Organisational Consultant – programme design and delivery
A creative workshop for women, asking ‘What does my voice mean to me? How do I strengthen my voice?’
My approach to community building and empowerment
Creative community building methods offer engaging and inclusive ways for people to
- articulate their needs
- appreciate their differences
- form a clear vision for change
- feel empowered to take action
- access necessary resources.
I also draw on years of facilitation experience and training in group dynamics and participatory methods. I sneak in some group singing when I can.
My first community building project worked with women and young people through Self Employed Women’s Association in India. I used film-making and arts workshops to help develop knowledge on health issues and community rights. And to support residents to push for better sanitation facilities in their shanty town in Ahmedabad.
I learnt the importance of listening, always starting with people’s stories and dreams. How asking good questions is better than offering answers. How creative and visual methods are more effective than just discussion.
I brought this learning back to the UK, to community groups (see Akashi), schools and campaign groups. I led the Rights and Justice Community Empowerment programme at Friends of the Earth from 2008 – 2012.
In each project, I support groups to connect individual, group and institutional/system change by asking
- What helps you feel healthy, strong and supported?
- How do we connect more equally and supportively with each other?
- How does feeling stronger and more connected to each other help us to create the change we need?
Examples of recent projects
Here are three projects I enjoyed working on recently.
1) The System Changers programme, empowering frontline workers working with some of the most marginalised people in the UK, to look at how power and identity affects their agency at work.
When developing the Systems Changers programme, we knew we needed to start with them as individuals and their own beliefs about themselves. Shilpa planned her input brilliantly and thoughtfully, taking into account who the cohort were and creating a space for them to feel both safe but stretched. Exploring the labels they give themselves, one another and others around them was a transformative experience for them and essential for them at the start of their journeys as change makers. Shlipa was lovely to work with, curious, engaged and brilliant at giving and receiving feedback. The cohort rated her session as one of the most pivotal in the duration of the programme and we will definitely want to involve Shilpa in the programme as we grow it nationally. – Cassie Robinson, System Changers
2) Empathetic Minds.
I worked with conflict-mediator Rif Sharif to design and deliver the Empathetic Minds project at a Tower Hamlets Primary School. This was a whole-school project to build empathy skills and increase wellbeing in the school community. We engaged parents, staff and students, introducing mindfulness techniques, non-violent communication and skills-building games. Community asset-mapping sessions across all these groups ensured our design was participative and building on the school’s strengths.
‘It made my fear go away and calm and it made me happy. I loved it when we did the games and the breathing. I also liked the acting because I told everyone my feelings and it felt like we were kinder to each other’ – Year 4 participant in Empathetic Minds project
Sharing our strengths. Community asset-mapping at a primary school in Tower Hamlets
I designed and delivered an evaluation process for Rwandan Youth Information Community Organisation (rYico), for this flagship Heritage Lottery funded project. Instead of a tick-box one-off exercise, I believe that evaluation should be an ongoing and empowering learning experience, where participants can reflect on the success of a project against objectives that have been collectively designed.
“Shilpa’s innovative, ethical and thoroughly human approach, which provided us with highly useable qualitative and quantitative data, ensured the production of an honest report that aided organisational learning and prompted the development of new projects. The two workshops that she facilitated allowed participants to learn and benefit directly from the process, feeling safe, valued and included in the project as a whole. Shilpa’s invaluable input moved rYico’s work more fully into the sphere of participatory action – Dan Godshaw, former UK Programme Coordinator, rYico
What I offer.
- Helping you clarify your programme objectives and strategy design
- Community research using participatory methods and report writing
- Workshop design and delivery, often using visual or arts-based methods
- Participatory evaluation design and delivery
- One to one or group coaching or mentoring for people leading community building projects, supporting you to work alongside others in creative and respectful ways
- And more! Please contact me to discuss
Who do I work with:
I work with groups and organisations who aim to
- promote wellbeing and justice amongst people and the natural world
- transform the power dynamic between the mainstream and the margin in any community (shaking up hierarchies of race, gender, age, class, sexual orientation, disability, language differences and formal education)
- prioritise the leadership and stories of people whose voices are not usually heard at the heart of your approach
- support people to unleash their own leadership capacity and find their own solutions. You work with communities, not do things to them.
- develop a compassionate culture. You believe kindness and self-care is a collective and essential way of working
A lot of my experience has been with women, young people and People of Colour/BAMER communities including refugees and asylum seekers.
(*’Communities’ can mean communities of place, aspects of identity or a shared interest)
I am based in London and travel in the UK and internationally for work. For more practical details about working with me, see here. If you are planning a community building project and are interested in what I offer, please contact me to tell me your plans and find out more about how I work.