In Africa, we say ‘it takes a village to raise a child’
Dr Arinola Araba works in Barking and Dagenham. She is the founder of bMoneywize, a social enterprise that provides an innovative educational solution to teaching young people financial literacy and numeracy skills.
Arinola took part in Rapid Response Fund planning, and here she shares her experience and the learning opportunities for place-based change. (Note: The Covid-19 Rapid Response Fund was funding to support individuals and voluntary and community groups in Barking and Dagenham who are responding to a need during the crisis.)
Some of the biggest challenges we face in Barking and Dagenham are linked to mental health, domestic violence, debt, finance and youth crime. Young people, I have worked with feel particularly isolated. In Africa, we say ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. That means that it takes more than just the parents of a child to raise them!” So, in essence, as a member of the community, you may have a thing or two to contribute to a child’s growth and development, even when they are not biologically yours.
Barking and Dagenham borough is blessed with a rich heritage and mix of many diverse cultures. In so many ways, we celebrate the diversity of food and cultures by joining in events where these are shared so colourfully.
How can we embrace the ideas that come from all these cultures? There is much we can learn from each other about how we can tackle these big challenges.
The Rapid Response Fund initiative provided a unique glimpse of how things could be different. The fund applicants and decision-making panel members represented the arts, drama, domestic violence, sewing, parenting and mental health initiatives. One particular proposal was interesting because it was creating a solution with others who were going through a shared challenge! You’ve got to love the adage that says, “necessity is the mother of invention”
You will appreciate that our panel members came together for one sole purpose, irrespective of their ideologies and areas of expertise.
This resulted in the design of a more robust, fund-giving process that a wider group of people were able to access and benefit from. If the funds were issued to only one organisation, for example, a football club, it would exclude so many other initiatives that were unrelated to sports! We would also be missing on other opportunities for collective problem-solving. There is more we can do to work together.
To illustrate the point further, an initiative dealing with issues of domestic violence could work with those offering counselling and relationship-building. We could then develop ONE effective pathway for support, which would result in a better and wholesome outcome for participants. So, collaborative working and connecting would be more beneficial for everyone.
When I was considering funding applications and realised there were similar themes and outcomes, I would comment on the links between the initiatives and suggest they were introduced.
What stops organisations from collaborating?
Some of the comments I have heard include:
- Fear of ‘competition’.
- Lack of confidence in collaboration
- Fear that others will copy your idea.
When I first developed the bmoneywize board game, I was fearful that someone would copy it and understandably, very protective of it so I had it trademarked and its design registered.
Historically, there have been situations where people have presented ideas to panels, had them ideas rejected and then seen the same ideas adopted by trusted contacts. So people are less eager to share I think.
Past experiences, disappointments and hurt knock one’s confidence in the idea of collaboration. I submit to the fact that it’s such an exciting experience to build on ideas together, they become more inclusive, representative and owned by everyone.
If we build trust in the sector, demonstrate that collaboration offers greater opportunities to address local challenges, I think we just might turn this borough around, for good.
In my experience, we would often meet at conferences, say ‘Hi’ and go our separate ways until we are asked to contribute to a consultation. I signed up to panel membership because I like the way it was presented at the outset. I was so enthusiastic that I also signed up to promote the fund.
The most rewarding part of the process was having the Barking and Dagenham Renew team genuinely seek our views to inform the fund-giving guidelines. This has not always been the case recently.
I also enjoyed how the guidelines were designed and implemented. Our feedback was sought at every stage through an interactive and dynamic, visual tool, making it a transparent process for all.
We jointly agreed that the selection process would:
- provide support for differently-abled and skilled people.
- be presented in an easily accessible way, a short online form.
I felt included throughout the process especially when my ideas were welcomed and employed in the overall design process. It felt like we were birthing something new together, like a baby — yet a different way of working. Hopefully, this project will initiate a new way to work in the future.
I learnt some things about myself too.
I love challenges, deadlines and designing new ways of doing things. My brain kicked into the creative mode as our team suggested different ideas, one after another. We eventually agreed on tips for making the project a worthwhile endeavour. Also, there were people in the project team, I have never had the opportunity to work with, previously. The design initiative created a platform to bring people together as well.
My message to funders?
I (maybe we) like to be invited to get involved in projects that serve our community. I (we) are interested in being asked about what we do, how we do it and sharing our sense of civic pride. Let us be part of the conversation. Some of the people working at grassroots levels have for a long time, felt ignored, downtrodden and excluded from vital community-shaping conversations. The latter can be informal and include opportunities to eat together, but most importantly, can become a platform to just talk!
When people have the opportunity to have their voices hear and noted, their morale is improved and the door opens up to all sorts of possibilities.
I want to say Cameron and Geraud [from Barking and Dagenham Renew] have been fantastic to work with! Thank you Lankelly Chase for bringing a breath of fresh air to us! :) Let’s do this again.