environment suited for that?
• Is the person going to have to spend money at that location?
• If there’s food involved, check-in with the person to see if they have any dietary restrictions or preferences to keep in mind.
4. Follow up with the person two days ahead of time and on the day of the one-on-one confirm that they’re planning to meet with you.
Learn more about One-on-Ones on
summarized by Juraj Víg
Building a Core & Facilitating a Meeting
Facilitating a group/community meeting
When it comes to community meetings – round tables with community leaders & working groups – it is all about effectiveness and relationship building.
People usually join those meetings after their working hours instead of spending time with their family and friends. That means that a meeting needs to be effective. One of the ways to have an effective meeting is to have a facilitator. At first it could be the organizer, but later it is efficient to rotate this role or let the meeting participants choose someone among themselves.
What is a facilitation?
Every book and every facilitator describes facilitation differently, but there are two basic interpretations on which they all agree.
According to the broader one, facilitation eases the process of achieving the goal of an individual, group, organization… or even a country. In general, this means that facilitation is a set of all the activities we can do to make things go smoothly towards their goal.
Here facilitation is perceived as a superset or „a sibling“ of coaching, mediation, mentoring, moderation, lecturing and learning, or sometimes even supervision.
The narrow interpretation of facilitation focuses on group gatherings, such as work meetings or trainings. Aleš Bednařík defines facilitation as an activity of “making the discussion process easier so that communication goes efficiently and the participants obtain the results for which they came together.“
Basic principles of facilitation
The whole facilitation process can be summarized in 2 + 1 basic activities:
- The facilitator actively listens to what the participants in the group say.
- The facilitator asks questions – mostly open questions, which lead the discussion towards the set goal.
- Alternatively, the facilitator writes down the ideas, comments and outputs that the group came up with.
During these activities, the role of the facilitator is:
- to keep the structure – ensures that each step is related to achieving the goal
- to keep time – to be time efficient
- to create a psychologically safe environment
- to ensure that everyone involved has a chance to express their position.
Achieving the group’s goal can also be, for example:
- assigning tasks for the next week
- defining strategic goals and plans for the next five years
- or inventing the latest advertising campaign for a client.
Last but not least: the facilitator tends to be an external figure that does not directly interfere with the content of the meeting, but only keeps it within certain boundaries for effective progress. For this reason, it is sometimes appropriate to arrange for an external meeting facilitator, so that all participants – team / community members – can be fully involved in the meeting content.
TIP for quick group decisions:
If you have a lot of people in a group during your meeting and little time to discuss all the opinions on the topic, try this simple technique. Ask people to express their attitude by showing 1-5 fingers. Personally, I define 5 fingers as maximum agreement and 1 finger as disagreement.
After all participants show their settings, ask for a verbal statement from those who voted with one, two, or three fingers (depending on how much time you have left).
You can learn more about facilitation and get some tips and tricks on how to facilitate a group and how to deal with “difficult” participants in these videos:
- Facilitation Skills: Best & Worst Facilitator Practices
- The secret to communicate with difficult participants
- SixSteps Facilitation by Josef W. Seifert
by Juraj Víg 2021
Organiser’s Roles – Guiding Leadership
Transactional Analysis as a Leader Tool
Manager – organiser – leader. How does a manager take up the role of a leader? What exactly does a leader do? To what extent should a leader care about their colleagues? Let’s take a view from one possible perspective.
Disclaimer: when we talk about managers, we also mean organisers, teachers, trainers or coaches.
In the 1960s Eric Berne came up with several revolutionary concepts that influenced today’s psychology and the general way we work with people. One of his most famous books is “Games People Play”.
What is it all about?
According to Berne, the basic unit of people’s interaction (social contact) is a so-called transaction. If there are two or more people in the same room, sooner or later one of them will give a signal by which he/she acknowledges the existence of the others. If others react to that impulse, we can call it a TRANSACTION. Should this transaction bring us any benefit (or pleasure), we call it a GAME. Every game has its players who are playing their ROLES. These roles are chosen consciously, or – in most cases – unconsciously, based on their EGO STATE. And this is where things get interesting and complicated at the same time.
The 3 Ego States
We perceive the states of our Ego as a complex phenomenon of thinking, feeling and behaving. The first state evolved within us already in early childhood, this is what Berne calls “the Child”. When we get into this state as adults, we act as our childhood self would. This ego state has two polarities: the playful/submissive child and the stubborn/defiant child.
If our actions (thinking, feeling and behaving) are in line with the people who raised us, we are reaching the ego state of “the Parent”. As a Parent we are shifting between the critical/lecturing and the caretaking parent.
When we are able to rationally evaluate the situation in the given moment, and observe the emotions of the Child and the Parent, we are getting into the state of “the Adult”. As we are shifting between the ego states according to our current needs, we can take up several different roles in a conversation in a matter of seconds.
How does this game look like?
I used to spend a lot of time with my grandparents as a child. They lived in a big (that time even modern) flat with a lot of doors which had crystal glass filling. Behind one of those doors an old sewing machine was hidden. I was extremely fascinated by its mechanism – especially by the foot pedal and the wheel. Even today it makes me smile when I see an old Singer used as a coffee table in a bar.
One day, as I was exploring this machine behind the door at grandma’s, I accidentally smashed the door and the glass in it got broken. This was followed by the sound of breaking and falling glass. This signal made my grandma check what happened. After a quick visual revision of my health status – I didn’t have a scratch – she asked:
Grandma: “Who did this?”
I – still a little shocked: “A dwarf.”
Grandma put her hands on her hips and raised her eyebrows: “You know that you shouldn’t lie.”
My grandma’s question might look like a question of an “Adult” looking for factual information. On a psychological level, however, it prompted a challenge to lie – and I accepted it. It was then followed by a lesson on good behaviour from my grandma’s “Parent”. Of course, my grandma didn’t plan to catch me “at the crime scene”. It was her ego state giving me a lesson – just as she used to get it from her parents. (This memory came back to me after reading a similar example in the book Games People Play.)
The question that emerges from the story is whether I needed to be taught a lesson or it was grandma’s “Parent” that needed to take care of me (quick visual control of any injuries) and reprimand me afterwards? In both cases, we both played our roles in the game.
Drama Triangle in Games
In connection with Berne’s work we should also take a look at the Drama Triangle theory by Karpman. According to this, every drama needs a “Victim” and every Victim has their “Perpetrator” and/or “Saviour”. Combining the two approaches, we can conclude that every Child has/looks for their Parent and vice versa.
Surrounded by the broken glass from the door, I was a Victim who had his Saviour (grandma), who shifted into the role of the Perpetrator. Together we played all three roles of the Drama Triangle and we both gained something from it. Additionally, I learned how to become a skilled player in the role of the Victim. After all, we learn how to behave in these games as early as in childhood.
Now let’s see how all this looks like at our workplace.
Employee A: “That new colleague C doesn’t follow our deadlines and doesn’t answer my emails.”
Manager B: “Yeah, that sucks. Colleague C is very irresponsible.”
On the visible social level this is a communication between two Adults – an exchange of factual information and an agreement with the status quo. But let’s look deeper into the psychological level:
Employee A is having a hard time working together with the new Colleague C. He comes to Manager B and complains – communicates from as a Child / Victim. Manager B shows regret and identifies the Persecutor in the Drama Triangle. Thus, he communicates as the Parent / Rescuer. The gain (or pleasure) for Employee A is the feeling of reassurement that he is a good, efficient employee, whereas Manager B can maintain his position as a manager who takes care of his employees or reprimands them. The problem is that Manager B did not help Employee A in the long run. He simply supported the game in this triangle, so they can go play it tomorrow as well.
How can a manager help?
Me: „Colleague P isn’t replying to my emails again and the project partners are already asking me when they will receive the reports.“
Colleague M: “Call him. You need to set up the appropriate communication channels / collaboration together.”
Yes, this situation was „played“ in our Open Game office 🙂 Although my colleague Martin is not my manager, he is a „senior“. I came to him playing the Child / Victim – the role that I learned when the glass broke at my grandma’s. Martin gave me the tools – factual information – needed to satisfy my needs. He reacted as an Adult and consciously avoided jumping into the role of the Savior. And by that, he changed something else as well: he disrupted the dynamics between the Child and the Parent and made me enter the Adult ego state.
This is a very significant change: by taking up the role of the Adult, Martin transformed the originally destructive Saviour-Persecutor-Victim triangle into a constructive one, thus changing the roles to Guide-Challenge-Leader. In this triangle, the Persecutor is replaced by a Challenge which can be solved with the help of a Guide (and not a Saviour), so there is no Victim any more – you become your own (Personal) Leader.
This transformation didn’t lead to a miraculous change in the relationship between my colleague and I for a while. The situation with P repeated several times afterwards. The difference was that we both learned from our previous experience and gradually set the appropriate communication channels, defined work priorities and talked openly about my frustration and his exhaustion.
Interrupting my game helped me solve not only this conflict, but a lot more. By repeating similar situations, I can now recognize that this is a game and thanks to this, I can actively shift to the Adult ego state in communication – and to the role of the Guide in my work as a trainer.
Being a leader can take many forms. It does not necessarily mean being a manager or a senior colleague. Definitions of leadership vary from one theory to another. In our office, Martin was a leader for me and I became my own Personal Leader – the Hero of my situation and my story.
Reflexion for Community Organisers
How can we „raise“ new leaders in our communities without taking the role of the „Parent“?
What can we do when organising a community around problems – needs – trauma?
Wheat roles are we taking in our community organising?
by Juraj Víg 2021
Campaigning & Direct Actions
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Fundraising & Public Speaking
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