The research began in 2014 with a pilot project that involved working closely with a community group (minority ethnic group women’s group) in Cork, with a view to deep preparation for working with a UCC student group in year two. This particular group, whom I do not name for ethical reasons (see ‘findings’ section), suffer considerable discrimination, racism and social exclusion in Irish society. I was aware of this group’s desire to develop as a community group. Together with a leader in the women’s sub-group, we invited a group of women to an information session and eventually ran a series of six workshops on community development based on Paolo Freire’s ‘Training for Transformation’ model.
Nine women participated in the research, ranging in age from 20s to 60s. The workshops took place in a community centre close to where most of the women lived. The following areas were covered in the six sessions:
- Introductions, hopes, fears, listening skills, working as part of a group;
- Exploring ideas of ‘community’, ‘community development’, how they see a ‘good community’ – using collage;
- Storytelling, life journeys, hopes for themselves, their families and their group;
- Irish life, society and politics;
- Identifying skills within a group; identifying needs of group (domestic violence emerging strongly and subsequent plan to invite local domestic violence women’s group); identifying a project (photography) to work on with UCC students;
- Professional photographer visit: discussion about the project the group wished to develop with students; discussion on myths, legends and childhood stories in their culture. Planning for future collaboration with students.
For ethical reasons, as described in the ‘findings’ section, it was decided (in consultation with my PhD supervisor) that this project was not suitable for the type of research I wished to carry out. While this was disappointing, the deeply valuable learning from it informed the research in subsequent years. For this reason too, there is no “key participant” for this project but the experience as a whole and of the group as a collective are analysed and presented in the research.