Our 13 Staging Posts in Learning and Development – part 3

To conclude this three part series (Part 1 and Part 2), we will be offering the final 4 staging posts in Learning and Development. Last but by no means least, staging posts 10# through to #13.

#10. The tenth staging post is one we find ourselves returning to whenever we need to be reinvigorated. Here we plug back into our top ten most admired initiatives, (some of which are discussed in our recent blog on (The Paradox of the Marketplace), which included the Nebraska Community Foundation, the amazing rural town transformation of Kulin in Western Australia (we also hugely admire Peter Kenyon’s work at the Bank of I.D.E.A.S) and the Co-operative movement in Emilia Romagna (Italy). We also have huge regard for the work of Jim Diers in his role as the inaugural Director of the Department of Neighbourhoods in Seattle City Government, and the work of the late Henry Moore in his role as Assistant Director Neighbourhoods. We continue to be impressed and refreshed by the community building efforts of Rev. Al Barrett and his neighbours and colleagues in Hodgehill in Birmingham. Rev. Mike Mather and DeAmon Harges (Indianapolis) have managed to redefine what ministry means and their roving listening initiative and their bravery in shutting down all top down services and relocating authority back into the hand of local residents is breathtakingly elegant. The work of the Wellspring Foundation, through their ABCD Schools & Community Initiative (Gasabo, Rwanda), never fails to bring a smile to my face when I think about it and I share some of my observation here in my TEDx talk. Our colleague Tom Dewar’s work on Community Alternatives to Prison (US) is among the finest and most hopeful examples. We hold a special place in our hearts for Marion Thompson and her life long efforts in supporting the proliferation of the Breastfeeding Movement to 87 countries around the world over the last 65 years (Le Leche League International).

#11. The eleventh staging post involved us getting really clear about the core questions that are most impactful. Here are eleven questions that we keep returning to, having witnessed over and over again their transformational power:


Specifically for Neighbourhood Community work

Q1. What are the things that only residents/citizens can do in response to this issue?

Q2. What are the things that residents/citizens can lead on and achieve with the support of institutions (governmental, nongovernmental, for profit) in response to this issue?

Q3. What are the things that only institutions can do for us?

Q4. What are the things that institutions can stop doing which would create space for resident action?

Q5. What can institutions start offering beyond the services that they currently offer to support resident/citizen action?


Specifically for one-to-one learning conversations with citizens

Q6. What do you care about enough to take action on?

Q6.1.  What gifts (things you were born with), skills (things you have practiced/learned to do), passions (things you are currently taking energetic action on) could you tap into to address and realise your dreams for your community, or indeed address the concerns you have?

Q6.2   What would it take to get other residents involved?

Q7.     What would you love to do if three of your neighbours were willing to help?

Specifically for Institutional leaders

Q8.     What will we do, that will precipitate the discovery and enlargement of free space, by others?

Q8.1     What will we not do, that will precipitate the discovery and enlargement of free space, by others?

Q9.   What are the community alternatives to incarceration, and how could current criminal justice resources be redirected towards those alternatives?

Q10.   If people in receipt of our services had our salaries instead of our services, would they use that money to buy our services?

Q11.   How can we organise our structures the way the people organise their lives, instead of expecting people to organise their lives the way we organise our services?


#12. There have been hundreds of stories that have emerged from each of the Learning Sites. All of them are deep in value, yet every so often we encounter a story that literally stops us in our tracks and takes our breath away. Later in this blog series, we will share the twelve stories that had the most profound impact on us. In the meantime you can read about the many stories of significant change recorded in the various evaluations that have been conducted over the years.  (Link to all the evaluation reports)

#13. The thirteenth staging post saw us beginning to intentionally name the spheres within which local residents possess irreplaceable functions for the production of community wellbeing. We called these the domains of Community Powered Change. So far we have identified 13 such domains:

Our Health and Wellbeing

Our Safety

Our Environment

Our Safe food production and consumption

Our Local economic development

Our Children’s childhoods

Our Ageing

Our Culture

Our Civic action and Democracy

Our response to natural disasters and emergencies

Our curation of knowledge and wisdom

Our changing world

Our unknown and unknowable world

All thirteen domains are critical inflection points within which we, as lay people, can collectively perform the functions of community and civic life. It is said in psychological circles that a mother is never happier than her most unhappy child. If that is true, it must also be true to say that a village is never happier than its most unhappy parents. A village without a community culture is not a well place, since at the root of many of our social, economic and environmental maladies is the ‘village problem’. The primary remedy for this is the application of civic muscle in the stewardship of abundant communities.

January 3 Blog


As we at Nurture Development continue our nomadic learning journey, we draw on sage-like advice from people like Barry Schwarz, who in “Our loss of wisdom”, reminds us that “a wise person knows when and how to make an exception to every rule. A wise person knows how to improvise. Real-world problems are often ambiguous and ill-defined and the context is always changing. A wise person is like a jazz musician –using the notes on the page, but dancing around them, inventing combinations that are appropriate for the situation and the people at hand.”

All that to say, the above staging posts are not offered as a linear step-by-step model, but rather are an attempt to be transparent about what we have learned so far, by coming alongside citizens and practitioners. The above framework will nonetheless inform how we work with and support communities and support organisations into the future, and no doubt it will deepen and change as we learn ‘to use the notes on the page, but dance around them’. I hope you join us over the coming weeks and months as we put more flesh on the bones set out above. Next week, we will share our theory of change and practice, and the week after we will be launching our new offer in the UK.


In the meantime, Happy New Year.

Cormac Russell & Nurture Development team


3 Part Series

Part 1 found here

Part 2 found here

Part 3 found here

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