Blog: Success in the brave new world

| Helen Sharp

To quote Helen Bevan – in our ‘old power’ worlds – we’ve been tied to structures and plans, strategies and impact assessments; measuring our outputs and achievements have been given the same treatment. Numbers of people through the door, numbers of training courses delivered, number of breaths someone has taken while stepping through the door to attend the training course, etcetera, etcetera…

Now to the ‘new power’ world, where strategy is flexible, outcomes light and work on the ground often slow and emergent. What does success look like in this new brave world?

This is  a question I’ve recently been asking commissioners and practitioners who have been trying to enable community driven development. Some of the answers have been quite challenging. Take for example, an under-used community centre which is currently being run by volunteers who feel unable to continue its upkeep. After months of trying to motivate the community to keep it going with little interest, surely we can’t let it close because this is a failure? The small sparks pot which is designed to help people start off their own activity – is it a success if this money is spent or a success when communities have found their own resources and not needed the money? All those innovative ideas which never get off the ground – did we not try hard enough to make them work?

Success needs to be re-evaluated because what it looks like on the ground is far from neat and packaged.

It is hard for frontline workers to avoid getting too involved and step in to make things happen if their measure of success is prescribed and quantified into number of tasks completed: the number of groups created, a community centre saved, a knitter-natter group which is growing in numbers and is now a social enterprise. Success needs to be re-evaluated because what it looks like on the ground is far from neat and packaged. A better understanding and appreciation of each community setting by funders would reduce the pressure on everyone to create something tangible and provide the time and space for workers and the community to take their time, connect, create and not create. The Knitter-natter group which folded after 6 months due to lack of interest isn’t seen as a failure, the closure of a community centre which is expensive to run and nobody uses, is just something that has happened. Neither good nor bad.

The brave new world should be less about projects with clear outputs, exit plans and timescales and more about intentions, relationships and hearts and minds. Working with our humanity not our spreadsheets.

Photo by David Beatz

Share this article:

Similar articles

by Helen Sturman

Rebuilding Community Connections with Not Another Co-Production Project

Helen Sturman, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire Area Development Manager for Parkinson’s UK, shares her experience of being new in the job when joining Not Another Co-Production Project. She outlines the importance of flexibility when rebuilding community connections with people with long-term health conditions, and how co-production values the range of life experiences, knowledge and skills that people can bring.   …

Read article
by Mel Parks

Not Another Co-Production Festival

It’s almost one year since we began our Not Another Co-Production Project and it’s time to celebrate all the amazing work that’s been happening with our partner organisations in Greater Manchester. And to help us celebrate, we’d like to invite you to join us at our Not Another Co-Production Festival! The first of its kind anywhere.  We are working with…

Read article
by Alex Barker

Encouraging women to the podium: Not just about speaking but about influencing

In late 2020, I was booked to speak at two very different conferences a few days apart. Both were public events where the content and the line up of speakers were the main draw.  The first one lasted two days. On the whole it was excellent, but I noticed one thing that rankled me. On both days, the first two…

Read article