Doing it for themselves

By Dr. Nina Browne

At the end of the corridor stands a chalk board. It reads “want it back? Tell us what you’re gonna do about it”.

The corridor was in an FE College in Sheffield. The chalk board stood where the living room had been. I have been going on about these spaces set up by the social movement the Association of Camerados in this series of blogs. It is an attempt to create a context where people will talk to and sometimes help each other.

But of course great ideas don’t always run true. Creating a space for lots of young people to congregate can create opportunities and it can, to use modern understatement, create challenges.

Some of the young people didn’t take care of the living room. Some people were not behaving like ‘Camerados’ to each other. So the students decided it was time for a change. And they closed it.

They didn’t ask anyone. They knew what they needed to do. They had been handed control of the space by the College and by the Association of Camerados. So they took responsibility.

My first reaction was disappointment. It had been going so well. All too predictably I wanted to put it right. Maybe the students needed more support? How could we fix it?  

I’m trained like most clinical psychologists in a way that unintentionally rob people of power. We have a habit of stealing away agency from people. We get anxious when they make their own decisions.

So was closing the living room a failure? The Association of Camerados don’t think so. And nor does Sheffield College. They, like me, are learning that sometimes we need to be brave enough to step out of the away and let people sort stuff out for themselves.

‘What you gonna do about it?’. It turns out this wasn’t a question for me. It was the students asking each other.

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