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Join us on a journey of disruptive exploration

Who are the Disruptive Explorers?

The work started three years ago, as part of a learning journey started by the BD_Collective. Over the course of 18 months, organisations from across Barking and Dagenham met regularly to share their experiences of living and working in the borough. One of the things that we recognised was that there were many factors that contributed to Barking and Dagenham struggling to unlock its full potential. 

The metaphor that we used was of a gardener that kept seeing their efforts wither, no matter how much skill or time they had, with even expensive purchases failing to take root. This is because the soil is not good for what the gardener is trying to grow. If they want to see their garden flourish, they need to change the soil.

Fig. 1: This graphic came out the learning journey we did with Art of Hosting

The Disruptive Explorers came out of this journey, with a segment of the organisations on the learning journey stepping forward to dedicate time to ‘changing the soil’ of the borough so that better things had the best chance to bloom. It was felt that this change needed a committed group of people and organisations in Barking and Dagenham who had the time and resources to help make this happen in a collaborative way.

We want to make sure everyone has a say in decisions that affect them and can help decide what happens in their area. We believe that by working together, people can make their community even better and stop bad things from happening to each other. 

The work has been funded by the Lankelly Chase Foundation as part of its Place Action Inquiry and the group is currently responsible for a shared pot of money to carry out its ambitions. You can read our current strategy here

We have been meeting regularly as the Disruptive Explorers and we feel that we now have a strong enough foundation to call other people to help us shift power. We want to encourage people to take on challenges that will see them create new ways of living and working together while growing personally.

Current membership

Resident members

Other members

Currently, our work has three areas of focus for this funding:

  • Power: We want to disrupt how power is used and try different ways of using power.
 
  • Connection: We want to create environments where different voices and perspectives are accommodated.
 
  • Learning: We want to equip ourselves and our communities with the knowledge and skills to use power and make change.

 

What have we done so far?

Even with resources, it has taken us a long time to reach the stage we are at now.

There are a number of reasons why this has happened, which we think make for useful learning for anyone thinking of working in a similar way:

  • It took time to develop and fit into our identity as disruptive explorers, and we are still not 100% there.
  • All the people involved have busy schedules, making finding time to think things through difficult.
  • Even though DE selected BD Giving to facilitate the group, the group did not have a clear idea of what it needed that facilitator role to do without defaulting to BD Giving having a lot of power.
  • There was some disagreement about the language we use and the exact purpose of DE.
  • Prioritising the strategy took longer than anticipated. 
  • Most members interact with each other in different forums and networks. It proved difficult for all of us to separate out the different roles we play in the borough so we now take a few minutes in each meeting to ground ourselves in our purpose.

 

That said, there are a number of milestones that we have reached as a collective which we feel are important to mark.

Now that we have reached this point where we feel comfortable sharing our work together, we anticipate that this list will grow at a much quicker pace.

Proposals we are currently supporting

Intervision

(led on by Georgina, supported by Jason)

What is it?

Intervision is a form of peer-led group reflection that tries to be less reliant on an individual holding the process together.

In each session, one person talks about an issue that they have faced or are facing, before posing a question to the group. Other members self-select to play the role of facilitator and note-taker. It is important that these roles circulate among the group so that everyone gets a chance to practice different skills.

The word is portmanteau of ‘supervision’ and ‘intervention’ in an attempt to convey the flat structure of this as an evaluation and reflective process. You can read more about it here.

Why are we exploring this?

Georgina experienced this method herself and found it very useful. She thought it might be a way to engage young people in difficult conversations while also giving them the tools they need to find solutions together.

Despite the borough being one of the youngest in the country, young people are not represented in public life and are not given the support they need to take part in important conversations that impact them.

What might it disrupt?

In the first instance, we are testing it out with young people who are already engaged with Georgina’s work. Our hope is that some of these participants will want to use what they have worked on and become more involved with DE’s work. Additionally, should the method itself prove successful, we want to try it out with different groups within the borough.

Housing 'unconference'

(led on by Matt, supported by Avril, Georgina and Kayleigh)

What is it?

An ‘unconference’ is a loosely structured conference emphasising the informal exchange of information and ideas between participants, rather than following a conventionally structured programme of events.

In this context, the aim is to host such an event around the theme of housing justice.

 

Why are we exploring this?

Over the last few years, the borough has seen a lot of development. While this has brought much needed housing to Barking and Dagenham, there have been many problems around social housing including mould, vermin, and slow repairs, resulting in intervention from the Secretary of State.

What might it disrupt?

While central government intervention is useful, issues should not have reached that level. The intention is to bring together and organise an unconference focused on housing justice, shaped and led by residents who are deeply concerned about issues related to housing management, accountability, and community engagement.

This event aims to showcase the exemplary efforts of residents and existing resident-led groups in holding housing management accountable and ensuring that the voices, stories, struggles and successes of the community are celebrated as inspiring testimony and also a space for the possibility of releasing further collective action.

Going forward, these blogs will just focus on the work done over the last month of each group. While this summary is a useful jumping off point, it does flatten the work and leaves out a lot of context. We are in the process of commissioning a communications plan to help us tell this story in a more complete, vibrant, and engaging way.

Fig. 2: The initial decision-making framework developed and used by the Disruptive Explorers

What happened at the last meeting?

Power

What are we going to do?
  • We want to increase the pace of our engagement work as we were keen to hear more ideas to support.

  • There is an ongoing conversation around the future of the borough’s social infrastructure. We think that DE has a clear role to play in supporting the development of this social infrastructure by sharing our learning and experience of working in a collaborative way. 

Connection

What are we already doing?
  • Intervision
    The level of engagement and insight the participants are showing is really great and encouraging. It’s clear that the existing trust they have in BDYD has created a space where the InterVision tools can be used, with the adults in the room often finding the conversations more difficult than the young people.

  • Unconference 
    Matt has engaged four residents to form the event’s planning group and is looking to recruit another four.

Learning

What new ideas do we want to share?
  • Georgina told us about recently joining the Collective Imagination practice community. She sees a lot of connection between the discussions there and the work of DE. We are keen to learn more about this.

  • Cameron discussed their experience facilitating a series of workshops with Elspeth and Avril. These were designed to encourage groups of residents to develop prototypes with specific research questions in mind (e.g. does running a knitting class improve people’s sense of wellbeing). Their key takeaway from the experience was how difficult it was to get people to think about if their work was actually having an impact, rather than just delivering activities because of available funding and a personal desire to deliver the work.

As we move forward together, we invite you to join our explorations through these blogs which will focus on what we are learning as we face challenges and celebrate our successes together. 

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