A Movement in Action – by Megan Courtney
I’ve been working nationally in the community-led change space for nearly 15 years now. Not that there was a name for it back then! In the early days of Inspiring Communities, that meant a small group of people from different parts of Aotearoa talking about the powerful potential we were seeing in participatory, collaborative place-based ways of working and what we might do to grow more of it.
Something’s definitely changed. I look at the diversity across the 250 people, places, groups, sectors and organisations signed up to attend our Stories of Success and Change webinar in August 2021. And similarly, how people from the far North to the deep South met up in Tāmaki Makaurau last week to learn and workshop how to make sense of the community-led change happening in their places.
I also see the words ‘community-led development’ now pepper potted in strategies and policies of many funders, Councils and government departments. Some hapū, iwi and Māori organisations are looking at how mātauranga CLD can also support their own self-determining aspirations.
So when I think back to 2006, something tells me that things have fundamentally changed and are changing. Inspiring Communities is no longer a few people wondering about how to grow a social change movement – it’s alive and happening in different ways. We’re not a lone nut. Collective community action is happening at multiple levels and across multiple sectors to enable transformation – for example in criminal justice , predator eradication, and whānau ora/family wellbeing.
While our focus, principles and start points may all be different, I also sense there’s much in common across our diverse approaches such as:
- a belief in the power of people to make and lead positive change
- a deep commitment to working aspirationally, in relationally rich ways
- seeing solutions as multiple, emergent and evolving, requiring us to learn and adapt as we go
- working collaboratively to leverage diverse strengths and contributions
- embracing interconnections – between people and planet, and between the economic, environmental, cultural, social and cultural aspects of wellbeing.
On the hard days, when I’m being stretched in multiple directions (because they’re all potential change levers!) and feeling overwhelmed by the messiness (the reality of community-led mahi!), it’s easy to feel like nothing has changed. But it has and is. There’s something about a growing collective consciousness of how to do things differently that is bigger than any political party or new national strategy. That’s why our work in Inspiring Communities is about us, and not about us! It’s what we all do that matters.