Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Director blog March 2022 – The Body Keeps the Score

Trauma underpins our lives and our communities; it is hard to talk about and often talking doesn’t help, who wants to relive such things, but we carry it in our bodies and reproduce it in our behaviours anyway. That’s what I mean by ‘the body keeps the score’. We are lucky if we get through life without distressing experiences that injure us physically and emotionally. If we don’t experience it ourselves, we’ll know others close to us who have. 

We carry it in our bodies, but we also carry it in everything we do. It strikes me that community work and so-called ‘partnership’ working that seeks to address positive change, as opposed to maintaining existing inequality and power relationships, needs to exercise more care, because change is painful and is resisted.   

Trauma informed practice has six simple principles which if acted on would help: 

  • Safety 
  • Trustworthiness and transparency 
  • Peer support 
  • Collaboration and mutuality 
  • Empowerment and choice 
  • Cultural, historical and gender issues 

I don’t think our community and partnership spaces are always safe, trustworthy, transparent. Or that we have each other’s backs often enough (peer support). We compete rather than collaborate. There is compulsion in the workplace, not choice and we don’t talk about race, gender, class and other oppressions. Sometimes we create spaces for the above but not often enough. Because we live in the world as it is, not the world as it should be. 

Over lockdown I found myself thinking a lot about the world as it should be.

I was thinking about the pain in our lives and how it is telling us something. It can be redemptive; we can learn from it but mostly it just hurts and then we go numb, stuck, doing the same things and getting the same results. About love and how there isn’t enough of it in the world – in the absence of love, there is survival and how simply to survive is not to live a life.   

I thought about a recent situation that triggered me, where voices were raised. I don’t like being shouted at. It reminds me of a time in my life when my father would explode. He got sectioned. I remember social workers and police visiting. Questions being asked that had no answers. It just repeats. A year or so before lockdown my sister, who is autistic, got sectioned because the care home suddenly changed its staff and she literally started pulling her hair out. Social services answer was to put her into the same psychiatric hospital my dad spent time in. I then engaged with the health system my parents couldn’t cope with and it closed ranks. It reminded me that if you want change you need power; but that power without love is inhuman and love without power is anaemic, too weak. 

My sister is in a good place now and even when it was going on I was surprised at how calm I felt. I’d got used to that kind of thing happening. No big deal. Broken systems and broken people; I feel too much and then I feel nothing. I see how things get frozen. I try to remember to appreciate what is precious and focus on what it is possible to change, and that makes me happy. Sometimes.     

I’ve been thinking about how power is also about vulnerability. Trauma is caused when you are vulnerable and are powerless and overwhelmed so it is odd to say being vulnerable can also be powerful. How can that be?   

In that space of vulnerability we are most truly ourselves and from that space we can re-imagine what is important and worth doing in our lives. A lot of the things we do are probably not worth doing – the meetings we go to – the little competitive time serving rituals that divide and rule. Anything that can give a new perspective, new space to do differently, is worthwhile because when it comes to climate change, transformational public services, local democracy, looking after each other and being more human, much of what we do isn’t working and we can do better at every level. 

Matthew Scott

TWCP Director

Director Blog – March 2021

Our priorities over the last year have been to provide support and find ways to tackle the pandemic collectively.  We led the organisation of the BD CAN work over much of 2020 (shout out to Amina), pioneered a strong partnership with the British Red Cross, including training local people as volunteers and advocates, distributed hand sanitizer to 5,500 households in the ward, delivered literally hundreds of online resident-led events online and as socially distanced activities, supported the growing work around a ‘new model of care’ with health partners, started our Barking Food Forest project aka Riverside Community Garden, and set ourselves up as a new charitable incorporated organisation (Thames Life).  There’s a much longer list of activities and achievements but I’ll pause there.  

The thing that stands out for me is the resident-led bit.  The numbers don’t lie.  Everyone of our trustees is a local resident and collectively they reflect the diversity and breadth of expertise across the ward. Our job as staff is back office support; to convene the space and provide the platform – resident leaders will do the rest hence just about every one of our projects is led by residents and the extra funding we have won goes back into these initiatives.  You may have noticed that there are a lot of experiments and pilots going on in Barking and Dagenham one way or another but I believe the way we have merged a social business and community organising approach is genuinely unique.  Much of the support we have leveraged has come from out of the borough – from Locality, East London Business Association, Citizens UK, London Sport, Planning Aid London, Community Housing London, Laureus Foundation, London Youth, Just Space – because what we are trying to do has an ambition that led us in all sots of directions.  When we seek out capacity building support it comes in all shapes and sizes and we all need as much support as we can get.

Right now we are at a crossroads.  We have set up our resident-led Community Development Trust but this is the beginning of a whole set of new challenges – establishing the smooth running of an organisation and systems required to run it, having previously gone under the umbrella of Riverside School.  This is the challenge of governance – if you are a large organisation you have the capacity to absorb this, but a small group which wants to remain small but able to maintain minimum size to deliver basic support has to get this right.  To avoid becoming a bureaucracy and boring people or burning them out with procedures whilst ensuring the fiduciary matters are performed well.  This is where the need to get the right support at the right time becomes vital and if the pandemic has taught us one thing, it is that we will need to build back better and make sure no one is left behind, to use the political jargon of our times.

Hopefully my next blog will speak of success in securing a further 3-years of Lottery funding – which will cover most of our core costs and really allow us to kick on.  Either way we’ve got a lot done, not least in the last year.  Especially pleasing has been our work with Barking Sports 4 Good where we managed to deliver a substantial part of this programme online and via socially distanced activity in the final months of 2020, which included the participation of 257 residents in a new women’s cycling and walking project, yoga classes, basketball and leadership training, boxing and women’s fitness classes, dance competitions, a men’s cycling project and enabled us to support the Hikmah Social Project and their football activities.  Likewise our involvement with BRL has been pretty spectacular – including working on a resident-led editorial board, community gardening, place-shaping and social enterprise workshops, and ongoing health partnership working.  I’ve mentioned the work with health partners previously but again Thames Ward is at the heart of new ways of working with local people and the Locality Board chaired by Cllr Wharby and the Thames View Activation Group supported by LBBD and the local NHS has moved the health agenda on a very long way in the space of a few months.  

So no one wants an overly long blog – my message behind all of this is together over the last 3-4 years I feel very grateful for all the investment of time both residents and partners have made.  Our Community Development Trust and range of projects seemed a distant prospect in 2017 but local people made it happen.  We should demand and expect even greater positive change can and will happen in the coming years.  A key measure of our future impact will be to ensure that resources and success is spread widely and evenly across a large number of groups and individuals.  That would be my definition of inclusive growth – everybody can grow, everybody wins and no one is left behind.

Matthew Scott

TWCP Director

Want a cookie?

We use cookies on this site to keep it working properly and to collect information about how it is performing. You can read about how that information is used here.

By remaining on this site you agree to the terms of our Privacy Policy