Oxfam UK Poverty Programme Response to 'Empowerment and the Deal for Devolution': Speech by Rt Hon David Miliband MP, February 2006 | Empowerment | Community

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This response is based on ten years of working on UK poverty issues. Working with people with direct experience of poverty, we have learned that an integral part of the experience of poverty in Britain is not just a lack of material wealth, but a lack of power. We know that this powerlessness can be experienced at a range of levels - within the family, in neighbourhoods, in relation to service providers, and to local and national government. Through our Programme we have been working with partner organisations that work with individuals (e.g. ATD Fourth World), with communities in regeneration (e.g. New Deal for Communities, Communities First in Wales and Social Inclusion Partnerships in Scotland) as well as on more national level policy work (e.g. Get Heard, Anti Poverty Network Cymru). Oxfam supports many of the arguments and priorities put forward in David Miliband's 'Deal for Devolution' speech - in particular the identification and articulation of issues around the 'practice of empowerment' as well as the recognition of a 'power gap between what people can do and what the system encourages them to do'. We particularly welcome the focus on power and accountability within the speech as we believe that these are the key to achieving empowerment. In this submission, in response to the questions posed at the end of the Minister's speech, we present some of the principal lessons that we have learned from our work with others to further empowerment of men and women with direct experience of poverty. We draw on examples from our programme to illustrate how barriers to empowerment can be tackled.
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    Oxfam UK Poverty Programme response to ‘Empowerment and the Deal for Devolution’, speech by Rt Hon David Miliband MP, February 2006 Introduction: the UK Poverty Programme This response is based on ten years of working on UK poverty issues. Working with people with direct experience of poverty, we have learned that an integral part of the experience of poverty in Britain is not just a lack of material wealth, but a lack of power  1 . We know that this powerlessness can be experienced at a range of levels - within the family, in neighbourhoods, in relation to service providers, and to local and national government. Through our Programme we have been working with partner organisations that work with individuals (e.g. ATD Fourth World), with communities in regeneration (e.g. New Deal for Communities, Communities First in Wales and Social Inclusion Partnerships in Scotland) as well as on more national level policy work (e.g. Get Heard, Anti Poverty Network Cymru). Oxfam supports many of the arguments and priorities put forward in David Miliband’s ‘Deal for Devolution’ speech - in particular the identification and articulation of issues around the ‘ practice of empowerment ’ as well as the recognition of a ‘power gap between what people can do and what the system encourages them to do’ . We particularly welcome the focus on power and accountability within the speech as we believe that these are the key to achieving empowerment. In this submission, in response to the questions posed at the end of the Minister’s speech, we present some of the principal lessons that we have learned from our work with others to further empowerment of men and women with direct experience of poverty. We draw on examples from our programme to illustrate how barriers to empowerment can be tackled. We would be happy to discuss any aspects of this submission, and to provide further evidence where requested.   For further information about the UK Poverty Programme, please see www.oxfamgb.org/ukpp; in addition Appendix 1 contains a list of our principal publications over the last three years. Poverty as a Human Rights Issue Our work has been underpinned by principles that are central to Oxfam’s international development work as well. Women and men with direct experience of poverty have a right to influence decisions that affect their own lives, they have a right to have a voice, just as they have a right to a livelihood and a right to fair and equal access to resources and outcomes. When we interpret poverty as a lack of basic human rights (especially within a rich country), we very quickly are able to weave voice, discrimination, access to resources and livelihoods together  2 . Within a human rights approach, the outcomes of development work are not just ‘a reduction in hunger’; practitioners focus on both short term needs attainment as well 1  Commission on Poverty, Participation and Power (2000) Listen Hear: The right to be heard, Policy Press and UK Coalition Against Poverty 2  Lister R. (2004) Poverty, Policy Press 1  as capacity to work towards longer term sustainability of meeting those needs, through the ability to articulate rights. At community level this would be capacity building around knowing what one is entitled to, who to approach to address particular issues and how to hold decision makers to account around those issues. A rights based approach also focuses on duty-bearers (governments local and national, private sector, society in general) and their skills, capacity and attitudes required to ensure more equitable outcomes. 1. What are the current barriers to sharing more power with local people and how can local government, its partners and central government work together to overcome them? Power is a complex issue and barriers to sharing it are just as complex. To date efforts to share power have been made with varying success. There are simple ‘technical’ barriers that some thought and sensitivity can address (such as timing of meetings, transparency of information, ways of working, information provision). There are also more ‘systemic’ barriers that have developed through inequitable power sharing in the past; these are based around trust, confidence and will need wide-ranging strategies in response.   The issues we would like to cover in this section relate in particular to the latter set of barriers and address issues around the spaces or opportunities for empowerment, the relationships between those involved in empowerment, skills of those facilitating empowerment and how to ensure that those involved in sharing power are motivated to do so. 1.1 Created and invited spaces    A model that has helped shape our thinking within our project activities has been that of ‘invited’ and ‘created space’, where ‘space’ refers to the arena in which dialogue is happening.   ‘Invited space’ is understood to be that created and managed by those with power, where those with less power are ‘invited in’; participation is therefore very much on the terms of those with power. ‘Created space’ on the other hand, is that which has been developed and managed by those within the space, so participants have autonomy over the space 3 .   It is important to recognise the benefits and limitations of working in both spaces. There are times when it is appropriate to work in either one, or the other, or both in parallel. Where community groups have come together and developed capacity through creating their own space, they are usually much better able to engage with invited space. So it is important to focus development on both approaches. In terms of community involvement in regeneration, we know from our own and partners’ work that the ‘invited space’ of New Deals for the Community (England), Social Inclusion Partnerships (Scotland) and Communities First (Wales) has in most places failed to realise its commonly stated goal of ‘community led’ processes. These are classic ‘invited spaces’: the local authorities, very much power holders, are creating the opportunities for engagement – through partnership boards, community plans, etc – but still retain control over how the space is managed and how decisions are made. Very often they are working within communities that do not have the capacity to engage at all with the space; this could mean that there are no structures within the community that can either assist the ‘inviter’ to access the community (through organisations or community leaders), or indeed for the invitees to be linked 3  Mott A., ‘ Increasing space and influence through community organising and citizen monitoring: experiences from the USA’ , IDS Bulletin 35 (2),    April 2004 2  to or supported by the community if they engage with the ‘space’. These invited spaces have usually been more productive where there has already been community level activity, and therefore capacity within the community to engage more equally in the process; in these circumstances the community have learned to develop and organise their own power, or their capacity to work together and have a common voice on any particular issue, and this is normally achieved through their own ‘created’ spaces. Very few organisations work with communities to nurture created spaces; one that does is Community Pride Initiative and they do this through the Schools of Participation (see Box 1), as well as Cross Community Gatherings. There are other approaches such as Training for Transformation and Reflect that can be used to nurture ‘created space’, but very often the process is initiated through a ‘crisis’ of some type, such as an unpopular council decision to demolish some houses or a community resource, or indeed through a ‘shock’ such as a riot or death within a community, that galvanises energy and community organisation. This model has helped us think about key issues around moving power sharing agendas forward and we believe that: ã It is essential to understand the power dynamics of the fora in which ‘power-sharing’ or ‘equitable decision-making’ happens and through that explore what needs to be done to move towards the desired outcomes ã To enable invited space to be more effective, the ‘inviters’ must explore the power dynamics and proactively address them within the space ã There should be greater investment in developing ‘created space’, and developing capacity within communities to be able to engage on an ongoing basis with decision makers. Such space needs to be managed to take into account the complex power dynamics of the community, and ensure that it is not  just appropriated by the elites within a community. Community capacity building and new models of community structures that enable this to happen need support and investment. 3  Box 1: Refugee Charter, Manchester The Refugee and Migrants Forum is a network of groups and individuals working to empower refugees and migrants within Manchester. In partnership with Community Pride Initiative (CPI) 4  and the Manchester Refugee Support Network (MRSN), the Forum organised a community leadership-training course (School of Participation) running from January to March 2005. Community leaders undertaking the training represented the Eritrean, Zimbabwean, Pakistani, Sudanese, Kurdish and Somali refugee groups.  As a response to the training, the group, supported by CPI and MRSN, decided to formulate a refugee charter in order to highlight the situation of refugees in Manchester and to promote the positive impact that refugees and Migrants have, both socially and economically on the city, if given the opportunity. The charter is a reflection of issues raised by the communities. It includes sections on Basic Rights, housing and health amongst others. It was fundamental that the Charter be both politically acceptable to those who wish to sign and support it but also challenging enough to facilitate change. The Charter was launched on the 12 th  of January 2006 at Manchester Town Hall. Over 450 people attended the event including Refugee Community Organisations, representatives of local and national government and voluntary agencies. In conjunction with the Charter, a second document will be published in order to provide practical guidelines and recommendations for those who wish to sign the charter. The Refugee and Migrants Forum are currently working closely with Manchester City Council to ensure that the Charter is endorsed by all statutory agencies across the City. 1.2 Who is involved in empowerment and how do different actors relate to each other? We are starting from the premise that as we need to share more power with local people, then power is currently inequitably distributed. However, adopting a simplistic analysis of how power is distributed will lead to accordingly simplistic solutions. ‘Local people’ are not an homogenous group just as ‘local government’ is not either. Where there is an acknowledged imbalance of representation in any group, one common approach is to ensure a quota representation of the different parties. So for example, to address an imbalance of men and women in a decision making body, a common response is to strive for 50% men and 50% women representation in the structure; to enable a community voice in regeneration partnerships there are quotas for community representatives - many of the regeneration partnership boards are based on equal splits, often three way between statutory, private and community sectors. This is a widely accepted principle of fairness and presumed to help in achieving equal access to power. Our view based on our programme work would be that this is a necessary but not sufficient requirement for equal access to power and decision-making. Equal opportunity is not the same as equal access or equal outcome. The 50:50 quota assumes that all members of each group have the same amounts of power and this is obviously not true. Individuals occupy very different positions of power due to many different factors and these cannot be assumed; they can relate to age, gender, race, perceived relationships with different individuals (sometimes 4  please see www.communitypride,org.uk for more information about Community Pride Initiate and the Schools of Participation 4
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