The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Friday 29 June 2012

Which watch, what witch?

In my previous post I suggested that facilitation was one of the essential skills in a community development worker’s skill-set.  One of the tools that a facilitator has available is an array of icebreakers and warm-up games. 

Here is one of my favourite icebreakers.  I call it the “Witch, Watch” game.  It has an intentional double meaning when spoken.  Its a good icebreaker for groups of about a dozen or so up to about 20.  On to the description:

The group sit in a circle.  The facilitator brings out an object (it can be anything: a marker pen, a coffee cup, a coin, anything within reach.  Its best if it is not a watch).  The facilitator then explains that they are going to pass this object to the person on their left (person A in the diagram below) with the remark “This is a watch”.  The person on the left is then to ask back “A what?” to which the facilitator replies “A watch”.

Person A then turns to the person on their left (Person B) passing them the object and claiming that “This is a watch”.  Person B then enquires of Person A: “A what?”.  Person A must then turn back to the facilitator and ask: “A what?”.  The facilitator replies “A watch”.  A then turns back to B and says “A watch”. 

B then turns to Person C on their left and go through the same process, handing the object on and stating “This is a watch”.  C then asks B: “A what?”  B turns back to A, again asking: “A what?”.  A in turn asks the facilitator the question: “A what?”  to which the facilitator replies with the now familiar “A watch” and the reply is repeated back until it gets to Person C.

Person C now turns to the person on their left and the process is repeated always with the question returning to the facilitator and the reply being relayed back to the person now holding the object. And so it proceeds around the circle.

It is important that the facilitator when introducing and explaining the game mentions only the watch and leaves what is to come without explanation.  For once the “watch” object has passed through a few hands and is slowly making its way clockwise around the circle, the facilitator brings out another object, turns to the person on their right, passes the object to them and claims: “This is a witch”.  And so the process begins in an anti-clockwise direction always with the same questions but with the reply being “A witch”.

Thus Person X turns to the person on their right (Person Y) and passes on the object with the statement that “This is a witch”.  Person Y then asks of X: “A what?”, X turns to the facilitator and similarly asks: “A what?”.  X gets the reply: “A witch” and passes this reply on to Y.  Y then turns to Person Z and repeats the process.

People will get the process incorrect – this is all part of the fun of the game.  The facilitator may need to remind and prompt people. 

The most fun of the game is when and if - the game may break down in hilarity before this - the two objects (the “watch” and the “witch”) meet and pass through the hands of one person at the same time.

If you ever manage to get the two objects to return to you (the facilitator) having completely circulated the group in both directions and without the process of question and answer breaking down I’d love to hear of it.  In the many years and many times that I have introduced this game to groups the game has always broken down in hilarity and confusion well before this happens.

Wednesday 27 June 2012

3 Essential Skills for Community Development Workers

A carpenter has many skills.  Some, however, are essential, others less so.  If a carpenter is unable to hammer a nail straight, unable to saw a plank of timber, unable to plumb a line, then the many other skills will be of little use.  So it is with a community development worker.  What are the essential skills of community development work?

We could start by asking the famous five questions: who, what, where, when and how?  There is, of course, another question that can be added to that quintet: why?  I’ll come back to why in another post when I look at the essential values and attitudes of community development. 

Lets start with who.  Who a community development worker works with and for brings us to the first (of three) essential skills.

Networking and Relationship Building

Community development work can sometimes seem a lonely role, but it is far from a lonely undertaking.  If community development is about social change then the worker must develop relationships with those whose social situation the worker is attempting to change.  This implies being open to our own fears of rejection, misunderstanding, criticism and perhaps ostracism.  It also means being willing to learn, adapt, modify and be flexible.  It means accepting, being non-judgemental and certainly letting go of any desire to control processes and outcomes.

The other side of relationship-building is perhaps harder to recognise and harder to achieve.  That is the building of relationships with those who may have something to “lose” if the social change you are working for is achieved.  The difficulty here, for the community development worker, is building and maintaining lines of communication with business owners, politicians, funders, bureaucrats and others, yet at the same time remaining true to the hopes and dreams of those you are working with and for.  Not easy, but there are many resources around to help teach such skills.

Critical Analysis

Critical Analysis skills enable us to answer the when, where and what questions so that we can clarify and understand the elements of an issue.  This means being able to answer questions such as: what contributes to this situation? where are the stakeholders? what are the connections between differing parts?  Its not just about breaking the issue down into it’s components though – its also about being able to place an issue in a wider context.  Being able to see the Big Picture.  From this clarifying analysis it is possible to make judgements.

Judgements are the critical part of critical analysis.  We can ask: how reliable is the evidence? what are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT)? where can we get resources and assistance from?  is this an important issue?

Analytical skills are what enable us to pick our spots (the where), our issue (the what) and our timing (the when).  These skills are crucial to our being able to focus and prioritise.  The last thing we want to do as community development workers is to be presented with an idea and think “oh, that’s a good idea” and race off blindly to implement it.


The third skill helps to answer the how question.  Much has been written about facilitation.  There are handbooks, manuals, workshops, seminars, DVDs and even Certificates available.  I do not intend to suggest any techniques or tools here (although future posts may do so).  All I wish to do is flag facilitation as a vital skill in the skill-set of a community development worker.

I first became aware of the process of facilitation in the late 1970s at a time when community activists in Aotearoa (New Zealand) were learning many of the tools and techniques of non-violent action.  One of my favourite and very simple definitions of a facilitator comes from that time:
“A good facilitator helps participants be aware that they are in charge, that it is their business that is being conducted, and that each person has contributions to make to the group. (A facilitator) emphasises the mutual responsibility of the group and the democratic nature of the process”   - Coover, Deacon, Esser & Moore, Resource Manual for a Living Revolution, New Society Press, Philadelphia, 1978, p 62.
Usually facilitation is thought of as applying within a meeting setting that involves discussion, planning and decision-making.  I like to think of it also in a wider context.  Facilitation then becomes the skill that a community development worker uses in order to enable members of a community to feel listened to, valued and that they are important contributors to decisions about the community in which they live.

With that concept in mind it is clear that I am suggesting that facilitation is an over-arching skill that contains a number of skills: e.g. team-building, conflict resolution and creative listening.

The Three as One

Although I have mentioned each of these skills as if they were a separate skill they are intractably linked.  To network effectively, good facilitation skills are needed.  Thorough analysis will suggest what relationships need to be built up, and the relationships that you do build will in turn influence the analysis.

If there is one thing that a community development worker learns it is that no one skill is more important than another.  The vital skill employed by a community development worker may be the ability to know which skill to use at which time.

Sunday 24 June 2012

Horsing Around with Management

In the lifetime of government and non-government agencies involved in community development and/or social service, management roles will eventually be established.  I wonder how often those promoted to such positions think about what management means?

In my long involvement within the field I seldom undertook management responsibility.  However, I have been in the position of being managed and I certainly knew when I was being managed in such a way as to feel supported, valued, recognised for my experience and knowledge, encouraged to be creative and provided with the backing that meant that those I was working with got a fair, transparent and empowering deal.  I also knew when I didn’t get that sort of management.

One of those that fitted the former, positive, management style was one of the last Managers I had working within a local authority.  Deirdre was also a lover of, and worker with, horses.  Perhaps that is why she was such a good Manager – she understood horses.

Yeah, OK, she understood horses.  Doesn’t follow that she should be able to manage though, does it?  Perhaps it does?  Where does the word manage come from?  Turns out that it is of Old French origin: manege, meaning the handling and training of a horse!  Well, well, well.

What can Managers learn from this?  Is there anything that horse trainers and those working with horses can offer the Manager of social service and community development organisations?  I think there is.  I decided to do some research and seek out the advice (via the Internet) of a few that dealt with horses.  Here are just a few of the words of advice, straight from the horse (handler's) mouth:
  • Ask your horse.  No horse likes to be forced to do something.
  • The quickest way to teach a horse is to go slowly.
  • All horses are capable of liking, even loving, you; but first they must respect you.
  • Horses are wonderful learners.  They learn from everything the trainer/manager does.  They will learn the correct way and the incorrect way (if you do it that way).
  • Horses will do as you ask, if they trust you.
  • Allow a horse to accept your leadership rather than demanding that you be it’s boss.
  • The best horses to train are often the strongest in the herd, once they have accepted your leadership.  That is because they understand the qualities of a leader.
  • If a horse is hard to handle then someone has trained it that way.
  • Horses are perceptive.  If you’re having a hard day then the horse will pick up on this and not perform well.  If you want to work with the horse, its best to come back another time when you’re not going to burden it with your problems.
Yes, I’m sure that there are at least a couple of ideas in there that the Manager of a social service or community development agency may find useful to think about and apply.

Finally, a word about mann – this is an Old Germanic word which has given us the words man, human etc.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is the etymology of the verb “to manage”.  There’s a lot more horse-sense to its true derivation.

Friday 22 June 2012

Spirit Level documentary/film

I have mentioned “The Spirit Level” a few times on this blog site.  To reiterate: essentially the book presents the findings of two UK based epidemiologists who studied the potential link between inequality and various social ills.  Irrespective of the social ill (crime rates, ill-health, obesity, teen pregnancy, morbidity etc.) they found that those countries and communities that had greater levels of inequality also had worse social ills.

The Equality Trust is now wanting to produce a documentary/film based on this book.  In order to do so they are attempting to raise funds and have just over one week to run in the campaign to raise the monies required.  I fully endorse this documentary and so I am posting a request from the Director of the film.  Check out the link that she includes and see what you can offer (and also what you can receive – they’re giving something back).

One week to go!
As you know, it was exactly one month ago that we launched our campaign to raise awareness and funds for the forthcoming Spirit Level documentary. What a month it's been. We've had an extraordinary response, support from around the globe, mentions in leading publications and blogs - and we've raised a fantastic amount to get the Spirit Level production started. Thank you to everyone who has supported us - be it by spreading the word or pre-buying one of our perks.

One final push
When we launched on the 21st May we created a lot of noise and generated a lot of coverage about the problems of inequality, as well as raising vital funds for the project. We were able to put across a strong message about public support for the issue, and make a lot of people stand up and take notice.
Today, we are asking you to join us to recreate the buzz of our first day. We have just over a week left, and we want to maximise the opportunity of our campaign to raise awareness and help us achieve our target. We are asking everyone who shared our campaign to share again with their networks today. We are asking new supporters to join in and make this message even bigger. Often, messages can be missed, and this is a great chance for us to build a momentum and even exceed what we achieved on our first day.

So please share our campaign page at and help make a stand against inequality.
If you haven't yet pre-bought your copy of the film, please also consider doing so. We need less than £2,600 to reach our target, and if we raise more, every penny will also go towards the production and distribution of this film. There are various perks on offer, from signed copies of the book, to invites to the premiere! It's possible to contribute any amount, and anonymously.
Thank you for being involved
Katharine Round
Director, The Spirit Level Documentary

Saturday 16 June 2012

7 Great Anti-War Songs

Songs of protest have been with us for millenia.  Amongst that genre, anti-war songs are very prominent.  In our times the Vietnam War and, later, the Iraq War have spawned a number of great anti-war songs.  Here are seven of what I would call “Anti-War Songs Greatest Hits”.  Can you suggest three more to make the Top 10 Anti-War Songs?

#7.  “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag”.

Although recorded by Country Joe and the Fish, it was Joe McDonald’s solo acoustic version at the 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Festival that brought the song world-wide attention.

Rousing the 300,000 odd festival goers with his infamous F chant Joe’s song was a no-holds-barred cynical exhortation to American parents to “be the first on your block to have your boy come home in a box”.

#6.  “Civil War”.

This song began as a Slash instrumental before Axl Rose added lyrics and together, Guns N’ Roses finalised it in Melbourne, Australia in 1990.  The song condemns war as “feed(ing) the rich and burying the poor”.

In an interview Axl Rose replies that the memory of attending a peace march with his mother when he was 4 years old helped meld the lyrics.  At the end of the song Axl Rose can be heard poignantly asking “what’s so civil about war anyway?”

#5.  “Peace Train”.

In 1971 this was Cat Stevens’ first US Top 10 hit and became one of his best known songs.  Stevens later converted to Islam, changed his name to Yusuf Islam and became a recluse.  However, during the Iraq War he commented that “Peace Train is a song I wrote; the message of which continues to breeze thunderously through the hearts of millions”.

Coming out of seclusion, Stevens performed the song live at the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.

#4.  “Universal Soldier”.

Buffy Sainte-Marie supposedly wrote this song in a Toronto coffee house in 1964 and recorded it.  It was not until Donovan recorded and released it in 1965, though, that it gained any popularity.

With it’s claim that the universal soldier could be anyone of us, “a Catholic, a Hindu , an Atheist, a Jain, a Buddhist and a Baptist and a Jew”, Sainte-Marie’s song reminded us that we are all implicated in the machinery of war.  And so, we all have responsibility for seeing the end of war.

#3.  “Rachel”.

“Rachel?” I hear you ask, “what’s that song?”.  It’s not frequently played but I have put it at #3 because of it’s ability to bring the harsh realities of war right into our safe homes.  The song tells the story of a family gathering around to read a letter from their daughter.  Rachel is a nurse in a war (most interpretations assume the Vietnam War) and tells the sorry tale of her “bandag(ing) their blinded eyes, ma”, whilst around her men are “dying like flies” and children have “aching feet (and) nothing to eat”.

Written by an English song-writer (Roger Froggatt) it was the Australian, Russel Morris, who made it famous.  Morris’ version pulls at the heart strings, it is almost as if you are one of the family listening to the letter being read.  It is almost with familial relief that you hear Morris sing at last “Rachel’s coming home, Rachel's coming home”.

In a nice contradiction to the harsh realities mentioned in the lyrics the video of Morris singing this song chose to have him singing with a simple backdrop of flowers opening. 

#2.  “War”.

Simply titled, powerfully sung and orchestrated, this song was originally vocalised by The Temptations for Motown Records.  Motown kept getting requests for the song to be released as a single.  Norman Whitfield (one of the co-writers along with Barrett Strong) selected Edwin Starr as the vocalist for the release.

Starr’s vocals had much greater intensity than those of The Temptations and the song remained at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts for three weeks in September and October 1970.

The song got a makeover in 1986 when Bruce Springsteen again took it to the Top 10.  Springsteen played it live for a few years.  He resurrected it in 2003 as a protest against the Iraq War.

Echoing the line in Country Joe’s song (#7) about a boy coming home in a box the song describes war as being “a friend only to the Undertaker”.  The writers and Starr repeatedly ask “War, what is it good for?” and end up with the simple answer “Absolutely nothing”.

#1.  “Give Peace A Chance”.

Number One because of it’s anthemic qualities.  With it’s simple lyrics and catchy tune “Give Peace A Chance” has been sung at countless anti-war marches and demonstrations around the world.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono.  Bed-in for Peace
 (Amsterdam and Montreal 1969)
Conceived during John Lennon’s and Yoko Ono’s famous honeymoon “bed-in” in 1969 the song is one of three Lennon songs included in the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll”.

It has shaped history also.  Yet, without a simple question from a journalist the song may never have been written.  The journalist asked John what he hoped to achieve by staying in bed.  John’s answer became the line we all now know: “All we are saying is give peace a chance”.

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Opinion Spectrum

If you work in the fields of community development or social justice at some stage you will be involved in a campaign for change.  Whether its to get the local school to provide multi-lingual signs or to get the government to change its policy on child poverty it will happen.  What is our strategy for gaining support?

Diag 1. Wall model
Our Western legal and political systems are based on an adversarial model.  We have prosecution and defence lawyers in our courts.  We have a government and an opposition.  Its probably no surprise then that our campaign strategies often think in dual terms of Supporters and Opponents.  This model is like having a wall between the two, on one side our Supporters, on the other side our Opponents.  Our strategy then becomes a) to get as many opponents to climb over the wall to “our side”, whilst b) minimising the number of supporters who “defect” to the other side of the wall.

The problem with this model is that it doesn’t acknowledge that people are spread across a whole spectrum of opinions on any issue.  Too often, though, I find that those supporting a particular cause at a stall in a shopping mall make the assumption that everyone they approach knows nothing about the issue and needs to be converted.  If they cannot be converted then they are to be argued with or ignored.

Another model tries to map the full spectrum of opinion that people may have on any issue.  The model (diagram 2) shows a range of opinion from those “completely supportive” of our cause through those who are undecided or uninterested to those who are “completely opposed”.  In between there are various shades of opinion: partial supporters, partial opponents, fairly supportive, fairly opposed etc.
Diag 2.  Opinion Spectrum

Using this model (lets call it the Opinion Spectrum model) our strategy then becomes simple.  We just need to be able to move opinions from one point on the spectrum a little further to the supportive end of the spectrum.  No longer do we need to “convert” everyone, it may simply mean that we are able to lessen the opposition a little.  (See diagram 3)

Diag 3.  Opinion shifting

Yes, its that simple.  But, its not so simple is it?  What it means for those of us wanting to shift opinion a bit further towards the supportive end is that we must give up our predetermined position and listen to what others are saying.  We need to then be able to acknowledge them and their opinions and then be able to find a means by which we can allow them to make a shift of their own accord.  Perhaps too, if we truly listen, we may find that something in what is being said makes us shift our opinion also.  That's not easy.   It means giving up something more than just our opinion.  It means giving up our sense of self, independent from all others.  But that's for another biog.

Friday 1 June 2012

Looking Down on Inequality

Can we see social inequality from the air?  It looks as if we can.

Tim de Chant is a journalist who has also studied the effects of urbanisation on California’s oak woodlands.  So he knows a bit about trees.

Tim recently made a visual connection on Google Earth and wrote about this on his blog site (Per Square Mile).  Tim wondered if it was possible to use Google Earth to check the thesis that there is a “tight relationship between per capita income and forest cover”.  Showing examples from cities in the USA, Brazil and China he discovered that it is possible.

I then wondered: can I see something similar in the city in which until recently I had spent 30 years of my life – Christchurch, New Zealand?  Here is the evidence.  The first snapshot is of the suburb of Aranui, one of the poorest in Christchurch.  The second snapshot is of Fendalton, a suburb on quite the opposite end of the wealth spectrum in Christchurch.  I’d say glaring, but make your own mind up.

Aranui, Christchurch.  Source: Google Earth

Fendalton, Christchurch.  Source: Google Earth

Is this as far as it goes though?  Nothing more than a recognition that richer suburbs have more trees, poorer suburbs less trees.  Well, no, there is more.  The contribution of trees to the oxygen-carbon dioxide cycle is well known and hence the contribution of trees to the well-being of humans.  Most of us also know of the usefulness of trees in the conservation of energy, in reducing the impact of storm-water and providing shade.  But what may be less well known are the contributions that trees make to other areas including better births and lessening crime.

A study published in 2010 (Geoffrey Donovan et al) found that “greater tree-canopy cover within 50m of a house… (was) associated with (reduced risk of poor birth outcomes)”.  The Portland, Oregon study did acknowledge that the results had some limitations and that further research was needed.

Another Portland study found “that trees in the public right of way are associated with lower crime rates”.  Not just any tree though.  It was larger trees that had this effect, not smaller view-obstructing trees that can be associated with crime.

Although both studies suggest that the effects of trees are slight, the presence of trees are useful in a multitude of ways and each slight gain adds up to a significant benefit.  And now too, there seems to be a way of seeing social inequality from the air.