Good things happen when we humans get together to run our lives and our communities ourselves
The Zebra line-up features members who are qualified and experienced community development workers and others who are life-long community activists.
And Zebra itself has been active in community work, e.g. creating and developing Plymouth’s community and voluntary sector infrastructure organisation, POP, from 2013 until late 2016 when it became an independent entity owned by the sector; developing time banks in the city, 2011-2017 (when that too became an independent social purpose org); running VSO’s Global Xchange programme (cross-cultural youth working in community development) between Surkhet, Nepal and Plymouth, UK, in 2011-12.
We are always looking to create, join and support community projects that reflect our values and approaches, putting our values and principles (e.g. equality, inclusion, sustainability, solution-focused) into practice.
We have a long track record of working with community associations and activist groups to support and enhance their work, e.g. through running training & development workshops on topics identified by the groups themselves.
Where such groups approach us but don’t have the money to pay for our services, we can support them to attempt to find funding sources, and where that’s not possible we will consider working with the group at no cost. Our decision to legislate that Zebra does not distribute its profits amongst its directors, but instead uses them to enable free or subsidised work, allows us to do this.
Solution-focused principles are central to our community work approach:
- The community must request, want and lead the work
- The primary focus is the community’s best hopes
- Building a rich picture of what the realisation of those best hopes will look like
- We focus on what’s strong (not what’s wrong); focusing on, drawing out – and thereby helping the community to notice – its strengths and resourcefulness, the assets (activists & leaders, existing connections, resources, social capital) at its disposal, progress (what’s already good or getting better) etc.
- Looking at what “one step closer” to the best hopes will look like, and focusing on taking that step
We see a close fit here with Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD), and we believe that the two approaches are synergistic.
We believe that community development is a social justice issue. Many communities are held back by socio-political challenges, constraints and oppressions such as poverty, inequality, discrimination, globalisation and displacement. We believe in naming these forces of social injustice, bearing witness to people’s struggles, always devoting a proportion of our efforts to protesting these injustices, and then working hard with such communities to progress towards their best hopes despite (“given that”).
We are inspired by the work of Hilary Cottam and her organisation Participle, as presented in her book Radical Help, that explores possibilities for radical alternatives to the current shape of Britain’s welfare state, especially health & social care. Again, we see a close fit with solution-focused thinking and practice, and plenty of clues for change.