Safe Ground - Using drama to educate prisoners and young people at risk in the community


Communication: Minefield or Sunscreen

The cliff-hanger at the end of our previous blog by our Executive Director Charlotte Weinberg challenged the reader to remove themselves from tenterhooks, as it wasn’t necessarily obvious whose decision-making in the relationship between ‘Sam’ and ‘Kev’ has the real agency in the complex landscape of the criminal justice sector. However, what emerged clearly from that meditation was that communication underpins progressiveness in relationships; or rather more specifically, the employing of open discursive dialogue. There are many forms of communication, a golden silence being a quite legitimate one, but not one that is necessarily that inclusive.

A commitment to open communication can be a minefield, at times daunting and difficult, but its benefits are numerous. The Family Action Plan (FAP) completed by both student and supporter on our programme Family Man, provides a platform for the setting of realistic and achievable goals that will impact positively the lives of the student’s children (if they have them) and family. It is completed on the ‘What Next Day’ when the student and supporter come together to finish it and is only valid through this process.  Embedded is a device for safe and honest exchange.

Recently we have changed banks. One significant reason for the move was the paucity in communication skills of our former depository. However, our new place of reserve has failed to adequately manage expectations due to a similar lack of eloquence. Silence and omission can lead to volatility even on Safe Ground. Our cash account has become Syria and diplomacy is being employed to avoid conflict and arbitration. Just as in the FAP, what a ‘provider’ can realistically offer and achieve has to be communicated clearly and honestly (and received openly and with thoughtfulness).

Workplace Tension
Let’s say I am Sam. I work to a certain rhythm. James Brown would say it is on the ‘one’, often involving a silent count before the beat begins. Let’s say my colleague is Kev and her style is in UK Garage parlance ‘4 to the floor’ – a much faster rhythm and a more voluble music. A fractal dissonance might be the expected outcome of this sharing of office space. Indeed it has gotten hot in here on more than one occasion, but a focus on our organisational aims as well as being committed to modelling our own philosophy means that we have made an agreement to dedicate 20 minutes each day to exchanging our sheet music, and to explain why we have scored our songs in a particular key. We take notes on each other’s notations and often a harmony is reached. Each day we write a new song and the learning begins again.

Terra Fearsome
Certainty of the impact of our work is a demand we constantly have to meet, yet the context in which that works exists often seems intrinsically uncertain. In this Transforming Rehabilitation moment, where we in the voluntary sector still await clarity, remaining positive and ambitious become additional challenges. Moreover the continuing demand for innovation and proof can mean that the impact and influence of what we do in the present is overlooked, goes unrecognised or is taken for granted. Because of the sector’s focus on clients or the impact of our work, we often forget to communicate to ourselves, in those moments between a successful  and a failing funding bid or in the time after the chaos of organising a symposium and the beginning of the event itself, just how beautiful our efforts to make change for good are. As Mary Schmich’s essay ‘Advice, like youth, is probably wasted on the young’says, and paraphrased by Baz Luhrmann in his song ‘Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen):

‘Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded…You are not as fat as you imagine…’

obinna nwosu
Fundraising and Communications Director


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