Heather Bellamy spoke with Debra Green, the executive director of Redeeming our Communities, about ROC Conversation, a community engagement event.

Debra Green
Debra Green

Heather: How did ROC Conversation come about?

Debra: It came about because of our experience in Manchester working with the police primarily. The partnership with the police led us into partnership with fire and rescue, the council, housing associations, schools, and also the churches, which obviously we already had a partnership with.

Then other cities started to ask us "how did you do that? What does that conversation look like?" Because not everybody feels comfortable brokering a conversation with the council, or finding out what the police agenda is, and how all those things can collaborate together.

We started to go out into different towns and cities to offer the ROC Conversation model.

Heather: What are the conversations trying to achieve? Why are you having them?

Debra: The conversation has quite a number of aims. The first is to be able to get all of those people together under one roof. We always get comments like, "We didn't even know that those people were in the same town," or "Those organisations are doing something quite similar to what we're doing, but we've never really had a conversation." So the first aim is to get them all into the same room together, to give them that feeling that it's all of us together who are going to bring transformation, rather than one particular group.

The second aim is to share positive experiences; we call it 'celebrate the good'. 'Celebrate the good' with what already exists, and thank people for what they're doing. Often they're unsung heroes. They're doing great work in the community, but they've never been profiled or thanked.

The third aim is exposing where some of the gaps might be. You might have a great night shelter for the homeless, but there might be a lack of youth provision, or there may be a lack of provision for people who are older, dealing with elderly isolation and loneliness. It might be that youth works should collaborate together and see where the gaps are.

The fourth part of the evening is where everybody says "This is my commitment: I'm going to be on an action team." Or, "I'm going to meet with inner sub-groups looking at youth or the elderly or families, or a sub-category." "I'm going to help with fundraising," or "I've got some experience to bring to the table." So it's asset based and utilising people's skills.

Meeting The Needs Of Your Community

Heather: What sort of actions come out of that? Is it different for every city?

Debra: Very different for every city. We were in Dawlish, Devon recently and that's a seaside town. They had quite a big issue with anti-social behaviour with young people in the evening, coming out of the pubs. They had an issue with homelessness.

One really fantastic story that came out of that was a young girl who is only 16, but has a heart for the homeless. She did some fundraising activities, raised some money and got 20 packs for homeless people, with sleeping bags, and different provisions. She wanted to do more but she had to go back to college, it was in her holiday time. At the ROC Conversation, on the platform with me was a schoolteacher called Luke Forbes, he said "I loved that vision of the girl that did the packs for the homeless. We're going to adopt that as a school," and for the whole of the next year, they're going to raise money and develop this idea that she started as a 16-year-old.

She was just so moved by that and we were moved by it. We thought hang on a minute; this is what it's all about. It's one idea, but not one person can carry that alone. Then all of a sudden the school were inspired to get on board. That's the type of outcome we're looking for really.

Heather: You were talking about transformation as one of the outcomes. Does every one of those sectors, council, police, and fire service, have a heart for the transformation for a city?