Celia and Tamsin from Up Our Street are facilitators for the Active Citizens programme.
“We’re now halfway through our first Active Citizens course, so thought it would be a good time to share how things are going so far. A group of twelve intrepid individuals reported to the Beacon Centre early last Friday morning, a little unsure about just what they had let themselves in for… The one thing that united them was a passion to make change happen in their community.
After introductions over a cup of coffee, the group began the first activity; creating the Tree of Expectations (as the group were to find out, the British Council, who created the Active Citizens programme, are very keen on metaphor). The roots of the tree represent the skills, experience and attitudes that participants bring to the course. It was really inspiring to see what a wealth of experience was in the room – this tree definitely has strong foundations! The leaves of the tree represent what participants would like to achieve at the end of the course – things like “meeting new people involved in community projects”, “gaining more self-confidence”, and “being better integrated in my community – doing something positive”. There was also a lot of interest in setting up a social enterprise, so we have arranged an extra session on that subject at the end of the course. Finally the trunk represents the ‘ground rules’ for the sessions.
After a short introduction to the British Council and watching their Active Citizens video (click here to watch) we broke into small groups and began discussing the vision of the Active Citizens programme. Lots of good conversations were going on, and many continued over sandwiches at lunchtime, connections were already being made.
In the afternoon session we asked the group to work on pictures showing different aspects of their identity, and we started to talk about how identity and culture is formed, how it changes over time. It was also a good opportunity to reflect on assumptions that we can hold about other people.
Today in week two, we started to widen our focus. In the morning we built our Wall of Greatness (another metaphor!) using examples of things in our community that make us feel proud. In the afternoon we started to get to grips with listening skills and effective dialogue, practising techniques that we can use in our communities.
As facilitators, we’re really looking forward to next week – hopefully the participants feel the same!”