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And the plan is…

I’m adding this post for those with an appetite for some of the theoretical and practical underpinnings of the project.  Included below is a paper I prepared in preparation for the project.

Overview

This paper is written in preparation for a community engagement project which focuses on the role that capoeira can play in building and strengthening communities experiencing disadvantage or isolation.  The project aims to bring together community development practitioners, capoeira practitioners and active citizens who all share a desire to contribute to strengthening relationships amongst and between different community groups in Brisbane, Australia.  The project will instigate dialogue to explore possibilities for collaboratively building stronger communities, first by strengthening relationships amongst participating individuals and organisations, then focusing on creating stronger inter-relationships between members of the wider community.

This paper will begin by providing the context and rationale behind the project, citing examples in Australia and overseas of collaborative efforts to use capoeira to engage the community.  This paper will then map out the landscape of individuals and organisations in relation to the project.  This will be used to identify current linkages and resource flows between those involved and also the gaps or weaknesses in these linkages.  It is through an analysis of these linkages that the action strategy for the project has been formulated.  To further support the strategy and to protect the people and work involved, a risk assessment has also been undertaken and included in this project plan, along with risk mitigation strategies.

Project context and rationale

The Creating Community Through Capoeira project recognises that, in Brisbane, there are community development practitioners and capoeira practitioners each engaging in activities aim to build stronger communities.  The change agenda for the project is therefore to foster greater collaboration between these two groups.  It will thus involve creating change by working within the current system and alongside existing networks.

The specific activities undertaken within the field of community development and in the practice of capoeira are vastly different.  However, there exists a shared subset of activities which are mutually complementary and can be enhanced through deeper collaboration.  It is within this mutuality that the Creating Community Through Capoeira project is premised.

For community development practitioners, this subset of activities involves the use of art and recreation to improve the quality of life of individuals experiencing disadvantage or exclusion.  In broad terms, exclusion is often associated with economic deprivation, identity differentiation, or physical, cultural, sociological, or other barriers to full participation within society (Geddes, 1998).  It can impact an individual’s emotional and psychological well-being and exacerbate the state of fragmentation within society.  Figure one below provides one representation of social exclusion in the form of a ‘problem tree’ (concept adapted from Veneklasen & Miller, 2008, p. 155), depicting possible root causes and consequences.

Seeking to address this issue are organisations throughout Brisbane such as Project Circuit Breaker in the northern suburb of Kedron, Communities for Children in Inala, Brisbane’s south, and Reclink which forms part of an inner-city homelessness services hub.  While each of these organisations differs in their model of service delivery, many see an engagement in community-based art and recreational activities as a means of assisting the families and individuals with whom they work.  In line with this, these and other organisations incorporate into their service opportunities for individuals within marginalised communities to engage various group-based leisure programs.

For capoeira practitioners, the area of mutuality from which the project stems concerns the use of capoeira to foster stronger community cohesion rather than (or in addition to) practicing capoeira as an end in itself.  The Brisbane branch of the capoeira school Cordao de Ouro, through the Brazillian art and practice of capoeira, brings together capoeira practitioners from culturally, socially and linguistically diverse backgrounds.  Currently included within the Brisbane school branch, averaging approximately ten students per class, are individuals from Israel, Egypt, Japan, Germany Zimbabwe, Thailand, Bolivia and Brazil, who work and/or study in the health, legal, community, education, hospitality, retail, film, music, animation and other sectors.

By using elements of music, rhythm, dance and martial arts, and also with a focus on mutuality over the win/lose mentality common to many sports, the art of capoeira can be used as a tool for fostering stronger inter-relationships and greater understanding between individuals.  Figure two below uses a ‘solution tree’ to depict how the root elements of capoeira can be combined to generate positive social outcomes.

Figure 2: Solution tree analysis

Through greater collaboration and inter-sector support, capoeira and community development practitioners can enhance the impact of their work by creating more opportunities for disadvantaged or marginalised communities to access capoeira-based recreational programs.  This has been demonstrated through Project Bantu, a Sydney-based program which uses capoeira to ‘contribute to the empowerment of young people from Aboriginal and refugee backgrounds to support their ability to succeed and face the challenges of life’ (Project Bantu, nd).  This program was formed through a partnership between the capoeira group Capoeira Angola Ecamar, the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) and the Granville Multicultural Community Centre, a non-profit organisation which provides educational, recreational, advocacy and other support services to the community in Granville and surrounding suburbs (Project Bantu, nd).

Internationally, the Meet In Play program in Syria, launched in March 2010 through the collaboration of an independent capoeira school, CapoeirArab, and partner organisations including the Delegation of the European Union in Syria, Terre des Hommes Italy and Companhia Pernas Pro Ar (Germany) (CapoeirArab, 2010a, CapoeirArab, 2010b).  In the United Kingdom, Project Gem engages ‘hard to reach young people in urban areas through innovative arts activities’ (Project Gem. 2007a) and, amongst other partner organisations, is also delivered in conjunction with a dance school, Evanescence (Project Gem, 2007b).  A number of social projects involving capoeira have also been initiated in Brazil, including Grupo de Capoeira Ginga e Malicia which ‘uses capoeira to develop a sense of social responsibility amongst children from the favelas’ and ‘provides stability and opportunities away from the streets’ (Project Gem, 2007c).

In recent years, the Brisbane Cordao de Ouro branch and its corresponding non-profit organisation Volta Por Cima (VPC) has engaged various government and non-government organisations with an invitation to explore a possible social program involving capoeira.  However, these have been isolated incidents with one organisation at time and have failed to gain momentum.  To date, no formal relationships exist between VPC and community development practitioners within either government or non-government organisations in Brisbane.

Given the diversity of activities conducted by the school and community development practitioners, each have to date operated in their respectively established networks with limited direct overlap (refer to figure four in the following section).  This is reflective of what Westoby and Owen (2009, p.10) identify as ‘action-oriented’ networks, and contrasts against networks that are created through intentional ‘web-weaving’ (Lederach, 2005, p.80), which enable people to meet on the basis of a shared concern, even where they conduct limited shared actions from day to day.  For this reason, the Creating Community Through Capoeira project aims to intentionally network a forum of like-minded community development and capoeira practitioners and also invite citizens to engage in discussion on how capoeira can be made more accessible to communities experiencing disadvantage or isolation.

Project systems analysis

To better understand the context within which the project will be conducted, two primary stakeholder groups can be viewed in terms of the networks in which they form a part.  These primary stakeholders are the capoeira practitioners and community development practitioners that hold a shared desire to develop stronger bonds within and amongst different community groups in Brisbane.  This is represented in figure three below:

Figure 3: Stakeholder orientation

In the context of network analysis, each individual, group, organisation can be considered as a node of the network (Chavis, Florin & Felix, 2008).  Each node is in turn linked into other nodes that together make up a complex system of social relations.  In line with this concept, figure four below charts out a landscape of different entities and collections of entities with a possible relationship to the proposed project.  Each of the boxes encapsulate a particular cluster of network ‘nodes’ and can be viewed as forming part of a larger system of inter-relationships, while at the same time being the product of their own intricate systems of connections.

Figure4: Network of entities related to the project

Connections or linkages between entities of the above network chart can in turn be characterised by their function and their structure, whether formal and mechanistic or more fluid and informal (Scott, 2008).  In figure five below, a sample of the different activity and resource flows and the structure of these flows have been overlayed across the network chart to create a ‘rich map’ of depicting some of the inter-relationships within the overall system as they apply to the proposed project.

Figure 5: Map of activity and resource flows

This ‘rich map’ is situated against a scale from micro to meta, with individuals and organisations participating within and between different levels depending on the context of each engagement.  This scale has been included to assist in structuring the map, even though in reality these inter-relationships are more dynamic than they are linear.  Spanning all levels of the system are environmental factors such as the socio-political environment, legal structure and cultural norms which influence the flows and functions within the system.  At the same time, the activities and connections produced within the system result in changes to surrounding environmental factors.

At the micro to mezzo level, individuals have relatively unstructured relationships and are connected through personal, informal relationships or simply by virtue of living in a common city which is subject to common ‘rules of engagement’ and operate under legal, political, economic, social and cultural forces common to their shared environment.

Relationship structures become more explicit as individuals reach the mezzo level.  Degrees of formality move from the fluid relationships with immediate or extended family, friendship or special interest units to organisations and groups such as sporting or industry affiliations, school committees, and the like.  The structure and function of relationships at this level is more formalised, such as employer/employee, student/teacher, service user/ provider or consumer/supplier.

Within the mezzo to macro levels, are the two primary stakeholder groups that form the focus of the Creating Community Through Capoeira project.  The Brisbane branch of the Cordao de Ouro school, located on the left in figure five, is situated alongside other capoeira schools around Australia as well as partner organisations such as the Aboriginal Centre for Performing Arts (ACPA).  The school can also be characterised by the flows of resources which are involved: Individuals from the community, each involved in their different circles of activity, direct their energies to the school and pay for classes, while the school offers training, education and other opportunities for engaging in the art of capoeira, holds capoeira events and brings together students and instructors in Brisbane, across Australia and around the world.  There is also a constant exchange of information, friendship and support to and from the school.  At the meta level, the school is connected with varying degrees of reciprocity and exchange to other branches of Cordao de Ouro as well as to other capoeira schools in Brazil and worldwide.

Community development practitioners are depicted at the mezzo to macro levels on the right-hand side in figure five and include a number of programs or organisations operating in Brisbane that focus on using community linking activities to connect individuals to various government and non-government services.  This stakeholder group potentially includes Reclink, Project Circuit Breaker and Communities for Children (mentioned previously), as well as Young Mothers Young Women, Police-Citizens Youth Clubs, the Multicultural Development Association and the Queensland Program of Assistance to Survivors of Torture and Trauma.

Such organisations give and receive information regarding needs of the communities with which they work.  They provide a service response to these needs in the form of financial, legal, health, emotional or general assistance and advocacy in accordance with community need,  available funding and other practical constraints.  Information, service and material flows and partnerships extend both horizontally between these organisations and vertically to state and federal government eg. Queensland Health, Queensland Council of Social Service, Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland (ECCQ), Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA), and internationally eg UNHCR, UNICEF, International Declaration of Human Rights.

Project strategy

As mentioned above, the diversity of activities in which capoeira and community development practitioners are involved has produced limited opportunities for mutual collaboration.  This is illustrated by figure five, showing various inter-relationships of the primary project stakeholder groups.  To address this, the Creating Community Through Capoeira project aims to bridge the ‘structural hole’ (Scott, 2008: 301) between the work of capoeira practitioners and that of community development practitioners interested in creating linkages to community recreational activities.  Shown in figure six below are examples of the type of information, services and energy flows that the project aims to facilitate.

Figure 6: Examples of potential information, services and energy flows

In an open systems framework consisting of inputs, throughputs and outputs (Katz & Kahn, 1978), the above flows can be considered amongst the inputs and form a strategic ingredient in making capoeira more accessible to communities experiencing disadvantage or isolation.  It is envisaged that fostering these new connections will initiate opportunities for deeper collaboration between individuals and community organisations with a shared interest in using capoeira as a tool for broadening and deepening their relationships.

These collaborative efforts can then be directed at developing and sustaining ‘short courses’ or programs that bring capoeira to the lives of marginalised populations in and around Brisbane.  Such activities correspond to what Katz and Kahn (1978) refer to as throughputs of the open system, with the outputs being that capoeira programs are made available to communities that may otherwise be unable to access them.  As individual programs grow in number and reach, opportunities may also be available to connect participants between programs to further integrate disparate community groups.  This can ultimately contribute to the diversity of social and cultural elements making up ‘mainstream’ society.  These outputs will also form part of the environmental factors constantly feeding back into the system.  Diagrammatically, the open system framework within which the Creating Community Through Capoeira project might ideally operate is as follows:

Figure 7: Open systems map for the Creating Community Through Capoeira project

Initial actions of the project will involve the gathering of inputs into the system, before focusing on system throughputs (Chavis, Florin & Felix, 2008).    Actions that can be undertaken to generate project inputs may involve:

  1. Identifying potential participants through –
  2. Initiating and maintaining contact with participants through –
  3. Conducting an exploratory workshop in late May 2010 by –
  4. Ongoing engagement to develop project inputs (the knowledge, energy and connections) into throughput activities.  This can include:
  • Talking to members of the capoeira community and community development practitioners and asking for suggestions/’leads’ or personal expressions of interest
  • Internet-based research
  • Synthesising findings through a subsequent network analysis.
  • Face to face contact with community development practitioners and members of the capoeira community and providing verbal project updates
  • Emailing community development practitioners with information about capoeira and how it might be used in the context of a social program for communities experiencing disadvantage or isolation
  • Making any announcements, as they arise, via the project blogsite.
  • Soliciting expressions of interest from participants
  • Inviting participant input into workshop topic development (via the project blogsite, email and face to face conversations)
  • Using a participatory approach to deliver the community workshop.
  • Developing regular newsletter updates for email distribution to interested parties depending on outcomes of the initial exploratory workshop
  • Continued informal, fact to face project updates to project members
  • Delivering on any follow-up actions agreed on during the workshop
  • Delivering subsequent workshops if this is something for which project members express a desire
  • Providing opportunities for project members to stay in contact with each other (this can be through any medium preferred by participants, including via the project blog, a potential Facebook page, email, phone or informal catch-ups)

A key action of the project in this intial phase will be the delivery of an inclusive, collaborative workshop to formally engage and connect participants.  This workshop will be premised upon the shared desire of participants to explore possibilities for how capoeira programs can be delivered to marginalised populations.  To increase motivation and commitment to the workshop, give a voice to all potential participants as well as create additional opportunities for individuals to discuss and reflect upon the project, the workshop will be designed through of Participatory Curriculum Development (Taylor, 2003) and delivered using a range of participatory methods such as those suggested by Chambers (2002) and Pretty et al (1995).

The International Association for Public Participation identifies five levels of public participation – inform, consult, involve, collaborate and empower – and describes these on a continuum of increasing level of public impact (IAP2, 2007).  While the workshop will sit predominantly within the level of collaboration, it will also involve elements of information exchange and mutual consultation and will rely on the empowerment of participants to take action and ownership in order for the project to progress beyond the initial stages.  Thus project actions will move along different points of the spectrum at different stages of the workshop as well as at different stages of the overall project.

Likewise, principles of collaboration will be maintained wherever appropriate to guide project throughput activities.  At this stage, project members will need to determine how the project can be operationalised and maintained by considering:

  • Commitment levels and members’ expectations
  • Constraints (time, money, or resources)
  • Project possibilities vs scope
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Required costs
  • Who and how to negotiate access to required resources
  • How a potential capoeira program will be run (who by, whom for, how long and how often?)
  • Who and how to monitor and evaluate project delivery and outcomes
  • Project goals (reasons for forming a partnership)
  • Project exit strategies (reasons for dissolving the partnership).

In adopting the above strategy, the Creating Community Through Capoeira project hopes to further enhance the work of capoeira practitioners and community development organisations through the delivery of capoeira-based leisure programs to disadvantaged communities.  It is hoped that these programs will in turn contribute to a greater level of social cohesion by creating additional opportunities for cross-cultural learning and empowerment (refer to outputs identified in figure seven and the solution tree in figure two).  However, this does rest on a number of assumptions and risk factors, which will be discussed in the following section.

Risks and risk mitigation

In terms of the delivering each capoeira session to community groups, a separate risk assessment will be conducted and mitigation strategies developed as part of the throughput activities conducted prior to implementing a program.  This risk analysis will focus on risks associated with the project of facilitating closer collaboration between capoeira practitioners and community development organisations to enable the development and delivery of ongoing capoeira-based leisure programs.

Chavis, Florin and Felix (2008: 44) warn of the entropic nature of community organisations by highlighting that ‘these organisations must build a highly efficient capacity to gain access to and use resources in order to survive’.  This suggests that the project risks losing momentum where it is lacking in collective skills, resources, time, desire or commitment to keep it going.  For example, the inability to source an affordable and accessible venue for conducting capoeira classes or the failure to secure ongoing funding can drain the project of its momentum.  Similarly not enough (or too much) of other types of relationship flows can also be detrimental.  For example where too much or too little control is exercised by a particular party, or where the project becomes overly prescriptive or is lacking in a concrete direction.

The table below identifies associated project risks and suggests possible methods for safeguarding against these risks.

Risk Safeguard / Alternative solution
Unable to access funding Where funding is unavailable, costs for instructors can be waived (where instructors agree to volunteer their time) and alternative options can be investigated for securing sponsorship to cover venue and other costs.  Any initial programs can be formally evaluated and results used to support funding applications for future programs.
Unable to secure appropriate venue Where an accessible, sufficiently sized, affordable indoor venue is unavailable, free outdoor venues such as parks can be considered on a short term or exceptional basis.Enquiries can be made with a broad range of community or neighbourhood centres, school halls, gyms or sporting complexes to negotiate a suitable venue.
Unable to recruit skilled capoeira instructors Involve capoeira instructors in determining the day and time of capoeira sessions and include a roster of back-up instructors.Given sufficient funding, the expertise of overseas instructors can be commissioned to run the program, if local instructors are unavailable.
Insufficient time to organise program Rather than be an extracurricular endeavour, the program will seek out project members who would already be working to create similar programs from day to day.
Insufficient desire to organise a program The project is premised on all members having a shared desire to use capoeira as a tool for building stronger communities and project members choose to participate on this basis.
Inability to effectively collaborate or reach collective agreement Where a collaborative approach is ineffective, measures can be taken to assess whether a different approach may be more appropriate in the given context eg a different level of participation along the IAP2 spectrum (IAP2, 2002) may be adopted.
Program is not welcomed by recipient community Members of potential recipient communities will be informed about the program and participation is voluntary.  Introductory DVDs and opportunities for group or private discussions about the program can also be made available to potential participants to assist them in making an informed decision about participating.
Program fails to meet expectations Expectations will be set collaboratively by the project members and clearly communicated so that both successes and failures are jointly owned.  Project members will also be encouraged to continuously reflect, plan and act on new project developments and will also be reminded that expectations, as with the workings of all open systems, need a degree fluidity to adapt should any significant system changes develop.
Program fails to build stronger relationships within the community The benefits of a capoeira-based social program have been demonstrated through current and past initiatives in Australia and worldwide eg. Project Gem, Project Bantu, CapoeirArab.To safeguard against this risk, each session of the capoeira program will be monitored progressively and field notes kept where relevant to assist in an action-learning cycle which will continually inform how the program can be delivered to most effectively foster stronger relationships for community participants.
Too much or too little control is exercised by a single party The project will operate upon a collaborative framework and, if deemed necessary, a partnership protocol can be designed to help ensure the even distribution of decision making power.
The project is either becoming too prescriptive too lacking in formal direction Project members will be encouraged to continuously reflect, plan and act on new project developments and maintain an awareness of how actual progress is tracking against project goals as well as the appropriateness of project goals themselves.

Concluding comments

This project recognises that, despite the broad array of work and deeply established systems that community development practitioners and capoeira practitioners are each engaged in, both of these groups ultimately conduct activities that serve to build stronger communities.  An analysis of the respective networks of each of the groups reveals limited formal linkages between them. This forms the basis of the change agenda being pursued through the Creating Community Through Capoeira project, which is to foster greater collaboration between community development practitioners and the capoeira community.

In so doing, the project looks to create a ‘bridge’ facilitating a flow of energy, resources and services which will form a vital input into a larger project system involving a collaborative effort to bring capoeira-based leisure programs to marginalised communities.  It is hoped that through a partnership involving the capoeira community, community development practitioners and other related organisations, the art and culture of capoeira can be used as a tool to stengthen the number and quality of connections formed amongst marginalised populations and foster greater levels of social inclusion in and around the Brisbane area.


References cited

CapoeirArab. 2010a. Meet in Play. Accessed 18 April 2010.  Available at http://www.capoeirarab.com/

CapoeirArab. 2010a. Meet in Play: Integration through capoeira and performing arts. Unpublished concept note.

Chambers, R. 2002. Participatory workshops: a sourcebook of 21 sets of ideas and activities. Earthscan.

Geddes, M. 1998. Local Partnership: A successful strategy for social cohesion? European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions,  Dublin.

IAP2. 2007. IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation.  Accessed 15 April 2010.  Available at http://www.iap2.org/associations/4748/files/IAP2%20Spectrum_vertical.pdf

Katz, D. & Kahn, R. The social psychology of organisations, 2nd Ed. New

York, NY, John Wiley and Sons.

Pretty, J. et al. 1995. Participatory Action Learning. IEED Publications.

Lederach, J. P. 2005. The Moral Imagination: the Art and Soul of Building Peace. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Pretty, et al. 1995. Participatory Action Learning. IIED Publications.

Project Bantu. nd. Project Bantu Capoeira Angola for Young People.

Accessed 18 April 2010.  Available at http://www.capoeirangola-projectbantu.com/about.htm

Project Gem. 2007a. Vision.  Accessed 18 April 2010. Available at http://www.projectgem.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=28&Itemid=56

Project Gem.  2007b. Project Gem – Video.  Accessed 18 April 2010. Available at

http://www.projectgem.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=44&Itemid=110

Project Gem.  2007c. Project Gem:  Salvador, Brazil.  Accessed 18 April 2010. Available at

http://www.projectgem.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=40&Itemid=111

Taylor, P. 2003. ‘Chapter 1: Participatory curriculum development’ in Taylor, P. How to design a training course. Continuuum.

Veneklasen, L. & Miller, V. (eds.). 2008. A New weave of power, people and politics: the action guide for advocacy and citizen participation, Burton on Dunsmore, UK: Practical Action Publishing, pp.147-162.

Westoby, O. and Owen, J. 2009. ‘The sociality and geometry of community development’. Community Development Journal Advance Access. February 12 2009.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Marco
    May 7, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    Janelle,

    In terms of network structure, you might want to consider the concept of network weaving: http://timkastelle.org/blog/2010/02/think-network-structure-not-networking/

    • May 8, 2010 at 12:31 am

      Marco, what a great suggestion! Thanks!! The link you provided to Tim’s work on network weaving has given me some new ideas. Would love to have a chat to you about this!

    • May 20, 2010 at 12:24 pm

      Hi Marco! Thank you for including the workshop details on the CDO newsletter! Cheers, Janelle

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