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Are Community Houses in Aotearoa New Zealand Poor Houses? Dr. Jens J. Hansen Keynote Address to Out of the Mist Conference, Waitakere, Auckland.

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Presentation on theme: "Are Community Houses in Aotearoa New Zealand Poor Houses? Dr. Jens J. Hansen Keynote Address to Out of the Mist Conference, Waitakere, Auckland."— Presentation transcript:

1 Are Community Houses in Aotearoa New Zealand Poor Houses? Dr. Jens J. Hansen Keynote Address to Out of the Mist Conference, Waitakere, Auckland

2 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 2 My brief for today spans four areas 1. Im expected, in a flick of time, to scan the Community House landscape internationally. Ill try to do that. 2. Ive posed a key question, are community houses in Aotearoa New Zealand poor houses? Ill address that question. 3. And Ive sought to explain just what it is that makes the kaleidoscope of community houses from throughout the Western world work so responsively and so very richly; 4. Ill explain that by considering Wengers idea of communities of practice and I propose a need for sponsored research so that the richness and the poverty of community houses can be amplified.

3 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 3 Since the beginning… Communities of interest have existed in many forms and settings : Religious festivals, events & community games; Social situations - pubs, gentlemens clubs, brothels, cockfights, pugilistic contests, etc.; Cultural & intellectual activities - theatre, musicals, learned Lyceum and Athena clubs, Mechanics Institutes, WEAs, ACE classes, etc.; Informal activities within informal settings - village greens, sing-along's, community dances, etc. These represent Eurocentric concepts and are largely linked to Western traditions.

4 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 4 Globally there are were and are cultural equivalents…continent-by-continent There are African rituals involving communities of interest; There are Asian festivals involving communities of interest; There are comparable Pasifika events and communities of interest; And there are South American equivalents of communities of interest; All have one thing in common – PEOPLE - PEOPLE PRACTICING THEIR INTERESTS.

5 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 5 Community (or Neighbourhood Houses) and Communities of learning… Folk high schools, inspired by Grundtvig were an important beginning insofar as non-formal learning was concerned; There were historical examples of neighbourhood house agencies in the USA formed by communities of interest led by Jewish women; Community foci were sponsored by various means in Europe, the US, and Australasia.

6 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 6 Sponsorship levels seem to be very varied There are examples of largess: Wisconsin; Chicago; Australia. And yet there are also pleas for more funding: Australia Some pertinent questions to consider: Just how much, or how little, realistic support comes from central government and LGA in Aotearoa New Zealand? What are the rich and poor divides and why do they exist? How can they be removed?

7 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 7 Australasian Community Houses have rich offerings: Griffith, in the Murrumbigee, NSW, has a broad programme… …as does Thebarton Neighbourhood House in SA... …and Victoria is replete with such centres… …and this newsletter about a programme in Tasmania is astoundingly rich in quality. It seems that Shires, the Australian equivalent to our LGAs are very supportive of neighbourhood houses; How supportive, by comparison are our New Zealand LGAs?

8 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 8 But there can be hiccoughs… Some are targeted at specific sectors; Some are virtual rather than centre-based. Rich specialist services are evident… Policies may be benign and well intentioned as this link shows; But the apparent largess of LGAs can contain fish-hooks;

9 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 9 A series of Trans-Tasman parallels We have adult learners week – they have Neighbourhood House week in WA and a whole month in Victoria; They have a national network or association of neighbourhood houses and we have a sample of community houses at this hui; They had a conference about the non-formal education sector called Come in Cinderella and this hui is about Ka puta l te kohne – Out of The Mists - Hui Tahi Tipu Tahi – Come together, grow together.

10 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 10 So are community houses poor? It can be speculated that in Aotearoa New Zealand, in terms of funding, they are very poor (but that has not been systematically researched and it needs to be – sooner rather than later!); It can also be argued that in terms of diversity and their ability to be responsive, they are incredibly rich (but this also has not been researched and it needs to be investigated, like Koia Koia – now!);

11 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 11 So are community houses poor? It can probably be concluded that what LGAs and communities get is a huge treasure trove of value for minimal investment. (Evidence based research, however, is needed – now!) Do LGA stakeholders agree? Im not that convinced: There has been a diversity of rapport with the Waitakere City Council – this conference was opposed by Council staff; Control mentality has been apparent with independent thinking by those in governance belittled. And so on…

12 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 12 How, then, might we investigate the value of community houses? Etienne Wengers notion of communities of practice could provide a useful approach that aids understanding: Wenger's model of communities of practice incorporates four "deeply interconnected and mutually defining" components: Community: learning as belonging; Identity: learning as becoming; Practice: learning as doing; and Meaning: learning as experience.

13 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 13 The next four slides come from a workshop Wenger facilitated in Aotearoa New Zealand two years ago. He did something very similar a few months ago at a conference I attended. Im grateful to him for being able to use these slides.

14 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 14 learning practice community meaning identity What are we doing? Where do we belong Who are we becoming? What is our experience?

15 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 15 Key dimensions Practice Community Domain ParticipationParticipation SponsorshipSponsorship NurturingNurturing SupportSupport

16 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 16 activity patterns with technological implications Community activities oriented to … … meetings … context … community cultivation … access to expertise … projects … open-ended conversation … content publishing … individual participation … relationships In collaboration with Nancy White and John Smith

17 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 17 A community is a living entity … not unlike a couple It takes hard work and careful nurturing It depends on renewed passion It becomes an entity in its own right It takes initiative It is voluntary It involves responsibilities It is fun private and public common ground ongoing legacy recognized stewardship communal identity long-term viability Transforming Sustaining Maturing Coalescing Potential

18 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 18 Its all about doughnuts… Wenger likens knowledge management to a doughnut – theres that empty bit in the middle; STRATEGY PERFORMANCE Stewarding Sharing Learning Domains Communities Practices

19 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 19 Its all about doughnuts… Practitioners, the people who use knowledge in their activities, are in the best position to manage this knowledge; For the Community House sector, Id change the word manage to facilitate and the goal is to address the empty knowledge that is the middle of the doughnut.

20 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 20 Its all about doughnuts… Communities of practice are groups of people who share a passion for something that they know how to do, and who interact regularly in order to learn how to do it better; How many communities of practice are engaged in your setting? What do you do to enable those communities of practice to do it better and what sponsorship do you get from whom? How well does the sponsorship match the richness of community practices/performance?

21 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 21 Further moguls by Wenger… Communities of practice manage their knowledge. If you had enough knowledge to micromanage communities of practice, you would not need them. This brings a new perspective to collaborative practice, doesnt it? To what extent are you micromanaged or beholden to your sponsors? How do you make them become a member of your community of practice so that those participating at your place will benefit too?

22 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 22 Further moguls by Wenger… No community can fully manage the learning of another, but no community can fully manage its own learning. Is this the kernel of why Community Houses exist and if so, why do they need to come out of the mist? What steps are needed to help them to emerge from the mist?

23 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 23 Still more of Wengers moguls… Company-wide communities make learning available to all concerned. They make sure that the learning from various locations within and beyond the organization is synthesized and integrated, and then remembered and distributed; If we replace the term company with neighbourhood, does this claim then serve as a litmus test of community house effectiveness? If it isnt a litmus test, what should the litmus test be?

24 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 24 Still more of Wengers moguls… Translate the strategy of the organization into a set of domains These domains refer to the various roles that a community house assumes which means your strategic plan should address many domains. So just how consistent is your strategic thinking with those domains your communities of practice have deemed to be important?

25 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 25 And some more tidbits… Cultivate the communities according to each domain; This really means we need different strokes for different folks but how do we achieve that? What systematic needs assessment do we collaboratively undertake and with what effect? How do we make this become a collaborative learning experience with sponsors?

26 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 26 And some more tidbits… Engage practitioners in the development of their practice; To my mind, that means we work hard at releasing the capacities of a range of diverse leaders. How should we proceed? Translate the learning inherent in activities into refined practices; Encouraging quality and taking step to assure excellence is what this is all about but again, how do we do this?

27 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 27 Some final morsels from Wenger… Broaden the scope of learning beyond its source and think about knowledge strategically; If we see community development and diffusion as functions of a community house, how best can we expand our impact as brokers of development and knowledge diffusion?

28 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 28 Some final morsels from Wenger… Executive sponsorship acts as a bridge between the hierarchical structure of the formal organization and the horizontal structure of communities. Its importance cannot be overemphasized; To what extent, then, do we need LGA sponsorship and how important are LGA as a link? How can we help them to learn about our communities of practice so that we create win- win-win situations?

29 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 29 Final words Community houses are richly varied and rich in their variety: Their richness stems from the many communities of interest and practice which operate from within them; Those communities of interest and practice need to be described by undertaking quality research – not later but now! Community houses appear to be variably supported: How much support they need to receive and how much or little they actually receive also needs to be investigated – not later but now! We will be the poorer until such work is completed.

30 19th September, 2008 First National Hui of Community Houses in New Zealand 30 Questions and follow-up Im going to try to put all of this onto my website (that may be ambitious for some of the hyperlinks); My website is: www.woodhillpark.com and my contact details are: www.woodhillpark.com Dr. Jens J. Hansen, Woodhill Park Research Retreat, 56 Woodhill Park Road, R.D. 3 Waimauku, Auckland 1250 Phone: +64 9 411 7703 Mobile: +64 21172 8320 Email: jhansen@woodhillpark.com Are there any questions?


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