We all need space to think, and never more so than now - living in the time of coronavirus. Leaving lockdown does not mean back to the old ways but rather ongoing social distancing. How can we continue to ‘do’ community when this virus thrives on close human contact?
Current events also continue to highlight the need for more community cohesion. The ability to listen to other people, see their point of view and perhaps change your own mind is an essential skill to living peacefully together.
Passion for empowering communities to explore ideas, values and beliefs
At DECSY, based in Sheffield, we have many years of experience of bringing Philosophy for Children (P4C) into schools and other settings. This tool provides people with the space to tell their own story and the skills to engage with differing viewpoints.
Now we are passionate about extending P4C even further with Philosophy for Communities. Communities are strengthened when people from diverse backgrounds can meet and exchange ideas, offering the prospect of learning from each other and building tolerance and understanding.
‘I have learnt that difference doesn’t mean argument.’ (current P4C member)
Since early 2020 we have been running (face-to-face and then virtually) a pilot Philosophy for Communities (P4C) group as well as a P4C After-School Club which has brought children together from across the city.
We are now seeking funds to continue these groups and run more across Sheffield and Rotherham. We have the flexibility to run face-to-face or online sessions as the impact of COVID-19 dictates.
With your help we want to:
- Provide monthly P4C sessions for up to 10 community groups including in care homes, providing a new model for care workers on how to have discussions with older people that encourage a sense of identity and community. This will include an intergenerational P4C group of school pupils and care home residents.
- Continue to provide a city-wide P4C After School Club for 10 – 14 year olds.
DECSY's aim is 'education for a just and sustainable world' (www.decsy.org.uk). DECSY staff are all trained in P4C and have been training others to use it for over 20 years. P4C sessions equip and encourage people to be able to talk about their experiences; to hear other people’s stories; to provide support to each other; to value others and bring people together through building strong relationships in and across communities.
Each session lasts about 90 minutes. A trained P4C facilitator introduces a stimulus to help generate questions from participants. A nominated question is then dissected and explored and the group’s thinking is reflected on.
A tool that works….
Evidence shows that the development of people’s thinking skills through P4C gives them the tools to tackle discrimination and intolerance. This may sound highflown but in Sheffield the technique is now widely used in primary schools with proven impact on both attainment and on the social and emotional climate.
Quotes from school pupils:
‘P4C helps me to pay attention to what thoughts I’m having.’ Year 6 pupil.
‘I never knew there were so many viewpoints about something before!’ Year 5 pupil.
Quotes from community groups:
‘I have enjoyed the community feel.’
‘I have learnt how to hold a productive discussion.’
‘I have listened to how other people view concepts that I have spent a lot of time thinking about.’
‘For me some fundamental issues arose during the session and questions emerged that we don’t usually talk about or reflect on as a group. ‘How do we create a community that is safe for everyone without becoming an island of privilege?’ was the question selected – a question never previously openly articulated. This was all done in an environment that felt entirely safe – and that feeling of safety is hardly ever created in the business meetings that we hold regularly.’
These unprecedented times have shown just how supportive we all can be to our neighbours, but living with the prolonged uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic will take a toll on our wellbeing.
By working with diverse groups we anticipate identifying a range of challenges experienced and different needs and priorities for the future. Some will have felt the impact of isolation more than others. Some will have adapted to living their lives online while others will have been excluded from this. New relationships will have been built, perhaps locally, perhaps digitally.
It’s good to talk…. and to listen
One of the five steps to wellbeing is to connect with other people.
P4C sessions will support people to have conversations with others about the issues that are concerning them right now. Each session will enable people to come together to tell their stories, addressing questions that matter to everyone present, helping groups to look at how things are changing due to the impact of coronavirus, what is needed in this transition, and what is possible in the future.
At its best, these P4C sessions will give people experiences of engaging with differing viewpoints and disagreeing with them in a non-confrontational way.
We all need to develop the skills to critically engage with information and viewpoints that we encounter in our lives, whether from the media, internet or books, school, family, friends or other people in our lives. Unless people can learn to evaluate these independently, there is always the possibility that they will be led unthinkingly into behaving in ways which may be damaging to themselves, others or the environment. Philosophical enquiry develops these critical thinking skills.
Why we need your support
DECSY has received some 'seed' funding for this work but now, to expand it and reach more communities, we need your support. Your donation will be invaluable in helping us pay for trained P4C facilitators and room hire to run sessions. Thank you!