At Pause, Getting Involved (our participation work) is how we work together and use women’s experience to make things better. Our aim is to put women’s voices at the centre of everything we do – continuously learning and improving how we work, and informing and influencing practice in the wider world wherever we can. It’s the job of everyone who works at Pause, and is a job that is never complete.
Just a week after starting work as the new Implementation Manager for Participation, I felt privileged to attend the third in a series of events being held around the country to hear from women and Practitioners about how they can be more involved in all the work we do. With 14 women from four Practices, a handful of Pause staff, a visual artist and a drumming instructor, it felt sure to be a good day. And it did not disappoint. The drums were loud, the women were open and engaged, and their positive relationships with Practitioners were clear to see.
As far as participation goes, it’s obvious we’re building on some great foundations. Women’s involvement with the local Practices has made them know what they are comfortable sharing and also the pride that comes from doing something out of their comfort zones. They are, in the right circumstances, keen to share their experiences, and genuinely pleased that we want to know what they think. As one woman put it, “I just think it’s really nice that the offer is being made to hear what we have to say. It’s not always the case.”
Participation is a dialogue. It’s a two-way conversation. To make that possible, we need to start by speaking the same language.
But one of the themes that came up again and again throughout the day was the language we use. Practitioners commented that, even about this day, they had acted as ‘translators’ for what we would be doing. They felt we could be more direct, “instead of ‘participation’ why not say, ‘your views matter’ or ‘tell us what we could do better.’” And there were numerous examples of where women found the language we use a barrier, “I understood what Participant means… once someone explained it to me” and “I don’t like the word consequence, it only means bad to me.”
So what does this mean if we really want to put women’s voices at the centre of everything we do? There were a lot of positives to take from the day and, coupled with the feedback from the other events, we’re in a great place to involve women at all levels of the organisation. But at its most basic, participation is a dialogue. It’s a two-way conversation. To make that possible, we need to start by speaking the same language.
Participation & Pause Next Steps Implementation Manager