“What gets things moving is not money. What gets things done is not technology. What makes things happen is not project planning and management. But things do get done by men and women who are adequately organised. Once organised, they will find the money, they will find the technology, they will find the projects.”
Clodomir Santos de Morais, Brazilian sociologist who originated the Organisation Workshop
In March 2015, residents on Marsh Farm estate, Luton, set up an innovative project to engage with some of the most marginalized, long-term unemployed people in their community.
They piloted an Organisation Workshop – based on a Brazilian method, adopted across South America and in many parts of Africa over the past 40 years, but never before used in the UK. It was the first Organisation Workshop ever to be initiated and led by local residents!
Marsh Farm Outreach, a grassroots community group made up of local volunteers, had worked for many years to strengthen community involvement in the improvement of their estate and they had been trying to pilot the OW approach, without success, for more than fifteen years.
Identifying a project – a 5-acre derelict field on the edge of the estate, which they planned to transform into a community farm – the idea was to turn the field into a project that could be used for educational as well as recreational purposes, and also, on a small scale, for food production.
In November 2014, the Cabinet Office, Office for Civil Society funded the Marsh Farm project as part of the Community Organisers Social Action Fund programme – to support community initiatives linked to the national Community Organisers Programme.
Marsh Farm Outreach negotiated with Luton Council for access to the land and got the Council’s support for the overall aims of the project. The Job Centre helped with recruitment and to provide a training allowance to participants for the duration of the project. The team began to acquire the tools and materials needed for the task, and to identify experts who could provide advice and mentoring support to participants, such as Luton Adult Learning.
Marsh Farm Outreach also made arrangements for Chilean social psychologist Ivan Labra – an expert in OW – to come to Luton for four months as overall director of the project; setting up a steering group that included members of the Outreach team and people from the main external partner agencies.