A personal post from Graham Ellis
Lisa and Graham live in Melksham, Wiltshire, England

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Learning how to be a more effective community partner

On Thursday, I treated myself to a course - "People Powered Change - Learn how to Campaign in a Day". My decision to go on this course may surprise some readers as I've been involved in actively seeking solutions that are better than what might have otherwise been offered for a decade. However, it's all been "seat of the pants" stuff and I have had no formal training, and limited interaction with other campaigners - most of whom have been in the same public transport interest arena.

My objectives for the day. (i) To see and understand more formal (taught) approaches to campaigning, with a view to learning where I could be more effective - where I was missing things and where I was gettings things wrong. (ii) To seek new ideas and understanding to widen my breadth of tools if appropriate. (iii) To put the more widely accepted technical terms and frameworks around much of the stuff I'm doing already so that I can more easily converse with fellow movers for change in a way that we understand one another. (iv) To provide me with a benchmark / evaluation of how I'm doing compared to others.

I am a scientist. I'm in my comfort zone when I have the technical data to back me up. I'm in my comfort zone when I can predict the reaction to my action, and I'm in my comfort zone when something I'm doing something that won't upset someone or make life difficult for them. So that's where I can happily sit at a keyboard bashing data and programs around, with the feedback (if I make a mistake) being from an inanimate system which won't get upset, and where I can keep trying again. But looking to influence people naturally leads to outcomes that cannot be totally / scientifically be predicted, and it can lead differences of opinion on the technical data and whether it's correctly applied, and it can lead to an interface with history between people and groups - sometimes of a very positive nature, but at other times something which can negatively impact things for months and years following in a way that defies logic - the heart leading the head.

Perhaps because I'm a scientist, I am a nervous "campaigner". Thursday's course was excellently structured - starting out a day or so ahead with a "why are you coming / what do you want to get from this?" form, and concluding at the end of Thursday with a review to see hat had been achieved. It struck me as I filled in the initial form that I have become somewhat more experienced in campaigning than I might have thought - with the area that I'm weakest in being "how effective are you / do you feel you are". That's where the scientists' fear of the unpredictable outcomes and the personal relationship effects of those unpredicted outcomes comes in. The day was re-assuring to me; it reminded me that "working for change" isn't so much a science, and that whilst I have lots of setbacks and issues along the way, so does everyone else. Indeed - in comparing myself to my fellow-delegates, I felt that I'm probably some more effective than they are in many ways ... and so I should be having been doing it for much longer. So I was able to make myself a step up the scale in terms of confidence at the end of the day - that course done me good!

Illustrattion - two views from the same viewpoint. People see things differently


 





On Friday, I had to make a bank deposit. As our bank's closed its local branch, I took the train up to Chippenham. You may like to note that my "campaign" work is about improving public transport, and the particular train I caught is one that's been at the heart of the campaign, with our successes improving the service to the extent it's made a real difference to many people.

The idea was that the 30 minutes in Chippenham would be plenty for walk to Bank, transaction, walk back. Ah - what an optimist was I! I found myself talking to around 10 people / groups of people - on the journey and in Chippenham. Some I knew and slotted into conversation. Some knew me even though I didn't know them. Others were complete strangers with zero knowledge (and why should they have in many cases) of our public transport scene.

So that 30 minutes in Chippenham turned into 2 hours and 30 minutes (for readers from big cities - note our train only runs every 2 hours, which is better than the twice a day it was prior to 2014!). I was more conscious than previously to be addressing my "45 second introductions" to people to what I understood of where they were coming from, though adapting what we were shown on Thursday - as I have automatically done - to listen for their feedback and tailor what I was telling them / helping them with. And that helps me learn more about our user base too. It's the first time I have met Norwegians finishing a six day holiday in the UK by returning a vintage car they had hired to its base in Melksham, then making their way on the train back towards an airport for flights home to Stavanger (one couple) and Oslo (their friends) ... and once I had done my market research to establish their use in the pattern of the flow, the most useful thing was to help them with directions to the rail replacement bus at Chippenham.

Illustration - It's all about networking with people






The word "campaigning" worries me. So does the word "change". It's all about effective working activities to help ensuring what I see as a better way forward for [transport] than might otherwise be the case if we just let the [authorities / companies] get on with what they've always done without seeking to help them find the best way.

"Campaign" and "Protest" are far to closely linked in people's minds. Yes, there are times that a campaigner needs to protest - sometimes in public, sometimes (and potentially it's very effective) in private to decision makers or teams that support them. But the public protests can leave long and bitter memories and need to be considered as the last (or a late) result. To my mind, campaigning is far more about partnership. It might be that the decision makes don't really want to partner - and there are valid objections they may have - (i) what do YOU know? (ii) is your case solid? (iii) what are the risks and side effects? (iv) how will I look with my colleagues and / or voters if I take this up? (v) how do we get back out if this fails? (vi) what's in it for me? (vii) do I have the time / energy / resource? (viii) Will you still be around to see this through with us? (ix) are there other camapaigners who will be looking for something counter to your ideas? So it's no good protesting "xxxx doesn't work" and leaving the people working on xxxx feeling criticised and embattled with your input - it's far better to partner and say "how about" and "have you considered", trying to eliminate putting sully suggestions forward, and certainly trying to eliminate telling people how to do their job.

"Change" is "alteration". But there are times when what we have already is right - "if it ain't bust, don't fix it". And then there are very important times where we have achieved the changes we aimed at, or an intermediate objective, and our work is not about making further changes but about establishing the changes we have achieved as long term, sustainable norms. Yes, it's a victory to get a bus calling at "Oakfields" - the new Rugby and Football club - on Saturday afternoons, but having got that change there's just as much work - perhaps more - in ensuring that it works, that it's used, and that it's safe from other influences that could knock it off course once again.




Why am I writing this? Where am I headed?

I use the term "strategy" where our tutor used the term "aims" and I use the term "tactics" where our tutor used "objectives". We're talking the same thing in different dialects (and hers is the official one!).

The strategy is to (re)gain and retain appropriate transport choice - public transport, private too, cycling, walking, etc in our area - that's defined as "to, from and within Wiltshire". The tactics involve a bringing in of what may start out as unpopular and apparently odd ideas, or confronting elephants that are in the room, and bringing all disparate sources of ideas and energy together in common cause, with compromises, changes, and adjustments of direction along the way.

I don't know it all - I'm far from knowing it all - but in a few aspects I now know more than most. There are others who know more of those aspects better than I ever can, and there are those who haven't considered / have overlooked the aspects. A coming together of community members actively interested in improving transport to inform, agree, and share the work of research, development and promotion has benefit for the greater good.

I'm honoured to have joined the board of TravelWatch SouthWest - goodness, been their a year already. It's an unpaid / voluntary role; we bring together and inform a very wide range of groups - over 100 meet twice a year from across the South West, with government and industry leaders coming to help inform us and take questions. That's a far more informed education that individual groups could achieve. And between these general meetings we're informing and co-ordinating inputs to industry consultations, requesting member inputs, alerting members and encouraging networking.

Understanding what makes a person or organisation tick is a key step towards framing inputs to that organisation to persuade it to make choices that will work best for your objectives. Having a common or co-ordinates set of inputs from all sorts of places which share those objectives will (almost all of the time) be very much more effective. So ... I'm writing this to say "this is me and how I'm working - let's do this together". In other words - I'm looking to generate food for thought in community transport activists to help them and to help me be better and more effective partners as we look to further improve travel options across the county and region.


Illustrattion - there's a massive difference between beauty and utility. Same place, 10 hours apart.


 


Course by the - thoroughly recommended.
(written 2017-07-15)

 
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
Z950 - Purely Personal
  [4759] Sale of effects and furniture - 12th and 13th August 2017 - (2017-07-25)
  [4739] A year of changes for Lisa and Graham Ellis, and Well House - (2017-05-27)
  [4735] Revisiting - should I stand for Melksham Without Parish Council in May? - (2017-02-24)
  [4734] Thoughts on the new Blackmore Ward of Melksham Without Parish - (2017-02-22)
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  [4669] Buses - how did we get into the situation we are in? - (2016-04-02)
  [4658] The end of competition on a bus route - the effects from then end of the 234 - (2016-03-02)
  [4657] Rumours of bus changes by First in Wiltshire - what we know and suspect - (2016-03-01)
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  [4600] A big change in August - (2015-12-25)
  [4489] Election results - what if we had a party list system? - (2015-05-08)
  [4485] Misusing statistics? - the seedy side of election campaigning - (2015-05-04)
  [4476] Upcoming election - Chippenham Constituency - the major candidates compared - (2015-04-29)
  [4308] What can you and I learn from online quizzes? - (2014-09-27)
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  [3711] Kiss - (2012-04-28)
  [3602] Emerging proposals for land to the east of Spa Road, Melksham - (2012-02-03)
  [3566] Initial thoughts - response to GW Rail Franchise Consultation for Wiltshire - (2011-12-31)
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  [3037] Looking back and forward personally - 6 years each way - (2010-11-08)
  [3034] Birth Notice - Aeryn Cassandra Ellis - (2010-11-07)
  [2982] Travel, Transport and Tourism - A vision for Melksham, 2026 - (2010-10-03)
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  [2698] Ruth Davis, 1916 - 2010 - (2010-03-28)
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  [1051] Too busy to blog it - but it's great (mostly) - (2007-01-24)
  [1014] Christmas Season Piccies - (2006-12-30)


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This is a page archived from The Horse's Mouth at http://www.wellho.net/horse/ - the diary and writings of Graham Ellis. Every attempt was made to provide current information at the time the page was written, but things do move forward in our business - new software releases, price changes, new techniques. Please check back via our main site for current courses, prices, versions, etc - any mention of a price in "The Horse's Mouth" cannot be taken as an offer to supply at that price.

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