Stans Cafe ( globally successful Birmingham theatre company) has been working with a 120 young people for last few weeks to help the City Council connect in new ways.
Groups from different schools have been walking their neighbourhoods and walking the wider city. Some of their reflections are captured in a set of animations (find them all here) ….
Today they came from their neighbourhoods into the world of the council house, council chambers and council procedures.
Watching them talk about a range of issues raised a few things for me.
- People are experts on the places they live in. Respect them for that. Talk to them about that.
- Putting people in places that are new can be tricky – asking them to have a view on what the city centre should be like if they don’t use it may be intimidating.
- But above is only partly true. I learned years ago watching Dutch, Belgian and German, UK community groups share stories that giving people space to talk about their world creates hooks for them, gives them away into each others worlds. “What you’re saying sounds a bit like how we… ” “I’ve never thought of it that way” “You should meet…” are the sort of sentences that demonstrate understanding.
- Politicians need to listen to a lot of people, but they don’t have to heed us all. It is their job to make up their mind. Communicating that I’ve listened to you but won’t do what you’ve asked is important.
- If you are 15 the number of people employed to do intangible things is puzzling. Why have another meeting about litter when those people could pick it up?
- No one likes cold uninviting empty parks – they want them busy warm and welcoming. That alone should be the kernel around which parks thrive – and that’s not the same as providing parks as a service.
- Shyness is often a product of uncertainty. What are you looking for from me? Can I do that? One way to overcome that is by being interested in them, not asking them to be interested in your or your organisation.
- It is really important for public services to keep trying new ways to talk to people. It’s also just as important to be involved in that conversation, not delegate it.