Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Alison West The death has been announced of Alison Cribb, formerly Alison West, who was Chief Executive of Community Development Foundation for many years, and more recently of the National Extension College. Alison died at Addenbrookes Hospital on the afternoon of 29 December. Those who knew her will have no doubt of the ferocity with which she fought her cancer. The funeral will be held at 11.15 am on Sunday 17 January at Cambridge Crematorium. Alison always believed in me as a writer and now I find I cannot structure a sentence. Here are some adjectives that come to mind: inspirational, passionate, quick-thinking, lively, busy, wholly genuine, practical, argumentative, hugely generous, relentlessly positive. Alison was politically very astute but could relate instantly to anyone at their level. Her bullshit-detector was always primed and utterly dependable. Unlike so many managers, she was never too important; but (as we saw when she faced up to the Home Secretary to defend her organisation against savage threatened cuts) would never shrink from her responsibilities. My favourite recollection was of a time when England were playing a world cup match deemed of importance to some, during office hours. She knew the secretarial and reception staff wanted to watch it, so she set up a tv in her office and took over reception duties for the duration. I think she was probably the best thing that ever happened to CDF. If you knew Alison, please feel free to add your own adjectives or anecdotes below.
Participation literature review The Pathways to Participation project has published its literature review, which must leave the project staff with a great 'now-let's-get-on-with-it' feeling. This is going to be a handy document. The literature of participation is vast and I can't believe anyone really has a good handle on it. We're all going to have our favourite texts which may or may not contribute to the overall picture the project presents. That's not the point: it's more like an exercise in representing a phenomenon from all possible perspectives in order to get a unified understanding of what it is. So the project perspective is broad, and it feels like there are strong efforts to counter the perception of a bias towards volunteering - plenty of reference to consumer and social movements, for instance. Informal public participation features strongly, and a framework (or rather set of frameworks) emerges to help see participation in terms of life stages, specific activities, the places where it is conducted, and various dimensions such as local-global, passive-active, one-off or ongoing, and so on. Once the project data starts coming in, people who are good at playing with matrices and fancy graphics can have a field day. 'Much of what is relevant in the different bodies of literature examined here does not even frame itself as being about participation – it is about, for example, volunteering or ethical consumerism. In this review we have attempted to map out this vast and complex landscape, to integrate different bodies of literature on participation, and to move towards a ‘round-earth’ view of participation. In doing so, we hope to have mapped the terrain for our Pathways through Participation project, as well as providing what we hope will be a useful review for other readers.' The key emerging themes will not come as a surprise - that it's about power, relationships, people and context. This is about checking your tools before you move out in to the field. Project work begins in Leeds, Enfield and Suffolk.

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