I have spent the better part of the past 2 weeks on the phone speaking with INCREDIBLE people in the Northern Territory, preparing for our Medibank funded Healthy Places Traditional Wisdom Mentor Training in Alice Springs and Darwin later in the year.
What it has reminded me is that community development is a TOUGH gig!
I have been running my own business now for more than 14 years and let me tell you, that is no piece of cake, walk in the park, picnic or whatever other cliche can be added nicely here…but working across multiple stakeholder groups, across multiple industries, across multiple organisation types, across a vast geographic area that has multiple language groups and a very traditional system of doing business that mixes with a very bureaucratic system of doing business and layer upon layer of disadvantage and issue,..and not being from the state..now that, that is tough!
At times I have found myself being pulled in a variety of directions, in my head of course.
Have you considered the language issue? Have you considered the remote locations? Have you considered the cost of transporting people and accommodating them while they do the training? Have you considered the different learning styles? Have you considered that might already be happening here?….
YES, yes, of course I have considered all those things, carefully and with due respect, but the real question is, can my very meagerly funded project meet all those needs? As much as I would like it to..the answer is NO, no it can’t.
One thing I have learned in business and am very rapidly starting to apply in community development is that you can’t be all things to all people…there just is, honestly, no one size fits all model and its seriously crazy to think there is.
What our project can offer is capacity building to INDIVIDUAL community and social service providers who are struggling to deliver the healthy lifestyle message and are looking for some additional tools/resources and support to do that, so they, in turn, can empower their clients and community members…
I am not about to start working with dietitians and telling them to suck eggs, they know this stuff, neither am I going to start working with fully qualified permaculture teachers or horticulturalists..same applies. What we are offering is SIMPLE programs that provide great support for people to connect vulnerable members of the community with a SIMPLE healthy lifestyle message…get into the kitchen, know what you are eating and put a few herbs in pots, but most importantly, value and love yourself enough to do that.
For too long I have watched as community development strategies have failed because it has to be a ‘whole of community’ approach.
What is a community? In my opinion, it’s just a bunch of individuals trying their guts out to survive or be their best given the resources they have been given.
How the heck do we think we are going to ‘develop’ a community if we don’t empower the individuals within that community? How are we going to reach those people if we try to slap a ‘one size fits all’ model to it OR expect that EVERYONE is going to love what we are offering?
If we remove the ego in it all and remind ourselves that this is about PEOPLE and that for some it works and others it doesn’t (just as in sales, some will buy, some won’t), there is room for all of us who are just wanting to make a difference!