The following research project was implemented in order to further
research and build upon observations and recommendations made
by Mr Clem McCartney in an evaluation report on the Forum for
Community Work Education [N.I] Community Relations practice, which
was produced in May 1993.
A fuller evaluation of the F.C.W.E. [N.I] Community Relations practice was commissioned by the Central Community Relations Unit in order to primarily analyse and evaluate the differing Community Relations methodologies which were being used by the Forum.
The F.C.W.E.[N.I] was to evaluate 100 respondents from past and present Community Relations participants, and from other main stream courses.
Although the findings from Mr Clem McCartneys report were very encouraging, the need for further research was evident. The two main recommendations were:-
This report will show that throughout the past year the F.C.W.E.[N.I]
have endeavored quite successfully integrate Community Relations
practices into the main stream of its work. It highlights various
Community Relations events which the Forum have facilitated throughout
the year, which seem to have strengthened and developed the spectrum
of Community Relations work.
This report seeks to analyse and highlight various methodologies being used by the Forum for Community Work Education [N.I] in order that practices can indeed be shared throughout the field. It will also make recommendations as to how these practices may be improved upon.
The aims of this research project are as follows:-
Questionnaires were sent to past and present course participants. Information was also gleamed from past course evaluations. Participants who had been attending other Forum courses, which incorporated a Community Relations element into the course were also included. This was to ascertain how other courses had incorporated Community Relations and what their views were.
Methodologies have been recorded from courses and workshops completed by the F.C.W.E [N.I] throughout 1994-1995.
Through the evaluation the Forum for Community Work Education [N.I] has gained an invaluable insight into the advantages and opportunities programmes have provided to each participant. Areas for further development have been highlighted. Targeting and how it can be improved has always been an issue for the F.C.W.E. [N.I] and this issue is addressed in the recommendations made in this project.
Comparisons with Communitv Relations programmes run by another agency and participants responses are examined. Recommendations for future developments and evaluation of workshops and seminars run by the Forum have also been included in this report.
The aim of the Community Relations Course is to provide participants with the knowledge and skills to enable them to identify and challenge inequalities within our society.
The Course objectives are as follows:
Gain an indepth awareness of Community Relations issues in Northern Ireland.
Become more aware of Community Relations at an international level.
Develop a critical awareness of own and others perspective.
The Forum for Community Work Education Northern Ireland was established in 1981 as a cross community charity to promote and advance community work in Northern Ireland by facilitating a democratic learning process which will:
Enhance local Community Work and Community Development skills.
Provide access to further education.
The current Community Relations Course content includes an overview of Community Relations work in Northern Ireland, Multi Cultural issues, Anti-Racist Training, Communication Skills, International Perspectives on Community Relations Group Work Skills and Networking.
Methodologies include talks from various guest speakers with particular experience within the Community Relations field, role play activities and group visits.
The Community Relations Courses run by the F.C.W.E. (N.I.) are accredited, and participants have an opportunity to gain a City and Guilds Profile of Achievement 3791. The Course objective is to provide participants with the knowledge and skills to enable them to identify and challenge inequalities within our society.
The Course aims to use a Community Development approach to learning which means that facilitators and co-ordinators use a participative methodology. Participants play a very active role in the selection of topics which are covered. Course contracts are negotiated and agreed by the co-ordinator and participants at the beginning of each Course, seminars or workshops, so that participants can contribute freely in a positive atmosphere.
The Forum for Community Work Education [NI] provides a valuable community relations practice, which has been successfully established in many areas throughout Northern Ireland both rural and urban.
Workshops and courses have been well attended and received by both those already involved in community relations and those who have become interested for the first time.
Many successful sessions have been co-ordinated including Adult Learners Week and Anti Racist Day. The most satisfying and stimulating must have been Working with Difference, facilitated by Basil Manning. This was surely a breakthrough for training of this kind in Northern Ireland.
The evaluation of the Community Relations practice has given light to areas where the Forum can improve and adapt, and meet the ever demanding needs of participants.
The Forum for Community Work Education[NI] has realised that there is a demand for increase in Community Relations , both in the Community Relations course plan and other F.C.W.E.[NI] courses, and will hopefully strive to attain a clear standing as a leader in Community Relations.
The Forum for Community Work Education [NI] covers a comprehensive selection of topics within its Community Relations Programme and through other workshops and seminars.
The overall level of satisfaction from evaluation findings is high, however the following recommendations have been proposed from information taken from all evaluations on Community Relations courses and workshops the F.C.W.E. [N.I] has facilitated - and personal observation of Community Relations Programmes throughout the year.
The F.C.W.E. [N.I] has already taken steps to ensure that issues concerning Ethnic Minority groups and Racism are included in the course content. More time could be spent covering these issues, incorporating discrimination and prejudice issues. Participants may be unaware that they possess discriminatory values, and exercises where they confront and challenge their own values and beliefs more, to recognise where these values come from could be incorporated into the course plan. From evaluation findings some participants felt that speakers only dealt with the "injured party" that they were speaking about and did not involve the opinions of the course participants.
More interactive exercises are needed to help the group feel more relaxed in involving themselves in role play and interactive sessions. Some participants seem to be very wary of joining role play exercises. This may be due to embarrassment or inexperience in this situation. Role play exercises are an excellent medium for witnessing how other groups and individuals may feel on certain issues and are an important part of the course plan.
A group identity emerges from the groups involved, as participants must feel comfortable together. However, the evaluation shows that the visit to the local project was what really made the group gell together as the atmosphere was relaxed and informal. The visit was organised at session 3 but is not carried out until session 10, half way through the course. Possibly if the visit was carried out sooner, for example, session 5, a better group bonding may occur.
Participants felt that the Community Relations course could run more intense issues relating to life in Northern Ireland. For example, bringing in local politicians from all parties for a question time discussion, chaired by a member of the Forum. Participants could develop their own questions before hand and develop a contract to ensure that the session would not become a situation for antagonism. Longer sessions for specialised subjects could be proposed in the introduction, as two and a half hours seems very little time to completely develop an issue. Further exercises concerning Power/Powerlessness could help individuals become aware of and overcome misconceptions of the "other side", and create a better understanding of why each tradition behaves in a particular way, incorporating each other flags and emblems.
A proposal to run a cultural heritage visit of the surrounding area where the course is being held, could help participants again understand more about each others cultural background. Visits to areas that were deemed no -go areas and the propaganda heard due to never meeting someone from a different tradition, the different slogans and paintings for each area and experiences felt at entering these areas could all be beneficial for participants.
The Forum for Community Work Education [N.I] would need to host more open days in areas like North Down and the Ards Peninsula, involving Local District Councils, which would make the people of these areas more aware for the need for community relations and of the work of the F.C.W.E. [N.I].
Finally, a recommendation for further Training for Trainers workshops and for these workshops to become a standard practice within the Forum for Community Work Education [N.I].
All future final evaluation sessions should be conducted by independent personnel, not connected to the F.C.W.E. (N.I.) so an objective view can be taken, thus ensuring the quality of information being received.
More organisation of specific workshops providing opportunities for development of Community Relations skills and giving the participants an opportunity to attend shorter sessions without making commitments to longer Courses.
Whilst there has been evidence of more contact and networking with other agencies, this could be further developed to include organisations like Counteract and Mediation Network.