From the outset of the project, you’ll probably have been worrying about quantitative evaluation numbers. The SE-PS like these numbers. You may have lain awake at night, fretting about whether you’ll be able to ‘reach-out’ to the whole community, whether you’ll be able to encourage cross-demographic participation, whether you’ll be able to engage with hard-to-reach minority groups. In the weeks running up to the first community meeting you’ll have tried every form of traditional and digital dissemination, trying to get that invitation to every individual in your chosen community. Well done. Good effort. Here’s the next rule…
Co-production rule # 5
Whoever comes, they are the right people… even if there are only five of them
Now it’s time to remind ourselves of this from earlier…
People have lives. Cars don’t always start. Pets get ill. People forget. We are all human.
You will never connect to everyone in the community. And even if you do, they won’t necessarily turn up to that first meeting. If you get ten people, that’s OK. If you get twenty, great. If you get fifty, fabulous. if you get five, that’s fabulous too. I’m a firm believer in the philosophy of Open Space technology.
Maybe after ten years of waiting around in cold community centres has given me a little detached perspective. Maybe living and working in the west of Ireland, with our relaxed attitudes to time and the world in general, has allowed me to worry less and relax more. Whatever the reason, I do know that there is no point in getting stressed or anxious about who will turn up. And there is even less point getting wound up about quantitative evaluation, certainly at this stage in the project. Count the heads, for sure, but these are the community’s vanguard. They will become your project’s champions and evangelists.
But now you have to convince them. You are leaving the area of co-production facilitation and entering the world of the theatre. You are now both actor, director and marketing manager.
On Inch, we learned very quickly of a remarkable map, showing the field and place names of the island. The map was the legacy of Peter Gurrie, a founder member of the West Inishowen History & Heritage Society. Peter had worked with the islanders to make the map, and printed copies were in many houses. A PDF version available by clicking the image below, and as part of the co-production, I began work on a digitised version on the Donegal Mapping Portal, which was completed by somebody else… and I’m still not sure who did it.
The map was the starting point for so many conversations, including three evenings spent in the company of Boyd Bryce, farmer, environmentalist and story-teller. He related the stories of some of the field names…