SE-Village @ The Peckham Settlement

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‘A narrative is more than a story’… the final blog post

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Each club, each individual, every person that has attended an event or an ideas lab, they each have their own story. The plan is to collect these stories and make a book, part of the series of ‘The Community Lovers Guide to the Universe’ http://communityloversguide.org/ watch out for this early next year.
I cannot remark or comment on their stories, I cannot even judge how well they have achieved as each person begins their own SE-Village journey from a different starting line. I cannot tell you other people’s stories for fear of doing them an injustice and of removing their voice by speaking on their behalf. Instead I will find a way for them to share their own tale. However, in this final NESTA-related blog post I will talk about our story, the wider narrative, the bigger picture, the bit where all those stories take the shape of a beautiful kaleidoscope – the view when you look through the prism of not one or two personal views but when you join the stories in the centre and the view looks as colourful and chaotic as everything we have experienced this year.

The tale of SE-Village…

We saw ‘a good idea’ become a reality, the plan was to remove barriers that stop people from contributing and find new ways to engage local people in doing what they wanted to do. It was not a question of empowering, we don’t have the power. It was not a project of social action, we were doing our best not to act. Instead it was more a principle of social-inter-action and enabling people to engage with each other around activities that they loved. SE-Knit and Natter, SE-Samba, SE-Balloons – they are what they say on the tin, I love this, you might love this and we’ll love being together.

Most people like me, an activist, a ‘doer’, we like to start up stuff that we think is needed and people will enjoy. I laugh when people talk about ‘hard to reach’, ‘difficult to engage’, ‘never getting access’, even ‘poverty of aspiration’ is a ironically humorous statement to me now, because I don’t believe that any of these things are true. I think we try and fit people into the boxes that we think they should be in, less cryptically, I think we should stop having ideas and start having questions. A number of our SE-Village projects said that they never would have thought to start their own anything had someone not asked them what they might want to do if they could, what are their dreams, what are their passions. The right questions cannot be bottled, they could never be put in a questionnaire, they are part of what we call ‘the long conversation’ – the conversation that importantly doesn’t end. Our principles of social-interaction apply to us too (us being those behind the desks being paid for what we love!). We aim to start conversations, to meet new friends, to go out of the places we normally inhabit or to stay in them and ask the questions that we love to talk about. We take out our pimped-out sofa to attract attention and provide a space, wherever we are, for the start of the long conversation. In my experience about 40% had instant ideas and of these 20% believed they could act on it at the start of the conversation, 60% wouldn’t know the answers, what did they care about besides living their life day by day? Difficult. It is a pleasure to me to see so many of those that started in that 60% the ‘unusual and disbelieving’ starting up their own clubs, groups, courses, businesses and/or going to other people’s, having fountains of ideas and encouraging others that they can get their idea off the ground. Community Lovers BLISS!

SE-Village now requires mainly coaches, connectors, side-kicks, hype guys and gals. Most people just need the support and confidence and sometimes a few extra skills to make their passions a reality and why? Because it is their passion, or their violation – whatever sparked their motivation, it is THEIRS, not ours! Many people when they first started saying things they would like to see, wrote them down as if they were filling out a form, petitioning us to produce it for them, now we are hosting crowd-funding events where they are petitioning people to vote for them, so that they can start their club with a backing of time credits and man hours and money. They plan, they pitch, they build.

Our SE-Village slogan is ‘Dream your village, See your village, SE-Village’ – we don’t pretend we are anything but a host, a simple platform, a stomping ground. We provide support from the bottom and we see others get to the top, a remarkable and rewarding space to be in. The only thing we create ‘in-house’ is the events that we put on, these gather people and connect them, a source of all good communities is celebration and fun. I pride myself that we start the symphony, which is only the beginning of a dramatic ensemble – ‘The sounds of our community’.

The ‘good idea’ became a remarkable one, because of the all the people that have made it what is is now. We are running out of space, out of coaches and mentors but for each challenge has been a creative solution – Peckham Pounds, partnerships, parties to name only three. In our community we have a lot of assets and if someone tells me that we don’t, I tell them they need to look harder, or better still, start just one long conversation. John Donne ‘No man is an island’ is right, but people can be if they don’t know who cares that they are not or who else they are responsible to. We are committed to changing this.

I would like to see Peckham over run with change-makers, those living in the impossibility and chaos of their dreams and seeing them become real. I would like to see people knowing that there is always someone else that cares about what they can contribute.

This is the narrative that binds us – weaving together every individual story into the rich tapestry that has made our impossible dream begin to become a reality. This narrative will last longer than any individual story, even our own!

Thank you to NESTA and The Big Lottery for getting behind us in the way we want to get behind others.

By Ann-Marie Yiannis

(Community and Programmes Manager at The Peckham Settlement)

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Written by sevillps

March 28, 2012 at 9:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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