Monday, 22 August 2011

Community Engagement is Essential to help Frustrated Communities

Last week, in his blog and on website Ekklesia, Niall Cooper, the National Coordinator of Church Action on Poverty, reflected on last week’s riots in England asking the question ‘so what is to be done?’

He commented “Now more than ever, there is a need to move beyond the blame game; to engage with those who feel at the margins and who feel they have no stake.  There is a need to find ways to hear their anger (for to suppress anger is to invite further bouts of rage), to view the world through their eyes, and to challenge others to do likewise. Now is not a time to presume that we have the answer to their problems (and far less that they are the problem); but that through conversation and dialogue, through supporting and engaging with the ‘disenchanted and the disengaged’ in the local communities affected we can at least start to understand what hope does – or could look like – and what is be needed to build some sense of a possible future.”

This idea is echoed by the Poverty Truth Commission’s Overcoming Violence group who recognise that ‘solutions to violence work best if they are created and owned by local people or those affected by it. Empowerment of communities is essential.’ In the Commission’s findings the group challenged the local government and police to ‘move beyond the process of consultation and community engagement and to devolve real power (including budgets) to local neighbourhoods.’

Lord Wallace of Tankerness, former Depute First Minister of Scotland, Advocate General for Scotland and a Commissioner comments “Through the Commission I have become convinced that we are more likely to identify solutions to some deep-seated problems if politicians and officials involve those who experience the reality of poverty in their daily lives. That is the challenge to policy makers and those who deliver public services at every level of government.”