A few weeks ago Whitley CDA’s trustees decided that it would be a useful exercise for us to reflect on moments from our history, especially as they are often pivotal in shaping what we become. This is our first reflection and what better place to start than what underpins what we do. Whitley CDA is a registered charity managed by a board of volunteer Trustees. They are all either living or working locally in Whitley. We feel it is essential that we have direct links with the people in the community and are a part of the community.From day one our focus has been on working within and with the community. We have learnt that community development is not about doing things to people or for them, it is about being a facilitator, to allow them to do it for themselves. The biggest influence on the things we do are the people we do them with. People working together towards a shared goal, ‘making Whitley an even better place to live’. That’s not to say that good ideas do not exist outside of the community or will not have a positive influence, however, unless they are shaped by the people within the community to their specific situation they are unlikely to have the long term benefits intended. The key part of community building good practice is to ensure that the community is involved, at every step.We have a process to ensure we are working with the community and we call this the Whitley Conversation, over the years this has been conducted in a number of ways, from big town halls to discreet one-to-one conversations over the garden fence, or a least in our community cafe.
One of our activities is our Away Days, before the pandemic we would do this once or twice a year. We invite staff, trustees, partners and representatives of the community to join us and we discuss our progress and options for the future. We held one back in November 2017 and we asked the question; what underpins a community organisation and from the energetic discussion that followed we captured the keywords illustrated in the graphic below (WCDA Community). We feel the word wall speaks for itself and as we review them we have asked ourselves how well we, as an organisation, have accomplished the intention of the words.
We know there have been missteps and we know there are areas we need to improve on. We know we cannot learn and improve if we do not reflect on this. For instance we know that we can improve our diversity. With that said, at the same time we can reflect on how as an organisation the majority of our staff and trustees are women and not only that they are women but sometimes their educational attainment is such that normally they would not be considered for the roles they hold. So as much as we have some glass ceilings that still need smashing others we have smashed.We believe that Whitley is a vibrant and growing community with huge potential to achieve for itself. With a single voice and community cohesion Whitley will continue to grow and challenge old stereotypes. We want our community to live without fear and without the restraints of other people’s limited expectations. We want Whitely to have aspirations. We want to raise expectations, celebrate achievement. To prove that we have the capacity to change, grow and improve our area together in a sustainable and mutually beneficial way.
With the collective efforts of residents, volunteers, partners and the people of Whitley we have already seen our area improve.
“Whitley is gradually getting better and more together. It’s a new beginning for us. We are improving. There’s still a long way to go but it’s a start and its happening”.“The things you are doing in Whitley have opened our eyes to the possibility of living and working in Whitley.”
We are currently looking to involve more members of our local community as volunteer Trustees to oversee the running of projects and work towards a growing, thriving, confident community in Whitley. Full training is given to Trustees so previous experience isn’t essential , just an enthusiasm and willingness to work together for a better Whitley.
Are you inspired? Would you like to get involved? Anyone interested can contact Trisha Bennett our Community Development lead or send expressions of interest using our contact form.