OUR PRACTICE APPROACH
Whether focussing on social or economic development, all our workshops and strategic planning processes are guided by participatory learning principles. While participants are provided with relevant theory and information, the emphasis is on exploring a range of themes relevant to creating conditions for health and well-being through the lens of stories. We have recently introduced to our practice a powerful approach to storytelling that makes use of digital editing tools while staying true to the oral storytelling tradition and to the principles of participatory learning. We have named this component of our service delivery At the Heart of the Matter: Meeting in the Story Circle
Our approach to community development can also be described as strength-based. We have incorporated the insights of therapeutic models that emphasize strengths and resilience over deficiencies and mental health diagnoses. We have also been guided by the insights of community organizer and educator, John McKnight. After years of studying the conditions that support healthy and vibrant community life, McKnight identified two main ones. First, in a healthy community the gifts of all its members are acknowledged and put to use. So, for example, if a community decides to put up a building with a very steep roof and the “town drunk” is a master roofer, he (or she) is put to work. Second, when healthy communities are called upon to address critical concerns, the stories that have emerged out of the life of the community become primary sources of inspiration and guidance.
While our strategic planning processes can accommodate groups as large as 60, our workshops are generally limited to between 10 to 25 participants. Community Works delivers workshops for small groups to ensure that each participant has an opportunity to contribute to group learning. Because of the demands of the digital storytelling process and the need for 1-on-1 facilitation, we limit participation in At the Heart of the Matter workshops to 6 people.