Ronnie Black, Concerned Residents of Upper Ardoyne, North Belfast TLP, Spring 2021
He completed the course alongside participants from the Bytes Project, Start 360, PSNI, Lower Oldpark Community Association, Belfast City Council, the Green Party, Sinn Fein, The Anthony Nolan Trust, Pintsized Productions and Cavehill Community Choir. Ronnie shares his TLP story here.
“I’d say to others: Go for it, there’s nothing to be lost doing it – it’s an add on to your knowledge, the things you do on a daily basis and you can use it in your work and personal life, even in families. There’s something here for everyone - it’s a no-brainer”.
What motivated you to sign up to this particular programme?
Before signing up to the programme, I wasn’t aware of similar programmes in the area. I signed up to try to get a better understanding of some aspects of leadership – it’s always a challenge to get people involved and I was interested to hear how other people had dealt with similar problems. I was interested in hearing from others, networking and learning more about how to encourage people. Another group member, Gary, was there too, he was interested in the communications aspect. I have done courses on conflict, mediation, and facilitation before, and this is an additional aspect – the leadership bit fits with the conflict and mediation skills.
Experience and Learning
What topics stood out for you?
All the topics were good. I enjoyed all of it. I’d say the session on Barriers stood out in particular, as one of reasons for joining the course was to think about the barriers stopping people being involved. The tools that stood out was the PESTLER one, which helps you to analyse the barriers in your area. I also liked the Collaboration session, especially the tower building exercise – we were able to work with the others in the group - and we all became structural engineers! I enjoyed breaking up into small groups and all the networking with the other participants.
What would you take back and use in your work?
The PESTLER tool from the Barriers session – I can see myself using it in many situations e.g., when we’re looking at developing projects with residents. We could work through it to identify barriers, political, technical etc. that might stop people getting involved. This will help us to move forward. I’ll also use the piece on leadership styles.
Is there anything you could or would do now that you wouldn’t have felt able to do before?
I’ve been doing community work for 20 years so have a good bit of experience. But the dynamics have changed over the years – in the past the focus would have been on security issues, rioting etc. Now the emphasis is on trying to build relationships. After the course I do feel better placed and equipped given the range of toolkits and study materials - it’s enormous – I still keep flicking through the slides, especially doing the assignment, I’m reading over it all again. I will use it to analyse perceptions and challenge things. I feel more confident and that it has empowered me a bit more. I keep thinking what’s a tool I can use in this situation.
If I hadn’t done the course, we would have kept doing what we do, but there is always a learning curve. Learning to be a critical analyst of yourself, thinking about what meetings and work to focus on - and thinking about what we need from meetings and which things to get involved in. And, looking at things from a different perspective.
Are there people/agencies you feel able to talk to and work with now that you weren’t before?
We do engage with agencies, but sometimes they use a language that people don’t understand – this would make me analyse more what they are saying and if need be, to challenge what they mean.
What difference will this make to the interface area overall?
There is a lot going on in interfaces so it’s always hard to say about the impact of a course. The people who go through the course will learn a lot through it that they can introduce in their own current of work. Learning together will have an impact – and there is plenty of that in the course. I’d say to anyone thinking of doing it, use the course and your experience to intermingle with other courses you have done.
Which issues in particular do you think you might get involved in?
I’m the sort of person who would rather be involved than be out of it, so if there are things happening in the community, I will get involved and try to help because I have a bit of expertise – I could help organise things, or help when things get stuck, so that things can move on. If I can help I will - people see me as someone to come to. The toolkits and learning from the course make me better placed to point people in the right direction.
I think for CRUA we would use this to help us structure our committees and meetings properly – and also to make sure we don’t get involved in stuff that other people have a role to do. We could be out dealing with youth for example – but there are people who work with youth, let them do it. I realise we don’t need to get involved in everything – we can give our opinion and advice, but we will avoid getting bogged down with work that doesn’t concern us.
To what extent do you think these changes would have occurred in the absence of this course? i.e., would you have developed these skills and be motivated to do something new anyway?
I have gained knowledge on leadership – more experience in looking things in a different perspective and the toolkits – we will use them in a structured way that helps me to analyse things. There’s no point in going to a meeting and getting nothing from it, we’ll be clearer who goes to which meetings and for what purpose. We’ll look at ourselves and critically analyse ourselves. From a personal perspective, this is another part of the jigsaw, and adds to what I do.
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