Listening to your community

Make room for people you are working for to become people you are working with – this ensures that we are not “doing” projects to people but engaging with them and together shaping and delivering the project.

For instance, when we engage with women in prostitution we want to create space to ask their opinion, to give them the floor, and to support them to lead or take initiative even when it’s messy or painful.

Josephine Knowles, Beyond the Streets

Having done the foundational work of listening to, understanding and empowering your church we move on to one of the most important parts of this process: listening to your community.

At Tearfund it’s not only our belief but also our experience, that poverty is not only physical but is relational, spiritual and emotional too. For us to truly change the lives of the vulnerable we know we have to involve, inspire and empower people to change their own lives.

Poor people are often subtly excluded from their development. There can be presumptions that their suggestions will not be educated enough, creative enough or have-their-lives-together enough to be taken seriously. So those wanting to help can unintentionally dismiss input from them.

Jesus came to turn this on its head, declaring that it will be those who are foolish in the world’s eyes that shame the wise.

It’s not always neat and tidy

Including those we are trying to help in their own development is not easy. It can be messy and complicated and can mean everything takes longer; but Jesus did it and gave us this way of working as an example to follow. Without listening to those we are trying to help, our work can easily become ineffective and unsustainable.

Before you start lots of new initiatives or axe all the ones you currently have, we can’t recommend highly enough that you go through a process of actively listening to your community.

Ideally this will be a comprehensive process, forming the foundation for strong, long-term relationships with your community. So we’ve created lots of resources to help you do this. We know each church’s relationship with their community will be different, so simply select the resources you think will help you the most.

Resources

chatting

Getting started

First steps and things to think about

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two women, deep in conversation

How to get talking

An introduction to the best ways to strike up conversation with your community

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sunflower field

Reflection session

Create space to reflect on why listening is so important

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Focus Group Guidance

Tips for using a Focus Group to gather information

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Writing in a book

Questionnaire Guidance

What to think about when designing a questionnaire

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cambodian scenery across lake at sunset

Case Study - Alive Church

Alive Church explain how they translated Tearfund’s work overseas into a local, UK context.

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