Community Engagement Two poems by Jo McFarlane
All my grassroots experience of community engagement has been as an activist – someone from within the community being ‘done to’, or ‘done for’ in some cases. My particular area of involvement is mental health activism. Having been a psychiatric patient for 27 years, I know only too well what it is like to be on the receiving end of power, and the culture of dependence that can come from that – where any scraps from the rich man’s table are welcome. So co-option, the process by which we become subsumed into the agenda of those in power in order to legitimate their policies and decisions, is a very real danger. As community workers supporting people to effect change, it is something you have to be particularly aware of, and to make explicit when you see it happening. Knowledge is power and to acquire that knowledge we have to retrace our steps and identify what went wrong and, most importantly, what we can learn from it. So that is what these poems are about.
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