Reconnecting with East Ayrshire Vibrant Communities team…

This blog post is a copy of one posted to the new Skilled Workers, Skilled Citizens blog at

Back in Spring 2013, two people told me, independently, that I ‘had to go and talk to Katie Kelly at East Ayrshire Council’.

I was blown away by the energy of that first conversation we had together. Katie was really embodying an ‘assets’ approach, perhaps more than anyone I’d every met working for a local authority before.

A few months later (August 2013), Katie invited me back to make this video with some of her wider team:

Since then, the East Ayrshire team have been very busy. Enabling local groups to produce community-led action plans; advocating for their ways of working across the wider council and other East Ayshire organisations; and networking like crazy.

A great example is this write-up as part of the Co-production Network in 2014:

(By the way, I love this animation – that Lisa Pattoni from IRISS first showed when East Ayrshire folk hosted an early Reference Group meeting for SWSC):

Yesterday, I got a chance to go back to Kilmarnock again. This time, the Big Lottery sponsored ‘Asset Based Community of Practice’ was visiting. It was great to get an update of what the team has been working on – and the power of their story in perhaps encouraging many other local authorities to understand – and act on – the potential that can be unleashed when some ‘servant leadership’ unleashes the quantity of good will, trust and sheer enthusiasm that’s still evident in the vibrant communities’ team …. two years on. Katie talked us through a new booklet about ‘The Story So Far‘.eastayrshirestorysofar

It had been a powerful morning – hearing directly from people who have been freed up to be community builders and connectors – in the language of the Big Lottery programme that’s funding them. These were strong stories of ‘being there’ and really taking the permission to prioritise relationships over delivering ‘stuff’; and over nurturing some really creative solutions (like a treasure hunt for jigsaw pieces – in aid of helping a split community begin to heal…).

At the end of the session, I felt compelled to jump in. I said it would be great to share – experience together – the practices that are making a difference.  For example – exactly what’s going on when the East Ayrshire team check in when they are together by naming the ‘gifts of the head, hand and heart‘? It seems to me that something subtle and very powerful is happening as the team consciously notice gifts that each other may not be aware of: something about becoming aware of, and calling in, the untapped potential we all bring to work.

I was reminded of lines from a poem from Marianne Williamson that Nelson Mandela read out when he was released from prison:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

For my money, if we’re to genuinely inspire each other, we need to get deeper into the practices that are breathing life into our relationships at home and at work. I’m hoping that the next Big Lottery session might focus on this …. if you want to get involved, drop a line to Andrew at Inspiring Scotland or Mhairi at Big Lottery.