04 / 05 / 21
by Alyaa Ebbiary
The last few years have taken their toll on communities across Britain. Economic recession put pressure on housing and, the Brexit referendum exposed rifts in society that made people feel like they do not understand each other. And that’s not to mention the recent pandemic! Events like these can test community relations to the limit, and sometimes even turn people against each other, despite local peoples’ best efforts.
Walsall is one such town in the middle of all these changes. Nestled in the West Midlands, to the north west of Birmingham, it has gone through a lot of change over the years. Walsall for All, has sought to address the effect on local communities by partnering with The Faith & Belief Forum and Walsall City Council. A dialogue project was devised to bring people together in an already very active community scene, to encourage greater connection and dialogue between groups.
The process of the dialogue project involved several stages to train local community members. Leaders of various community organisations were nominated and taken through a modelling of each dialogue session – using tools and activities designed by F&BF and tested in various other projects. The activists became “Community Connectors”, going from participants, to trainees, to deliverers of the dialogues sessions. In the process, several community groups were paired up so that the activities could be done with completely new sets of people. The themes of each of the three sessions were: 1) “How Are You?”, 2) “Who Are We?”, and 3) “How Do We Live Together?”.