A video introducing asset-based community development (ABCD)

This is a brief introduction to ABCD—asset-based community development (or asset-based community-led development)—produced by The Calabash Trust in South Africa.

I like how it discusses the idea that the health of our minds and hearts affect our material well-being.  Too much “development” has focussed on material well-being and standard of living rather than quality of life. I recognise the risks involved in somebody from an overdeveloped nation talking about an over-emphasis on standard of living, but there is a real danger for the World if we export our over-consumption to other parts of the globe.

We need development that values what is important to for a fulfilling life. Continue reading

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Australia’s CO2e emissions continue to rise

Despite attempts by the Government to bury the news, the latest update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory from the Department of the Environment and Energy show that the total emissions of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) are rising.

Based on the following figure from page 3 of the report, the Prime Minister likes to emphasise that “we’ve got emissions per capita at the lowest level in 28 years.”

Emissions per capita and per dollar of real GDP (Source: Department of the Environment and Energy)

But total emissions, however,  have continued to rise. The following figure (p. 40) shows how emissions fell between 2007 (around the time that Kevin Rudd, a former Prime Minister, described climate change as “the great moral challenge of our generation“) and 2013 when Tony Abbot was elected with a promise to abolish carbon pricing, but have steadily increased ever since.  Continue reading

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My 2018 Transition Newcastle Convenor’s report

Transition Newcastle banner

After seven and a half years in the role, this is my last report as convenor of Transition Newcastle. This is actually the 10th anniversary of Transition Newcastle being founded by Will Vorobioff and Maureen Beckett—we really should have a celebration!

I’ve been reflecting a bit on my time in Transition Newcastle and thinking about how we can contribute to broad social change, because this is at the heart of what the Transition movement is all about.

We face an uncertain, scary future. Climate change, over use of resources, political and economic instability, and rapid social change are demonstrating that we need to rethink our individual, community, national and global priorities, and they challenge many of our taken for granted assumptions.

Our website says that Transition Newcastle is a local group committed to fostering sustainable and resilient communities. Over the years we have done this in numerous ways including community education through forums, film nights and discussions; the Fair Share Festival; Transition Streets; the Nourishing Newcastle Urban Tucker Stall at the farmers market; and various special events (both large and small).

Shed 11

Continue reading

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Resources for churches on asset-based community development (ABCD)

Asset-based community development

A while ago somebody asked me about resources on strengths-based approaches to community development for churches. Here are some suggestions, mainly related to asset-based community-driven development (ABCD).

Articles about ABCD and churches or faith communities.

Barrett, A. (2013). Asset-based community development: A theological reflection. Church Urban Fund. Available from: https://resources.depaul.edu/abcd-institute/publications/publications-by-topic/Documents/ABCD_Theological_Reflection_2013.pdf

Church Urban Fund. (2013). Tackling poverty in England: An asset-based approach. Available from: https://www.cuf.org.uk/Handlers/Download.ashx?IDMF=4f436396-a2b8-4a97-b58d-3c284dc89fcb Continue reading

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What does Gandhi have to say about youth work?

By Unknown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In 2006 I was invited to write a paper on Gandhi as part of a series called “What does … have to say about youth work?” for the journal Youth & Policy. Here is a version with a couple of minor changes to update some references. The full citation is:Stuart, G. (2006). What does Gandhi have to say about youth work? Youth & Policy(93), 77-89. Available from http://www.youthandpolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/youthandpolicy93-1.pdf

Gandhi, assassinated in 1948, was a seeker after the Truth who transformed India and inspired social change movements throughout the world. Gandhi’s large body of writing provides him with the opportunity to ‘speak to you from my grave’ (Dasgupta and Walz, 1986) and, although he may not have written directly about youth work, his theory and practice of nonviolent social and individual change could serve as a solid foundation for youth workers today.

Mohandas Gandhi (better known as Mahatma Gandhi) was born on 2 October 1869 in India, to middle class parents; his father was a senior official of a small Indian state. Married at 13, Gandhi set sail for England to become a lawyer when he was 19. After being called to the bar in 1891, Gandhi returned to India to work as a lawyer without much success (partly due to his shyness). His move to South Africa in 1893 to become a legal advisor to an Indian merchant set the stage for his political awakening. Shortly after his arrival, despite having a first-class ticket, he was thrown from a first-class train compartment because a white man objected to his presence. His humiliation at the hands of those and other officials began the process of transforming him from a meek, mild citizen into an unwavering political and social activist.

During his 22 years in South Africa Gandhi refined many of his nonviolent techniques, began his life long commitment to communal living in ashrams and learnt to lead large- scale political campaigns. Returning to India in 1915 he became involved in various campaigns to help his fellow Indians before emerging as a leading figure in India’s successful struggle for independence. In 1948, five and a half months after independence, Gandhi was assassinated on his way to a prayer meeting by a Hindu radical who accused him of weakening India by allowing the creation of the separate Muslim state of Pakistan. Continue reading

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The struggle of trying to write

I’ve been struggling with my writing for a while now. Although my blogging varies quite a lot depending on how busy I am, I usually average five to six blog posts a month. So far this year, I’ve only averaged two a month.

I feel like I go into thick mode when I sit down to write. It’s the classic sense of not having the necessary ability, being distracted, and experiencing raging self-doubt. I really don’t feel like I’m a great writer. I’m pretty good at summarising concepts and writing reports, but I really struggle with storytelling or introducing a creative element in my writing.

The real barrier, however, is a sense of unworthiness and inadequacy. What do I really have to say? Who am I to say it? And this is coming from a position of privilege as a white, well-educated, middle class male who has essentially cruised through life. Actually, this is one of the things that undermines my confidence. Do we really need to hear from another white, well-educated, middle class male? Continue reading

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Voluntary participation in group work – the example of Alternatives to Violence Project

An important foundation of AVP is that it is based on voluntary participation [1, 2]. We expect that workshop participants have made a choice to come to the workshop and generally do not accept mandatory referrals (e.g., court orders). At times, however, the voluntary nature of participation is debatable. If a court has “recommended” that someone does a workshop or if a child protection agency has suggested that it would help a parent regain custody of their child if they do a workshop, clearly a person may feel they have little or no choice.

According to AVP [1] “Our workshops are about personal growth, and people can only grow when they choose to do so themselves” (p. 3). Given that the workshops are based on a philosophy of nonviolence, recognising people’s right, and ability, to make decisions for themselves is an important foundation. We are promoting an approach which cares for others and that avoids coercion, so we need to model it ourselves.

Being mandated or “strongly encouraged” to attend, however, does mean that some people access the workshops who otherwise would not. When participants feel they have been coerced into coming, we encourage them to make a decision about what they will do, and are careful we that we do not react in a negative way, or overreact, to them if they are angry or testing the limits within the workshop [3]. Continue reading

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Presenting 2 papers at the Family & Relationship Services Australia conference

I’ve had two papers accepted for the Family & Relationship Services Australia conference in Cairns in November this year.

One on the Alternatives to Violence Project and one on Uni4You: the abstracts are below. If you are at the conference, please make sure you say hi.

The Alternatives to Violence Project – a strengths-based approach to nonviolent relationships and conflict resolution

Co-presenter: Gener Lapina (Alternatives to Violence Project and Family Support Newcastle)

Offering interactive, experiential workshops on nonviolent relationship and conflict resolution, the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) has been established in over 50 countries in a wide range of contexts, since starting in 1975 in a USA prison. AVP in Newcastle has adapted the workshops to work with parents and partners.

The workshops are built on a number of principles including: Continue reading

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Alternate pathways for young people who have perpetrated violence

Peace sign made out of pebbles

(Photo: Beth)

I’m excited to have been invited to join this project developed by a colleague in social work, Tamara Blakemore. I’m looking forward to building on my experience with the Alternatives to Violence Project, exploring how we can address domestic and family violence perpetrated by young people, learning from the others involved.

The following is a press release put out by the University of Newcastle last week about the project.

Practitioner academics from the University of Newcastle have been awarded $582,361 by the Australian Government, Department of Social Services (DSS) to deliver an innovative, cross-sector initiative addressing the issue of interpersonal violence in the lives of young people (10 to 17 years of age).

Led by Dr Tamara Blakemore, the initiative will involve the design, implementation and evaluation of an early intervention program. It will run over two years across the Port Stephens, Lower and Upper Hunter regions.

The program will facilitate and rely on strong interagency relationships with key partnerships in the government and non-government sector.

Continue reading

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Alternatives to Violence Project around the world – Call for chapters

Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) logoI’m part of an editorial team that is seeking proposals  for chapters for a book exploring the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) around the world. The purpose of the book is to demonstrate the flexibility of AVP and the way in which it can adapt to different contexts. It aims to:

  1. Capture the way AVP has been used and adapted around the world
  2. Highlight similarities and differences around the world
  3. Present the case for AVP as a broad approach rather than a narrow program.

Details of the timing and requirements for proposals are below.

Send submissions to avpbooks2@gmail.com

Outline of the book

While the contents will largely be shaped by the proposals for chapters received, a broad outline of the book (with content or questions that could be addressed)  is as follows: Continue reading

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