One of the biggest challenges for me when I am representing the CCU is the fact that I am not a local girl. Since I started my Masters Degree in January the commute from my home town just outside of Blackpool to Stoke on Trent has shown me either the delights of the A500 at rush hour or the 100 yard walk from the train station doors to the uni campus. So when I arrived at the Stoke Stories Conference last Saturday (15.10.11) I felt like an interloper in a room full of people who either lived or worked across the city. Thankfully, one of the key messages of the event hinged on the idea that positive change, development of communities and regeneration cannot feasibly take place without time invested in building relationships through 1 to 1 conversations. Within minutes of my arrival and the pouring of a much needed caffeine fix (well it is a fair old journey for me!) I had been introduced to several people and the conversation was flowing. This was helped along nicely by the creative “laughing yoga” activity that not only broke the ice but positively smashed it. Very funny and highly recommended!
I was further inspired by a whole range of messages that filtered through from Lord Glasman’s keynote speech. Inparticular I was struck by his reference to the 3 types of power within our society. He talked about how “Relational Power” with the key features of trust, honour and obligation (aka democracy!) is regularly threatened by Market Power (aka Capitalism) and State Power (aka Coercive). Many decisions that have been made in Stoke on Trent by those in power have met the needs of the latter two and neglected the needs of the people that live there.
Of course a conference such as this isn’t going to change that dynamic overnight, but what I did see was the platform it was providing for individuals and organisations in the community to share ways in which they can build strong relationships and to then consider how these can be channelled into collective action. It achieved it through a variety of interactive workshops and a lunchtime market place of organisational stalls. In the picture above I’m chatting to Malcolm Glanister, the Community Champion for Tesco Hanley Extra and as a result of meeting him I intend to get in touch to talk about how we can utlilise their facilities to let local people in the community know more about the Masters Degrees, short courses and bespoke courses available through the CCU.
With all the delegates making similar networks and connections and committing to take action based on relationships they had developed over the day it truly felt like Relational Power was a possibility. Well done to all involved in the organisation of this excellent event. By the end of the day I no longer felt like an interloper but part of a Stoke organisation that is working with a whole network of others to instigate and support action and change.