From October 2021 to July 2022, Community Savers and CLASS held a series of joint reflections and strategic planning workshops to develop a common vision and shared understanding of why and how we organise, the change we believe we can achieve together, and why it matters.
In December 2022, we reviewed progress and looked at what we have learned through our collective action and alliance building to date.
Here we share our Theory of Change (ToC) and some of our learning to date.
Community Savers is a network of women-led and place-based community associations and neighbourhood networks which works in alliance with a support agency called Community Led Action and Savings Support (CLASS). CLASS was set up and is co-governed by leaders from across the Community Savers network. We act together to achieve community-led change that reduces poverty and inequality.
CLASS and the Community Savers network are majority women-led.
How we achieve change
Our ToC briefly outlines the historical and sustained inequalities in power that hold women and our communities in poverty.
We do not claim to be a magic bullet. But we do believe that an important pillar for change is for women involved in community action to be supported to form strong, networked, and federated associations to ensure women are collectively shaping local solutions, and urban and public interventions and policy.
We have adapted SDI ideas and approaches for our own contexts which have been tested, iterated and developed over more than 30 years of community practice across 32 countries of the Global South. For us, our action includes: forming and strengthening women-led associations which run poverty-reducing projects; networking associations together for common identity, visions and agendas; supporting community leaders to carry out data gathering about their priority issues; using community data to form progressive partnerships and innovative precedent-setting projects that can demonstrate alternatives that work for communities; amplifying the voices of women and communities in public fora.
In December, we came together as an alliance to think about our work to date focused around some of the following questions – here are some of our key reflections (with some post-it collation and paraphrasing!)…
What keeps us going and what do we value?
Making new friends and learning from each other.
Watching the network grow.
Learning new skills.
Making the invisible visible.
Going to Nairobi and seeing how it works. It seemed too good to be true before.
Seeing new meeting spaces and facilities being developed.
Getting funding – big grants invested in our work and our achievements.
Every voice matters and even small groups have a voice.
Loyalty and respect for each other.
Sticking to our principles of being women-led and following a bottom-up approach.
Doing something very different based on community justice.
What has changed?
We have changed! We are growing spiritually and mentally. We didn’t realise what we could have, change, do. The way we look at things has changed.
Community Savers groups are changing: more confident, more hopeful, more knowledgable, more oomph!
Instead of waiting for the answers from up there, we bring the answers.
We have progressed through what we thought was the impossible: getting things done against the odds.
We have built a solid foundation which will help us have a strong presence at higher levels over time.
We can see through the bullshit of men in suits!
We have broadened our horizons: we are looking outwards beyond the fire fighting.
We are strategic: we are not just on a wing and a prayer – we see the process.
We are convening neighbourhood networks bringing the community together around common agendas.
We are thinking bigger and dreaming bigger.
What is our best future?
A strong, diverse, and well-resourced movement achieving class awareness, local change and policy change that makes a significant difference to people’s lives.
Spreading across the UK and being able to support all groups as required: reaching all neighbourhoods, estates, and forgotten areas.
Recognition for the achievements of community leaders.
Communities are skilled, informed, educated and active in the planning system.
Young people are involved in savings and community action.
What will it take to get us there? What have we learned?
Understanding structures of power and who can influence change.
Exchanges and retreats are vital: we learn and grow through each other’s experiences and with each other’s support.
Reflection, communication and sharing: we have to make time to talk and reflect on what we are doing, what is changing and why, and what next.
Face to face matters.
Its ok to make mistakes – we can support each other through them.
Not everyone has the confidence to ask for support – we have to work together to identify support that is needed.
We must use diverse media to tell more stories!
Personal development and recognition of our leaders and our achievements matters: space for personal reflection and planning, training, skills, paid opportunities, support into employment.
Not all change has to be big – small changes can make a big difference: changes in perspective, skills, confidence, an improved relationship, a new platform…
We need to balance growth and capacity: we want to connect with more groups, but we need to make sure we can provide the tailored support required.
We are all excited about our next steps and looking forward to 2023! Thanks for your continued interest and support.