Community Worker First, Person Second!
I have not written a blog entry in so long, not for not wanting to but for not having the time to stop and reflect on our work or tell anyone about the exciting projects we have coming up, but before I begin to talk about Neo and the work we are doing, I want to talk about the role of a 3rd Sector Community Manager/Worker and how under resourced the 3rd sector is.
For all the praise we receive and for all the efforts the organisations, teams and individuals put in, it is very important to look at the roles many of us are doing, and how they compare to other similar roles in other sectors.
For a typical community manager every day is different. We might be running a holiday club, supporting a parent in crisis, planning a new project or leading a team meeting. We must take responsibility for the weekly timetable and bookings of a centre, the welfare and management of volunteers and staff, safe-guarding the finance, the funding applications, the funding returns, the community events both organising them and running them, cooking, cleaning, board papers, crisis management, community safety, community education and skill shares, give and gain relationships, stewardship, need I go on? Believe me I could.
My reason for going into community work was around wanting to support change and build resilient communities that support and put the people and the families first through difficult periods in their lives. In the belief that I would be able to commit to supporting, however, the reality is that at the time of writing this, community work often feels as if it is more of a crisis-led service, filling in the gaps from statutory services being left through money saving and stripping people of the support blankets that society should have in place, leaving hard working people on low incomes with nowhere else to turn, leaving families with little food in cupboards, pensioners unable to travel to hospital appointments with the lack of public transport, supporting the socially excluded individuals who are forgotten in the society that has become so materialistic and success is measured in income and belongings not achievements and personal goals or even number of friends, all this said most community projects were set up with a goal to be needs-led which requires a creative and adaptive approach to practice to meet the needs of service users, which is very hard to achieve when dealing with crisis management day in, day out.
Within NEO’s mission and ethos we really want to see a community that includes everyone and anything we facilitate in our centre or across our area, to be because people want it, or an individual has a skill to share or time to give, which we do and we do well!
The reality of community work is that it can been very different for the people trying to keep all the plates spinning, but not disappointing. The charitable sector has little difference to any other sector in the number of policies and procedures, the record keeping, monitoring of budgets and the impact funding cuts are having on our already over stretched services, staff and tireless volunteer teams. With regards to less stress, there are days when I want to come home and sleep or cry, but there are also so many more moments where we scream from the rooftops and celebrate change and sucess. Within our work, what can be seen as the smallest achievements are still celebrated with just as much as supporting a national change, or even life changing moments are still celebrated with the same amount of passion!
I don’t think anyone would take a job within the community sector without realising the need for resilience and expecting some level of pressure, it can be so frustrating when families do not reach the threshold for a statutory service, and because resources in the community have been lost through funding cuts, this group of service users fall by the wayside until the situation reaches crisis point.
Whilst I, along with many of my colleagues, feel the stress of the job all too often I could not imagine doing anything else. I thrive on the unknown and get real satisfaction from making a difference to the lives of people. I see community work as a vocation rather than simply a job.
Community work is such a worthwhile and rewarding career but it does have its pitfalls. It is not a 9 to 5 job. There are always demands on time and the feeling you need extra arms and hours.
There are many different areas of community work but if you thrive on uncertainty and are flexible, dynamic and enjoy an adrenalin rush community work is for you!