Last autumn I referred to Alison Gilchrist’s work on formal and informal modes of operating. Alison’s main paper is still under revision, but the TSRC have just published a 4-page summary which – albeit necessarily somewhat theoretical – offers a wealth of insights into a theme that is both broad and complex. It’s also downright fundamental to community development.
This paper crystallises a range of aspects in very clear language and I think it will be read and referred to for a very long time.
Meanwhile I can point immediately to one application, by referring to my recent post about formality and informality in relation to Good Neighbour schemes. Alison rightly draws attention to the significance in community development work of negotiating between and managing these modes. She calls this practice ‘blending, braiding and balancing’:
‘Astute choices are needed as to how formal and informal modes are blended or balanced against each other. The study revealed a praxis – bringing together skills, judgements, techniques and understanding - that is applied in specific situations. This praxis may be a ‘knack’ acquired over a lifetime’s experience or it may be a deliberate strategy implemented through a combination of conscious decisions, group exercises and behaviours. It involves judicious braiding of informal processes with formal procedures to create the optimal conditions for collective discussion, agreeing goals, making and measuring progress, involving people, keeping going, being fair and so on.’