By Suki Shergill, Project Development Officer, FCDL
A version of this article was circulated to members in the FCDL Update, May 2012.
What does Creating Changes offer?
Creating Changes is a project offering free community development (CD) training to a wide range of local support and development organisations and to small community and voluntary groups so that they can improve their practice in supporting small groups and networks. The Creating Changes national training programme is for community activists and paid and unpaid workers who, within their ongoing roles, are interested in developing their skills, knowledge and understanding of CD in relation to the Community Development National Occupational Standards (CDNOS). Course participants have an opportunity to develop new and existing skills and knowledge using CD approaches, improve the support, the ongoing learning, the development and actions of small groups and networks through a wide range of informal community development methods gained from the training. The long term goal is that small groups will be more empowered in taking the lead around how the needs of their groups and communities are addressed.
Additionally, course participants have an opportunity to develop their professional practice by agreeing to take part in a tracking process by naming six community groups that they are currently supporting and can pass their learning onto.
What else does Creating Changes offer - Continuous professional development?
Course applicants are asked to provide evidence of supporting inclusive and collective working for six community groups and networks by naming them on the application form and agreeing to be contacted at a later date to measure the impact of their learning on these groups. This criteria relates to the origin of the project which aimed to improve the community development understanding and practice of development workers employed by local infrastructure organizations, including but not exclusively CVSs, so that they would work more effectively with small community groups. We have now broadened the scope to offer the training directly to community activists and small community groups who are not usually in a position to be working with and supporting another six groups.
Course participants, through the process of tracking, are able to evaluate their own professional development by assessing their skills and knowledge and how they have used them in practice when supporting small groups. A brief questionnaire is sent out asking them to reflect and feedback on any particular skills they were using. This includes asking them if they used CD approaches more and had there been an impact on the groups they had worked with? Participants are also invited to take part in one day Practice learning sessions to explore this in more depth.
The practice learning sessions have shown that an understanding of CD is being put into practice by course partiicpants who are applying CD appraches to working with groups as a result of the training.
Over 1000 small groups to date have been named by applicants and entered into a tracking system which will be used to evaluate the impact of CD learning and approaches by the end of the project. This is constantly being collated and as long as we receive the agreed feedback we are building an evidence base to support the impact of CD learning. The tracking follow ups show that small groups also learn more informally about CD. Some professional development has occurred and tools are being used and cascaded down to small groups, again benefitting their CD learning. New skills have been learnt and individuals feel more confident when working with groups. The training has included how to influence decision makers, doing community based research, training the trainers and much more (see current courses available here).
What training is available and what’s been delivered so far?
We have run 38 courses in total to the present date (please see www.fcdl.org/events). Some of these are two days. The courses have largely been attended by a diverse range of infrastructure organisations. We have also run PTTLS which is six days and is an accredited qualification for trainers, new and existing. For more details look on our website to see if there is a course that appeals to you.
Relevant course materials and handouts have been developed to complement the individual courses delivered and were provided to all participants during the delivery. These have been piloted and tested and tools have been updated in discussion with trainers prior to course delivery and with very good feedback afterwards.
Are the tools available to be used?
Resources and tools are now available on our website and are also promoted during events and any outreach work. Each tool is designed to be adapted and changed to suit the needs of the user.
How was it decided which courses to run and where?
We conducted several needs skills anaylisis workshops across the country which were aimed at a wide range of paid and unpaid workers and included Community Developement workers, activists, local infrastructure organisations and community and voluntary groups. We also conducted a survey with NAVCA which went out to CVSs across the country.
Both the workshops and surveys explored the interest in developing and building on CD skills and where the training could be delivered. Alongside this we outreached and developed partnerships so we could deliver where it was identified there was a need. All the research is available under 'Needs' on our Creating Changes page.
Do you re-visit training needs and where you deliver training?
Creating Changes regularly reviews its training programme and where it delivers by holding small workshops (for example see Bath conference on our website). We have also conducted a small group needs survey so we can plan our final programme of training.
Creating Changes has included FCDL working with three community based projects in developing their understanding of the community development national occupational standards and CD approaches in their day to day practice of developing the groups and communities they represent. We built this into the design of Creating Changes in order to be able to demonstrate the impact of 2 – 3 years customised support to the community projects.
The projects have all benefitted from various training sessions delivered by FCDL development workers who have also cascaded down to the projects a variety of tools and methods to use in their practice. We have explored CD approaches with the groups.
We will be doing a detailed evaluation with the groups and will bring you more details via our website. Click here or see the links on our Creating Changes page for more details about the individual projects.
The conference took place on Wednesday 21st November and Thursday 22nd November at the Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire. More information.
What’s been learned so far?
Creating Changes is achieving what it set out to do which is to improve the support given to small groups and grassroots voluntary and community organisations by paid and unpaid workers who attend free training to build on their skills and knowledge. By introducing CDNOS at every training session we have provided an opportunity for learners to explore the values of CD. Learners have been able to link CD approaches to their practice by exploring the values, often learners discover they are using the values already and are then able to use this clearer understanding to support groups better.
Below we have highlighted some achievements.
Creating Changes is constantly being evaluated and the evidence documented.
Sunflower image courtesy of Stoonn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net