I offer a coaching service to schools and school leaders on community capacity building. The approach I advocate is one based on relational leadership and lessons drawn from the field of community organising. I begin by listening and seeking to understand both school narrative and community narrative. We then work on bringing the two together by designing and embedding a relationship-centred and dialogical problem-solving approach that works for your school community. This process is bonded by the connections between people that are based on values of respect, trust, mutuality, reciprocity and dignity, and which result in conviviality, compassion and cooperation. Collective efficacy and action grow in strength as individuals form groups, groups identify issues and develop projects that recognise and harness the potential in the overlapping spheres of influence in the lives of our young people: family, school and community. We build school community partnership and generate this sort of activism by bringing people together and adopting a number of tried and tested, and impactful, techniques.
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If this is something that interests you and you would like a first conversation then please contact me on 07793055719 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
What do I mean by relational leadership and community capacity building?
I believe that relational leadership turns on our understanding of relational power, relational trust, and our willingness to truly engage with, listen to, and have authentic dialogue with all members of our school community. I would say, too, that in looking to exercise communal leadership we need pay attention to community capacity building.
Community capacity building approaches provide space for those most affected at the ‘grass-roots level’ to identify the constraints they are experiencing. The adoption of ‘co-learning’ and ‘problem-solving… dialogue among equals’ (Eade, 1997) trumps the idea of ‘experts’ administering to those deemed inexpert. Smyth (2011) offers a relationship-centred and dialogical problem-solving approach. The approach hangs on the premise that if change is to be sustainable then what has to be engendered is ownership, and producing this means being patient and flexible in the way in which relationships are created and sustained around authentic trust, respect and notions of mutuality and reciprocity.
Defining relational trust, relational power, and authentic partnership
RELATIONAL TRUST (as defined by Bryk & Schneider)
Four discernment criteria:
- Personal regard
According to Bryk and Schneider’s conceptualisation of trust, we typically use four key elements to discern the intentions of others in schools: respect, competence, integrity, and personal regard for others. Respect involves a basic regard for the dignity and worth of others. Competence is the ability to carry out the formal responsibilities of the role. Integrity is demonstrated by carrying through with actions that are consistent with stated beliefs. Personal regard involves demonstration of intentions and behaviours that go beyond the formal requirements of the role. All in all, a genuine sense of listening to what each person has to say marks the basis for meaningful social interaction.
- Reduces vulnerability and encourages risk taking
- Facilitates public problem solving
- Establishes a professional community of mutual support
- Creates a moral resource for school improvement
- Influences belief in the organisation’s mission
Bryk & Schneider, Trust in Schools (p. 116-117)
A guiding definition for relational power as defined by Warren and Mapp (2011):
‘If unilateral power emphasises power “over”, relational power emphasises power “with” others, or building the power to accomplish common aims’.
Neil Thompson (2007) extends this further in offering a model of four types of power.
- power to
- power over
- power with
- power within
‘Power to’ can be understood as personal power to achieve our potential in life. Self-esteem and self-belief are fundamental to it. It also helps us understand how domination leads to a ‘culture of silence’ by diminishing self-esteem and pathologizing poverty, that is, convincing people that their social status is due to their own failings.
‘Power over’ is related to relations of dominance and subordination that get acted out at structural, cultural and personal levels. Change has to take place at all levels before empowerment and equality will be cultural norms that replace disempowerment and inequality.
‘Power with’ is particularly important to the power of change. It implies not only solidarity among groups of people who identify with each other, but also alliances across difference in mutual commitment to change for the greater good of everyone.
‘Power within’ is a personal resilience that connects the individual to the collective. ‘It is the basis of self-worth, dignity and self-respect, the very foundation of integrity, of mutual respect and equality, a dislocating of ‘better than’ or ‘worse than’ in order to create a world that is fair, just and equal.’
A guiding definition for authentic partnership from Susan Auerbach’s work on conceptualising leadership for authentic partnerships:
Authentic partnerships are respectful alliances among educators, families and community groups that value relationship building, dialogue across difference, and sharing power in pursuit of a common purpose in socially just, democratic schools.