Federation for Community Development Learning
Federation for Community Development Learning

Creating Changes - Further Information

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.

Our Sunflower tool used to identify skills, needs, analysis is available to download. We have many more here.

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.

Workshops held in Nottingham

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.  

 

Demonstration Projects

 

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.     

 

This was part of our sunflower exercise in which Oscar did a skills needs analysis as part of their first sessions with us. 

 

Sunflower produced by Oscar   

Conference

 

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.

 

  • The take up and the evaluation of the courses delivered by the project have shown that there is a need and interest in CD training underpinned by an introduction to CDNOS. This has been evidenced by many participants welcoming the opportunity to learn more about CD values and how they can use them in their practice. This opportunity has provided a space for learners to reflect on their practice and understanding of CD values, enabling them to recognise and develop the skills and knowledge they can use when supporting small groups. In turn they feel more confident as practioners in supporting groups better.
  • As a result of tracking the participants’ learning, we have found indicators that the training has had an impact on the development of the groups learners work with. This has been as a result of individuals feeling more confident and skilled, when facilitating groups by cascading the learning to small groups. This has then impacted on small groups developing better, as they benefit informally by also becoming more confident and developing new skills. This is one of the aims of the project.
  • The participants have evaluated that our Associates deliver to a high standard and have a good understanding of CD in practice as well as the theory. The need for trainers to understand the practice has been clearly valued, thus good quality trainers is vital to the success of the training delivered. We have identified a need to recruit more CD experienced trainers to deliver training.
  • A variety of tools have been developed and piloted on the courses and are being cascaded directly to small groups that are supported by paid and unpaid workers. The tools are designed to be continuously adapted to suit the needs of small groups as well as paid and unpaid workers. The tools and course materials have been highly praised as they are practical and easy to use and provide a tried and tested effective means to support groups better.
  • There are serious barriers which are increasing in relation to the current challenging economic environment (cuts in the public sector) that are affecting the reach and take up of the training.  Being aware of these barriers we have constantly evaluated our courses to ensure they are meeting the needs of the target groups and also addressing change. Despite the changing environment we are still running courses successfully and continue to work on developing partnerships to deliver. Importantly the impact of the cuts needs to be seriously reviewed to ascertain the level of support small groups are receiving and to identify what their training needs are. We are currently doing this through our small groups survey as a starting point.
  • As small groups need to develop and build on new and exsisiting skills as much as the paid workers who support them, the project has  highlighted that small community and voluntary groups often still need day to day development support. As paid day to day development support has declined due to the current environment and continuing redundancies small groups need to have access to good quality training that is tailored to meet their learning needs. The training has to be accessible and adaptable in practice so groups can be more self reliant.Creating Changes has identified a need to build on meeting this need but also to clearly identify the training requirements of small groups that reflect the changing environment they are trying to survive in. The training would need to be of a good quality and tailored to suit the development of groups.  Additionally access to training would be improved if travel and childcare costs for small groups are funded.
  • The project has done well in raising the profile and promoting the values of CD to as many organisations as possible or at least providing a flavour. The project will continue to build on the evidence for the need for CD training underpinned by CDNOS by documenting and evaluating evidence on the impact and relevance of CD training participants on their practice.  Small groups have received good quality development support by workers who understand CD approaches better by attending the training.  Thus encouraging groups to be more empowered, more self sustaining and inclusive.
  • The potential for learning from the evaluation process will be considerable by the time the project ends, supported by tracking forms which will provide more qualitative details in due course.   

 

Sunflower image courtesy of Stoonn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net



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