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Stronger Things: 'Go deeper to deal with the age of division'

Using community power to tackle highly polarised local problems requires ‘going deeper and deeper until some of the falsehoods clear out’, New Local’s Stronger Things has heard.

Using community power to tackle highly polarised local problems requires ‘going deeper and deeper until some of the falsehoods clear out', New Local's Stronger Things has heard.

Speaking today at a panel session at the event at London's Guildhall, programme development and communications officer at Shared Futures Samuel Augustine emphasised the importance of getting to the bottom of polarising issues.

He told the session on community power in an age of division:  ‘Ask the question "why". There's a key problem you have in your communities. There's rampant racism or there's gang violence or whatever populising intense issue you are trying to deal with.

‘Then you'll get an answer. Then ask the next question – "why". You go deeper and deeper, and the myths and the falsehoods just clear out. And then you get to the core of really why it's happening. It's from there that you think "this is where I'll start from to create the solution .'

He added: It's incredibly difficult, but once you've got to the core you've got it.'

Asked for her top tip for dealing with polarised issues in communities, senior policy and engagement officer for Hope not Hate Misbah Malik said: ‘It's really important to remember for a lot of people engagement with the topic is not necessarily one based on pure logic. It's a lot of emotion.

‘So much of the time people try to counteract that with "this factor x, y and z disproves what you are feeling". So I think just really being aware of the emotion that's behind a lot of what these people think and how sometimes facts are not going to work in terms of  [countering] disinformation. That's where you really have the opportunity. Trying to get to the bottom and delving through  all that emotion  - without that there is no hope in cutting through those really divisive issues.'

Director of innovation and practice at Involve Stephanie Draper said ‘a multitude of interventions' were required to address systemic  inequalities and the imbalance of power.

She added: ‘A deliberative process run by a local authority is a really important contribution to that. But at the same time you also need to be working with community groups and going to where people are and finding out what they want. It has to be a combination of things that actually gets to that shifting of power.'

She concluded: ‘Then there's also this humility of power that's required. It's about understanding you need to let go and trust other people and your communities that their lived experience and  ability to deliberate and have great conversations means you'll get better results. The final thing is having a power and equity lens really central to what you're doing.'

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