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Active participation, community leadership and volunteering

Hello fellow community developers, I want to share with you this matrix I have put together exploring the ways that active citizenship is enacted in our communities. I've been interested for a while in how we talk about active citizenship and how community leadership fits in to the picture. How is it different from other forms of volunteering? Tradtitional volunteering is often determined by organisations, where they develop a role and a community member fits in to that role, completing the tasks established by the organisation and maintaining the charitable work of the organisation. I'm thinking of the hospital auxillary or the soup kitchen van that pulls up at the local football ground meeting spot. Really valuable work but not determined by community. Then I'm thinking about Asset Based Community Driven Development (ABCD) and actions determined BY community. Often this builds strong local communities and fosters social cohesion and is a wonderful expression of our beautiful humanity but may not change some of the bigger picture complex issues and oppressive beliefs that contribute to diminishment of our humanity. That's where intent comes in. Sometimes our work is about maintaining social connections, collaboration, community building, and sometimes its about supporting movement building and social change. I've put these two spectrums together on this matrix, mainly so I can visualise what's going round in my head, but to also share it with others and get some feedback.

Feedback so far has focussed on the location of the axes. In this image I have put "community determined" on the south side to represent the idea of 'bottom up' action or subsidiarity, and inversely, on the north point "organisation determined" representing a 'top down' approach. I don't think any of the options are inherently "bad", in fact I believe that all quadrants have some value at different times, for different communities. Maybe its about diverse action in concert with other actions, like the disk spinner, who starts spinning disks one by one, adding more as they get the rhythm and flow of those that went before, layer upon layer, holding chaos.

Anyway, consider where your community actions fit on the matrix, be it volunteering with an organisation, or sitting on a committee of governance, or coaching your child's soccer team or joining an activist group or undertaking random acts of kindness. Is the matix helpful in understanding agency and intent? or does it prompt new ways of thinking about collaboration and impact?

Your thoughts are welcome!

Go well, be kind,


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