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The RSA is about to launch an exciting new report on developing a user-centred approach to problem drug use.

As part of the preparation for the launch the report’s author, Rebecca Daddow, brought a couple of people to our team meeting. They are both members of Arun Exact, an exciting community group made up of people, in recovery, who aim to help others in a similar situation.

I asked them what motivated them to get involved in this group. They said it was;

  • A sense of responsibility for the success of the group; “it’s our baby”

  • A feeling that the town they live in, which they are proud of, is in decline

  • Empathy with those who are in a similar position to them

Underlying what they said, I think, is that they feel a sense of obligation and duty. This means that even when the work is hard they are motivated to keep going.

Listening to them I could not help but return to the question, is it possible to support the development of groups like this in areas where they do not already exist?

I believe it is possible but I believe that there are dangers in giving a positive answer to this question.

The principle danger is that arguing that groups can be supported justifies external actors, such as governments, coming into communities and attempting to force the creation of these groups.

It would be quite contradictory to attempt to trick or force people into being more empowered

Some readers of our Connected Communities report have suggested that this is exactly what we are calling for. I think the main basis for this feeling is that the report touches on arguments around “behaviour change” and “behaviour change” can quickly become subtle and not-so-subtle interventions designed by politicians to improve citizens.

It would be quite contradictory to attempt to trick or force people into being more empowered. Just as it doesn’t make sense to force people to volunteer.

My question to you, dear reader, is, “does arguing that it is possible to support the development of community groups inevitably justify intrusive interventions in areas which currently do not have these groups”?


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