This past weekend Citizens UK hosted 15 incredible young leaders for a day’s training about leadership at Aston University. The students were really incredible and did an excellent job of engaging with the content and thinking together about how to win change and strengthen institutions, the core focus of Citizens UK’s work. As a part of the training, I spoke about the importance of one-to-one conversations and why we think they’re so important in community organising, both to understand other people and to articulate our own values. One-to-one conversations are about building public relationships between people and to better understand the self-interest of people within a community or organisation or institution.
I have had many one-to-ones over the last year, as I’ve been working in Bartley Green to expand and develop our organising capacity here. I know what I’ve been doing in one way, but getting the chance to talk about it and teach it to a new group of people really impressed on me how you don’t ever really know anything for yourself until you teach it to someone else. Speaking about the power of one-to-ones I was able to say something I believe strongly but had never really articulated: that people in our lives will only be as vulnerable as we are. If we want to have meaningful relationships where people open up and share what’s important in their lives, we have to be willing to do the same ourselves and be willing to be vulnerable when other people are not. Everything is complicated by power structures, our own positions and how people see us, and whether people we interact with are interested in engaging with us. The starting point, however, always needs to be a willingness to who our own weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and that is easier said than done.