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  • Author or Editor: Kirsty Forrester x
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Networking and partnership are aspects of effective community work, and in this chapter we pin down their importance and the unique contributions that can be made when they work well. Those working in community work settings rarely work in isolation and more usually work together with others with common goals, including those of the communities and individuals we work with, in order to facilitate change and improvement. We propose that, intrinsic to good community work practice are relationships, connections, links, good communication, shared values and interests within scenarios which require work, and that partnership practice is present at all levels of community work.

We also look more deeply into collaboration and its distinct function in networking and partnerships, while acknowledging the challenges and dangers in joint working. Equality of participation in partnership and networking is something which requires constant attention to the dangers of territorialism and competition. We introduce the reader to some well-known and less well-known authorities on partnership and networking in our references.

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This chapter describes community-based adult education as a social practice which seeks to address inequalities linked to class, gender and race oppression. Adult education is firmly rooted in traditions of social justice, and the work of community-based adult educators needs to be resourced, celebrated and prioritised as a matter of urgency. It is argued that the community-based adult learning that takes place in community settings is different to other forms of adult education which focus on fixed programmes of learning that are institutionally determined. Through case studies the impact of adult education around the world and in different settings is explored. The ideas of key theorists, such as Paulo Friere and Jack Mezirow, are presented alongside more contemporary thinking about adult education, such as that of Bagnall and Hodge.

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Employability covers work in communities and other educational settings to help individuals to move into jobs and other meaningful occupations. This chapter argues that neoliberal ideas about meritocracy, which suggest that individuals have the power to change their circumstances through hard work, training and employment, fail to acknowledge systematic and structural inequality. Increasingly, community workers find themselves working in employability contexts and in ways which are contradictory to the values with which, as practitioners, they identify. The chapter uses case studies and interviews with practitioners to explore how the sector is grappling with these challenges. The chapter suggests that the employability work in which community workers engage must seek to address the many barriers that communities face in securing employment. A more holistic, ethical practice linked to broader ideas about human flourishing is presented through the capabilities approach of Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum.

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Digital technology can exacerbate issues related to poverty and exclusion, but can also be a force for good, helping others overcome other barriers. This chapter argues that community workers can use digital tools to expand their reach and support communities to address the barriers to their full participation. It asserts that people are key to digital transformation and that community workers have a duty to help communities become digitally empowered and active digital citizens to address social exclusion and promote digital well-being. To do this community workers must have the skills and knowledge to train and proactively use digital media and technology. Diverse case studies are presented alongside contemporary theory and ideas about digital pedagogy, digital empowerment, digital transformation and connectivism.

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This chapter discusses the use of questionnaires as a means of generating evidence of impact. Questionnaires are often used in semi-structured interviews as a schedule of questions and this is discussed further in Chapter 8. Here, we focus on questionnaires completed by the participant or stakeholder. The first thing to mention in thinking about questionnaires is that they rely very much on the willingness of people to give their time, and on literacy issues of comfort with reading and writing. Many a time we have seen people struggling to fill in a questionnaire holding pen or pencil uncomfortably and managing one or two words, if any. As the process is quite distinct, in this chapter we use the term respondents rather than participants, the latter word used elsewhere for learners, clients, patients and other service users. Robson (2017) makes the following observations on questionnaires: Questionnaires are very widely used in small-scale evaluations…. It appears deceptively straightforward to devise the questions. Completion of the questions does not take long and can be incorporated without undue difficulty into a program. Without forethought, the task of analysis can be routinized and it can generate satisfying quantitative data. There are some underlying problems, however. Good questionnaires are not easy to devise, as is testified by the prevalence of many awful examples. More fundamentally, the choice of a questionnaire should be governed by the research questions. So, if for example the main purpose of an evaluation is to assess whether the program goals have been achieved, then you only use a questionnaire if it will help to do this.

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Pablo Picasso is a Cubist, one of the founders of a style of painting that abandons perspective with a single viewpoint. On one canvas, for example, he portrayed a chair from many different positions and in many geometric shapes – from above, from below, the legs, the seat. He superimposed these different views to get close to what he thought of as the quintessential truth of a chair. He believed that more than one perspective brought the observer closer to the truth. We can use a similar approach in community work, specifically with regard to triangulation, which is a key term in this chapter and denotes a way of evidencing our work that combines many different viewpoints. To help explain the concept further, the hill walkers or climbers among you may have heard of trig points, a series of reference points that are used in surveying to determine a fact, such as the height of a mountain. The importance of Picasso and trig points for us is that we can use triangulation in a similar way to obtain more than one point of view about our work in the community. These different points of view help show the validity of any claim we make about our work in the community. Showing the validity of your claims is crucial, as it may affect your own wellbeing, as well as that of your own work or projects and your participants. Triangulation of evidence gives your work additional credibility over evidence that comes from only one source.

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Community work is, at its core, about addressing inequalities to enable the full and meaningful participation of communities and individuals in any and all aspects of their lives. This chapter explores work with people with protected characteristics covered by national and international equality or human rights legislation. Such communities and individuals are often disadvantaged on many levels, and the chapter explores the duty of community workers to remove barriers and promote inclusion in all areas and at all stages of practice and community life. Relevant theory around human rights, feminism and privilege is explored and practitioners are challenged to explore their own unconscious bias to ensure equitable access and inclusive communities. The role of the community worker, it is suggested, is to break down barriers, help people to make connections across difference and challenge systems of injustice.

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This chapter explores youth work around the world and conflicting ideas which impact upon the sector. Young people are viewed differently in different cultures, and often presented as a problem. The chapter explores the challenges of describing youth work, showing its impact in interdisciplinary working arrangements and on a range of partners and funders at time when funding is finite and the work, which is complex, does not lend itself to quantitative reporting. Youth work is often described in terms of non-formal learning, and in this chapter, through the ideas of a range of theorists and relevant case studies, it is described as a dialogical, negotiated activity which seeks to raise the voices of young people. The impacts of social problems on the lives of young people are discussed as well as the important role of youth work in helping them to navigate them.

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Who are the leaders when we talk about community work practice – and where are they? This was the starting point for this chapter, leading to a wide exploration across interesting terrain with an emergent focus on leadership courage and values in action. The reader will find practical case studies and the voice of practitioners as leaders in uncertain times as the role of leadership – as distinct from management – becomes more critical. The valuable role of community leaders is unpicked through the chapter in parallel with the practice of those operating in organisational community work settings. We look more closely at leadership under the headings of agile transformation, design thinking and digital transformation as we face a rapidly changing field of work and seek to prepare our workforce skills in tune with this. We uncover an emphasis on team and collective decision making within a context of both individual responsibility and leadership requirements. Our challenge questions and principles for practice provide support for reflection in this regard, accepting that we are all leaders at times.

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This book is not simply about evaluation. It is much broader than this, as we have already described in Part I. It is primarily about gathering evidence of impact, but you are very likely to encounter evaluation; to want to undertake evaluation; and to learn from what you find out. Chapter 15, on self-evaluation, will contribute to this and should be read in conjunction with this chapter. Evaluation, like presentation of findings, should be a part of your planning process. This chapter considers planning in an evaluation context and also considers mixed methods of gathering data or evidence. It tackles a particularly common form of evaluation, which is the cost–benefit analysis of a project or service, and considers the benefits of radical research, a slight change from the usual approaches to evaluation. Evaluation research or evaluation is a distinctive type of formal research, so is at the far right-hand side of the evidence continuum (see Figure 1.1). There are many competing definitions and understandings of evaluation. Terminology is used very loosely. Sometimes it is used as a noun, so a questionnaire is termed an evaluation. This, we propose, is an incorrect use of the term. Stuart and colleagues (2015) describe evaluation as a specific form of research that ascertains the number, amount, value, quality or importance of programmes. These features are also clearly embedded in our concept of impact. The primary purpose of evaluation is not to acquire new knowledge but to study the effectiveness with which existing knowledge is used to guide practical action (Clarke, 1999) and this is the definition we choose to use.

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