By Becky McCauley
How do you teach a skill? In my opinion you probably don’t. Well, at least not in the conventional sense. Developing skills is a different process altogether. It’s a lot more like planting seeds. You provide the right growing conditions, add food and water as required, then step back and marvel at the transformation.
My current field of work is Community Development. To a large extent it’s also about transformation. It’s all about helping local communities grow, improving individual lives and building a sense of connection and common purpose. Community Development Managers, like myself, come from many different backgrounds. There is no one type that satisfies the job criteria. It gives me great pleasure in an increasingly standardised, one size fits all, homogenous world, to occupy a career space where literally anything could happen! That said, there are points of similarity. One thing all Community Development Managers definitely do share, is a joy in helping their local communities and watching them grow.
Skills-based learning is incredibly important for this type of career. Communication skills across the entire spectrum are required. You will encounter all types of human experience and will need to find methods of communication that work. You cannot be tied to one approach and will need to step outside your own generational norms and biases. Cultural sensitivity is also required. The method, timing and style with which you approach a task can be key to its success. Building bridges with marginalised communities takes patience and effort but can have amazing outcomes if you persevere.
Community Development presents a lot of challenges to which there is no right or perfect answer. There is no clear set of instructions. So how can you, as a student, prepare yourself for this career?
Well, you need to foster creativity. Not so much artistic creativity, but intellectual, strategic, problem-solving creativity. This involves the consideration of multiple scenarios. A weighing up of all the particular pros and cons. You need to recognise that there are often several credible solutions to every problem. If you can’t get something to work one way, turn it around and try another. A hugely important part of this skill is connecting with others. There is huge strength in the passions, knowledge and abilities of other people. A sufficiently empowered team with a diverse set of skills and abilities can determine the best way forward, in a way that you alone could never have dreamt of. How brilliant is that? Remember, success in community development doesn’t always look the same. That success is unique in the same way that every community is unique. It’s the kind of success that feels good and is deeply satisfying. So get skills building, work on your portfolio of abilities and take every opportunity you can to apply them. There’s a whole world out there waiting for you to come along and be an agent of change. We need better, stronger, happier communities and you can be part of delivering it. Good luck!
Becky McCauley, Development Manager, WAT IF? (Woolfords, Auchengray and Tarbrax Improvement Foundation)