by Phil Gleave
I like the definition of ‘Conversation’ in the Oxford Living Dictionary… “A talk, especially an informal one, between two or more people, in which news and ideas are exchanged.” I seem to spend increasing amounts of time communicating electronically and with all its advantages, it’s just not the same as having a chat, listening and responding to others in real time. More conversation and fewer emails?
ROC do a whole programme of great stuff, but I have to confess that it’s the ROC Conversation that gets me most excited. Why? Well, it’s bringing real people with their personal experience of their community together to talk to one another. People with very different experiences of the same community. It may be someone paid to serve others in that community – but don’t think they are not interested just because they are paid to be there! It may be someone who lives in the community and knows it’s strengths and weaknesses. It may be someone who travels to work in the community. It may be someone younger growing up in the community. Everyone who attends has some personal interest in that community – they have many differences but a common desire to see that community be the best it can be. And that’s a great starting point – a common objective. The ROC Conversation is only two hours long, but as we go through the evening you can see how people begin to relax and share news and it always surprises people how much is already taking place in their own community. Then we exchange ideas as to what could be improved and as people are given an opportunity to talk informally to one another, we explore how those improvements could be brought about. Then the bit I like best – where people who have been talking about the strengths and weaknesses of their community and how it could be improved are asked what they can do to turn the talk into action. At one ROC Conversation, two ladies had shared that their rural community had little public transport and no social activities and that the elderly were increasingly becoming isolated (a huge problem in our communities). They could have complained that the Council should do more, or Public Transport budgets should be increased – but they didn’t. They went away from that Conversation and did something themselves – organising transport and started running a regular ‘Tea meeting’. Over a year later, 70 local people attended a Christmas Special. That’s just one example of what a Conversation can do – reduce social isolation or put another way – give others the chance to have their own conversations.
We’ve organised over 150 ROC Conversations, some focus on one housing area – perhaps 40 people attending, others cover whole towns and we might have 240 present, but the talk always leads to action. First, you see easy to achieve stuff and then as the Action Group continues the work you see the bigger community challenges being tackled. As a Police Chief Inspector said after a recent Conversation “I enjoyed the event and being surrounded by people that want to help rather than criticise”. If it’s time your community had a Conversation – then let’s talk (or if you really don’t have a phone, send me an email).
0161 393 4511 firstname.lastname@example.org