What does community participation look like?


Photo from Institute for Circumpolar Heath Research

I was invited to present a topic of my choice at The Institute for Circumpolar Health Research [ICHR] during their “Rooftop Talks” in Yellowknife. The Talks are meant to “have casual conversation on northern health and wellness research topics and to build on relationships for a northern health research network”. My guess was that a discussion about community participation might be a good fit for the folks from northern health services.

During my work with the Toronto Drop-in Network, I spent a lot of time working with this idea of community participation. At that time, I supported homeless community service centres (called drop-ins) in Toronto. Drop-ins were often trying to offer their participants as much control and ownership over the social services that were provided to them. With this strategy, community centres’ services were much more closely aligned the needs and vision of drop-in participants.

The process of participation was also very helpful to the lives of drop-in participants too. For example, having someone listen to your needs, feel heard and seeing a change can be especially meaningful for people who are street-involved.  For example, Drop-in participants would offer feedback to the workers and funders (through town halls or member advisory committees) or be paid to take training and later sit on hiring committees and boards. If you’re interested what it looks like in practice, check out these Toronto-based drop-ins who are major champions of this approach: Parkdale Activity and Recreation Centre, The Stop Community Food Centre, St. Christopher’s The Meeting Place and Sistering.

It is not only homeless services that could benefit from working towards increase participation. Instead, I believe that all social services have much to gain from considering how to meaningfully increase and support the participation levels of service users.

But what does this community participation actually look like? How can service users or community members offer feedback that is actually taken seriously and fully implemented? What participation tools are available? There’s certainly a lot to explore.

I decided to offer an adapted presentation of Sherry Arnstein’s “Citizenship Ladder”. I explained the different participation levels and what would need to be considered while moving towards increased community participation in a social service system.

It was a fun talk on the shore of Great Slave Lake. I even managed to sneak in a mini public consultation exercise  concerning the start time of future events.

Arnstein certainly isn’t the only person with a participation model. There are may different kinds of “ladders”, “spectrums” and “continuums” out there. Here are 2 useful resources I highly recommend if you are looking to dig deeper into what community participation looks like.

Public Participation

  • The Citizens Handbook offers all sorts of well-tested tools for groups, organizations and communities to use. Here’s a brief look at some of their tools.


Train the Trainer … DEBUNKED!

This past spring, I helped an organization develop their strategy to promote their program in neighbourhoods across Toronto. Broadly, this method of promoting an idea or tool to a group of people outside of a familiar group is called community outreach.

My guess is that if you’re using the term “community outreach”, you’re likely trying to make the world better in some way. If not, you would be looking into marketing or Propaganda 101. So you probably want those involved to be those who are connected to the social issue you are hoping to tackle. Who are these people so connected to this issue and how to do you reach them? There’s not an easy answer – especially if you’re stuck in the belief that what works best for you will work best for someone else.

Even with years of experience, I still made plenty of mistakes when developing the community outreach strategy. Over the next month, I will outline a few strategies that always tempt me during community outreach; strategies that seem exciting, but rarely work on their own. Let me be clear and say each strategy has the potential to be invaluable, but they are all based on certain assumptions that need a closer examination. I’d like to outline some of the pitfalls with each strategy, starting with…

Let’s train trainers!

The main idea behind the “Train the Trainer” model is that if one trainer could be used to teach 10 folks, then maybe if you trained 10 “regular” folks to be trainers themselves, and then they trained 10 folks themselves… well well … looks like you just did community outreach to 100 folks! YES!!! #WIN!

NO! This falls flat on 3 major assumptions:

People can organize people. 

Not so true. To have a steady social network, understanding of an area, time and skills to promote, budget and organize accessible regular space with food, as well as the ability to document and evaluate the event, is asking a lot of folks. The tough truth is that people are not robots, and they live wonderful and dynamic lives. To believe that all 10 folks you train will have the organizational or administrative capacity to replicate a short or lengthly community workshop, training or public meeting is unrealistic.

People can become trainers.

Maybe. Training folks is not easy. Your Train-the-Trainer certificate by itself will not guarantee success of what happens next. You must consider the folks the new trainers will be working with and how they will be training them. Consider, for example, the assumptions we often make about literacy and computer use. Is your whole curriculum written in english and only accessible online? How will your trainers support someone whose first language is different than their own? On top of that, what does working with a group of people actually look like? Upper level board room meetings can be straight-up nasty! How, too, will your new trainers support those who have a learning disability or have had traumatic experiences in classroom setting? Let’s be honest – at the very basic level of training capacity, it’s very hard for anyone to teach anything.

People have time.

Are your newly trained trainers being paid equitably to attend training and to do their own training? Are they given the resources to pay others to attend their meeting. They do? Fine. That’s great. But more realistically, you are likely hoping that the trainers who you are training are volunteers in some capacity, and are looking for other unpaid folks to take their training out of their sheer interest or stake in the issue. These folks, the unpaid trainers and those attending these workshops, do not have time.

Let me explain. I like to use the term time poverty from time to time (haha?). People are busy. People have children. People support people they care about. People are working long long terrible hours and live far away from you and the transit sucks and is expensive. Likely the “community” in community outreach that you are trying to connect with, is busy. If you do not provide supports and resources (transit, child care, accessible space, adequate honorarium, food) for the new trainers or to the communities they are expected to outreach to – folks will not show up.


Consider Train the Trainer model DEBUNKED! Next up, another classic tactic that is ripe for debunking … “Let’s find volunteers!”

Generation Squeeze

Generation Squeeze - 10

The Generation Squeeze campaign brings together Canadians of all ages because gens X, Y & Millennials deserve a chance to deal with these problems without compromising the families they have or the families they want.

Co-organized the Generation Squeeze Toronto Launch Party in partnership with Generation Squeeze to bring its founder Dr. Paul Kershaw, to talk about the growing squeeze on time, income and services facing Canadians under 45. This event also featured an exciting lineup of speakers including Sarah Blackstock: Director of Advocacy & Communications, YWCA Toronto; Zahra Ebrahim: Principal, archiTEXT; Peter MacLeod: Principal, MASS LBP; Chair, Wagemark Foundation and Lekan Olawoye: Executive Director, For Youth Initiative; Chair of Premier’s Council on Youth Opportunities. (Photo by Karim Rizkallah)

Position: Community Organizer


  • Co-organized the Generation Squeeze Toronto Launch Party in partnership with Generation Squeeze to bring its founder Dr. Paul Kershaw, to talk about the growing squeeze on time, income and services facing Canadians under 45.
  • 150+ attended National Launch launch event
  • Organized Generation Squeeze Talks: Younger Canadians and Precarious Employment. Featured presentation from United Way, Atkinson Foundation, Workers Action Centre and Youth & Work.

Website and Social Media:

Generation Squeeze


I had been discussing generation equity for the past year with friends and was introduced to Dr. Paul Kershaw through the video below.  After meeting him in person, Brendon Goodmurphy, Ashleigh Dalton, Gabe Sawhney and myself formed SqueezeTO to help launch Generation Squeeze across Canada – starting with Toronto.

Partners and Friends:
Brendon Goodmurphy
Ashleigh Dalton
Gabe Sawhney
Echo Blog
Youth and Work

Generation Squeeze - 51

Photo by Karim Rizkallah
Generation Squeeze - 16

Photo by Karim RizkallahGeneration Squeeze - 18Photo by Karim Rizkallah

Skillshop: Learn Local

Skillshop organises events where businesses and local spaces provide lessons to the wider community. Skillshop has created a full day of free micro-lessons hosted by various local businesses through partnerships with Business Improvement Associations in Toronto.

Position: Founder


  • 60 lessons taught by 45 neighbourhood store owners
  • 500+ students attended lessons
  • Partnerships with Bloorcourt Business Improvement Association and Junction Business Improvement Association

Website and Social Media:


While organizing Trade School Toronto, it was difficult to find class space that was storefront, accessible and near transit for free or barter. Fortunately our organizers managed to work with cafes, art galleries, and universities.

Around the winter of 2013, I started thinking about my neighbourhood called Bloorcourt and how my deli butcher knew so much about meat and the florist told me everything about flower arrangement. It seemed like was also plenty of unused spaces in my neighbourhood when the businesses were closed at night or on weekends. I sent a quick message to my local BIA (Business Improvement Area) about the idea of hosting Trade School in businesses. A couple months later in March, the BIA coordinator asked to meet. They explained that their summer festival was going to be cancelled because of on-going construction and wondered if this “street learning fair” that was I was talking about could be an alternative for them.

I went forward with the idea from here because I wanted to offer a quick alternative to the summer street festival. I love the local, unique shops of my neighbourhood and I wanted to create way to support them all.

It also had the potential to be an experiment that would prove a couple ideas that kept me up at night:

1) Given the right opportunity, everyone can be teacher and everyone can learn anything from anyone at anytime
2) The social exchange of learning builds relationships and increases social capital between those involved in the exchange. Lessons in this way have the potential to increase the long-term profits of local business because of the increase in social capital between customers and business owners as well as the marketing of the business classes to those within and outside of the neighbourhood.


Partners and Friends:

Bloorcourt Business Improvement Area (BIA)
Junction Business Improvement Association
Helen Kontozopoulos

Skillshop helped The Junction BIA create “Santa in the Junction”


New York City Learning Groups

New York City is a major hub for those experimenting with what I would call community-based education: a loose field of alternative, informal, locally-based adult education groups and spaces that are often not tied to formal accreditation but instead interested in lifelong, public, general interest, citizenship and peer learning. For now, I’ll call those involved in this field as being part of a “learning group”.

Last summer, I wrote about visiting a couple of these New York City learning groups Trade School and the Brooklyn Brainery. Both groups mentioned that they had been part of an event called Experiments in Extra-institutional Education hosted at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center. The event brought together organizers from 14 learning groups mostly based in New York City.

Part of the event was recorded and many written interviews were posted on the Social Text Journal.

So, Which New York City Learning Groups attended?

Could any of these learning groups be replicated in your community?

Considering I am deeply emerged in the community education field, I was very excited to only recognize a handful of these groups and am eager to read more about what they do.

With the knowledge that such an event was possible, I was inspired to create a similar type of meet-up  with with learning groups based in Toronto. I hosted the first “New Education Dinner” with 20 awesome education folks a few weeks ago and plan to write about the experience in the weeks to come.


How to Draw an Asset Map


The first training session for Jane’s Walk’s new Neighbourhood Choreographers started this week.

We use the term choreographer as it relates to the ideas of urbanist Jane Jacobs who speaks about the “intricate ballet” of sidewalks with their “individual dancers and ensembles”.

Similarly, the sidewalk ballet needs choreographers to organize, direct and promote the preformance. Neighbourhood Choreographers in this way are ambassadors of Jane’s Walk in their neighbourhoods and they will support, recruit and “choreograph” their local communities to share their unique stories and lead their first Jane’s Walk. Over the next month, I will be working with 35 of these Choreographers in the three corners of Toronto: Kingston Galloway in Scarborough, New Toronto in Etobicoke and Bathurst Finch in North York.

But how to help people discover and explore local stories to share?

To answer that question, I introduced the participants to the idea of Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD), a concept coined by John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann at the ABCD Institute.[1]

An easy way to start thinking about ABCD is asking “is the glass half full or half empty?” A glass half empty represents the notion that communities are deficient and have needs. The half full glass represents the notion that communities (and the people who live there) have many strengths, capacities and assets that are already found in the community. [2]

ABCD asks everyday local people to identify their valuable relationships and existing assets (personal, social, physical, natural) and create steps to make those assets stronger. It recognizes the strengths, gifts, talents and resources of individuals and communities, and helps communities to mobilize and build on these for sustainable development.[3]

For our first Neighbourhood Choreographer session, I introduced the concept of ABCD with an accessible and fun exercise called Asset Mapping which you can try for yourself and friends, family and neighbourhood groups of all ages.

How to make your own Asset Map:

  • Using a flip chart paper and markers, draw a map of your local community considering all your personal and community assets (ex. stories, unique spots, groups, business, informal networks, schools, roads, nature, buildings, hangout spots, relationships, skills)
  • Use the following questions to guide you [2]:
    • What are the strengths and assets of your community?
    • When was a time you felt your community was at its best?
    • What do you value most about your community?
    • What is the essence of your community that makes it unique and strong?
    • What are you most excited about these days about your community?

Asset mapping is a tool you can use to document people’s understanding of their communities and neighbourhoods. Through these maps, it is likely that number of themes will emerge that can inform the direction of your Jane’s Walk.

During the Choreographer’s exercise, themes of nature, local business history, social services, community programs were clearly visible and will be discussed further at our next training.

What walk stories do you see?





Look forward to more posts about the Neighbourhood Choreographers in the coming weeks!

@Nico Koenig

PS: If you are looking to discover more about Asset Mapping and ABCD, consider the following resources:

[1] The Asset-Based Community Development Institute http://www.abcdinstitute.org

[2] Sustaining Community Engagement, What is Asset-Based Community Development? http://sustainingcommunity.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/what-is-abcd/

[3] The Coady International Institute, About ABCD http://www.coady.stfx.ca/themes/abcd/

This post was originally posted as “At Jane’s Walk, the glass is half full” on the Jane’s Walk Toronto Page here: http://janeswalk.org/canada/toronto/toronto-blog/janes-walk-glass-half-full/ on March 14th, 2014.

Tools for White Guys who are Working for Social Change (and other people socialized in a society based on domination)

As a young, able, hetero, Canadian, white guy – it’s easy to forget about privilege. To me, it is a living exercise to keep challenging myself to see how my privilege oppresses others – and do something about it now. Here’s a great checklist that I continue to use and reflect upon:

1. Practice noticing who’s in the room at meetings – how many men, how many women, how many white people, how many people of color, is it majority heterosexual, are there out queers, what are people’s class backgrounds. Don’t assume to know people, but also work at being more aware.

2a. Count how many times you speak and keep track of how long you speak.

2b. Count how many times other people speak and keep track of how long they speak.

3. Be conscious of how often you are actively listening to what other people are saying as opposed to just waiting your turn and/or thinking about what you’ll say next.

4. Practice going to meetings focused on listening and learning; go to some meetings and do not speak at all.

5a. Count how many times you put ideas out to the group.

5b. Count how many times you support other people’s ideas for the group.

6. Practice supporting people by asking them to expand on ideas and get more in-depth, before you decide to support the idea or not.

7a. Think about whose work and contribution to the group gets recognized.

7b. Practice recognizing more people for the work they do and try to do it more often.

8. Practice asking more people what they think about meetings, ideas, actions, strategy and vision. White guys tend to talk amongst themselves and develop strong bonds that manifest in organizing. This creates an internal organizing culture that is alienating for most people. Developing respect and solidarity across race, class, gender and sexuality is complex and difficult, but absolutely critical – and liberating.

9. Be aware of how often you ask people to do something as opposed to asking other people “what needs to be done”.

10. Think about and struggle with the saying, “you will be needed in the movement when you realize that you are not needed in the movement”.

11. Struggle with and work with the model of group leadership that says that the responsibility of leaders is to help develop more leaders, and think about what this means to you.

12. Remember that social change is a process, and that our individual transformation and individual liberation is intimately interconnected with social transformation and social liberation. Life is profoundly complex and there are many contradictions. Remember that the path we travel is guided by love, dignity and respect – even when it is bumpy and difficult to navigate.

13. This list is not limited to white guys, nor is it intended to reduce all white guys into one category. This list is intended to disrupt patterns of domination which hurt our movement and hurt each other. White guys have a lot of work to do, but it is the kind of work that makes life worth living.

14. Day-to-day patterns of domination are the glue that maintain systems of domination. The struggle against capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, heterosexism and the state, is also the struggle towards collective liberation.

15. No one is free until all of us are free.

From the Colours of Resistance webpage

via RANT Collective : Tools for White Guys who are Working for Social Change (and other people socialized in a society based on domination) and Chris Crass

5 lessons for teenagers considering university (from the future you)

Hey there,

It’s me – yourself, in the future. I think a lot about education these days. And I am still paying off the debt we incurred during the undergraduate degree you are considering attending. I wanted to send you this letter from the future to help you consider your next steps.

I remember what it was like to be you at 17. You told yourself that you didn’t really know what you wanted to do with your life, but you actually knew quite a bit at the time. You were doing some pretty neat stuff that you’ll like talking about in the future, when you’re me. These experiences were all very important, so keep it up. Soon you will have to start make some decisions about what will happen after highschool.

I know what you’re thinking: “I can’t stay in my hometown. I want to get away. It will just be like highschool if I stay. If I don’t go to university, I will end up a loser.” I know you’re excited about going to university  – and that’s a great feeling to have. Think of the parties! Doing whatever you want! Your plan will look like this: go to university, get a good paying job, pay off the student debt easy, become the boss.

Spoiler alert! It doesn’t work out that way.

Here are my best tips for you, as someone who has lived your life. I hope these might change your ideas about going to university and your next steps after highschool.

1) Take a break, but keep learning.

You have been stuck in an institution for 13 years. You need some time to process what you have seen, and to figure out what things you like and what things you don’t like. You’ve done a lot, but there are pieces missing that you won’t find in a university syllabus. Did you know that you could work on an organic farm anywhere in the world through Woofing? Did you know that there are programs like Canada World Youth where you can live and volunteer across Canada and abroad? What about Folk High Schools? You can kick it to Norway, learn Norwegian, go mountain climbing and study world peace – no tuition needed (it’s actually illegal to charge). No. You did not consider it.  It was never an option. It may not look well with your friends or your parents to not go to university, but the alternate experiences you can find are a real asset that they won’t have.

2) Learn for free.

Go to university… for free. Visit any university and start looking through the undergraduate courses they offer – even graduate programs. Go with your friends who are in the classes and paying full price. Speak to the professor directly: tell them that you’re interested in their course and would like to audit it. Chances are they will say yes. You will find out:1) whether or not you like the topic; 2) if you like how universities teach; and, 3)about other students who are interested in similar careers. Lastly, universities are always hosting speakers from around the world for special events that are often only promoted to the university. Often, they’re free. Go for it.

3) Home work and travel work.

In the future, you will be paying for your own housing. Your own place! It’s exciting. But you know what’s even better? Not paying for rent. It’s expensive. I know living at home with your parents is a bummer. But one thing your parents can easily offer you, for at least a short time, is their  roof! They might ask you to pitch in here and there, but compared to living on your own – you will save a lot of money. Keep that crappy job you had before for a few more months, and pick up odd jobs while you’re at it. This can help you get out with a plan in hand.

Yes, get out and work some more! There are so many ways that you can earn money for the adventurer in you. You’ve got connections. Spend 6 months asking about connections around the world and I bet you’ll find something great. Work at a Hostel. Go Tree Planting.  Pick fruit in New Zealand.  It’s easier than you think for someone with energy, a good back and willingness to travel.

After that, you can go to university or commit to another direction, with money saved and no debt.

4) Hang around with successful, remarkable people.

This is hard. I know you want to be cool and hang around with cool people. But cool people at 17 are not always cool later in life. I’m not asking you to stop hanging around people who you think are cool, cold turkey. However, do consider that there is a lot to learn from people of any age. Connections with people older and younger – and people who are not like you – will be enriching and useful your whole life. The more you hang around with successful, remarkable people, the more you will be successful and remarkable.

5) Reflect and set goals.

Later in your life you might hear yourself talking about setting goals, reflecting on your needs, and blah blah blah. I know you think this lame as a 17-year old. But please, give it a try.

  • Write two lists: First,  write down everything you are good at.   Second, write down everything you like doing. Then, check out your lists. You might be surprised by the different and exciting combinations of the two lists.

This very basic step will guide you in your 17-year old life. It also helps you be unique. In the future there will be so many jobs that don’t exist in your present. Find your unique mix and soon you’ll be making up your own job. Also, try this exercise out every couple years as your ideas, opinions and interests will change – yep, change is a constant.

  • Next, think of something you want to accomplish in the next few months – or even half year. Write it down. Write down a few month-long goals. Then write down the steps you think you’ll need to accomplish each goal.
  • Find someone who can check in with you and be your “accountability buddy”. Ask them to help you keep on track.

Do this often.

Best of luck for you and your future. I am proud of you.

All my best,




Learning in Rural India and Ethiopia

Today I met up with an old colleague from my University of Toronto days, PhD candidate Fisseha Yacob (or Fish as he calls himself). He told me about the non-profit he was developing called Kuraz (Kuraz.org)

Kuraz is determined to make a difference in the lives of children, youth and their communities in Ethiopia. Using collaborative learning strategies, critical pedagogy and community integrated approach, we provide hands-on practical training and workshops for community members, educators and students. (Kuraz.org)

Kuraz made me think of a couple TED talks I had heard on self-directed learning and participatory education in rural India. Sugata Mitra, professor of educational technology at Newcastle University, has created a number of “hole in the wall” educational experiments. For his first experiment, he put a computer screen in the wall for children in a rural Indian village who had no experience or skill in computers whatsoever and very little formal education. He returned months later to find children using the computer and figuring out much more about it’s function without any teachers guiding them. He has since created more of these experiments testing the limits of self-directed learning. One experiment had British Grandmothers mentoring children in India via a web video link. The Grandmothers were instructed not to teach, but only to encourage.

I do not regularly champion computer technology as a form of international development. From my experience working in South Africa and Zambia, the initial gifts are often short-lived. In a rural community of South Africa, I visited a school that had been given a number of brand new computers to use by the students from an international development agency. Three years since they were delivered, the computers were broken and no one knew how to fix them or could pay to have them replaced. The one remaining computer was kept at the Principal’s office because he was afraid the students would steal it if they had a chance to use it.

Technology moves fast, especially mobile devices, desktops and laptops. In 5 years time, today’s laptops might not be able to properly watch videos, upload information or send data. However, Mitra’s work shows that infrastructure without teachers or gatekeepers can lead to some surprising results. I especially see the potential of the Grandmother experiment to connect the assets of some to the needs of others using web video. The simple experience of having a real person (video or live) to encourage you and someone that you can be accountable to makes a huge difference in the development of self-efficacy.

Although I have never lived in rural India or Ethiopia, I imagine that elements of Barefoot College could be replicated in rural Ethiopia. However I pause to say these inspirational centres take time (starting in 1989), require advocates and champions as well as a specific context to sustain it. And maybe a killer Ted Talk too:


Recently, Barefoot College has been receiving students from rural villages outside of India. See this short 5 minutes award winning documentary:

How to Cheat

I have been picking through Dale Stephen’s Hacking Your Education, which so far, I would easily recommend to anyone in High School and anyone looking to transition into a new type of work. One comment caused me to reflect – shouldn’t we be teaching how to cheat? Especially in regard to learning and community development initiatives. The book quotes Joi Ito, a successful technology investor:

“Most of college education is about what you can do on your own, without cheating,” Joi told me. “But cheating involves really important skills – such as how to find the answer from somebody else and how to take shortcuts.” Instead of sitting in college learning these skills, most people are sitting in college fulfilling requirements for graduation.

Cheating in the educational sense is about stealing someone else’s answer – the “correct answer”.

I cheat all the time. When I don’t know the answer, I look elsewhere. I search online, I ask friends, I find out what the best practice is and I share it widely. Without cheating, we would have to rely on answers we were only given permission to use and our own experience. Yet when I was in traditional school, I only got points when I remembered the answers that were given to me – instead of knowing all the different ways I might find (or steal!) the answers.

In some ways, cheaters have inspired me. All of my work has been related to taking the ideas of others and using them in the context and organization I am working with. I make and share handbooks on best practices, on case studies, on information databases, training methods – the whole time I am only figuring out ways that I can support people to cheat collectively by sharing information of things we all know work.

With this in mind, here are some pointers I have used to cheat/ be cheated on the best ways I know how:

Do/ Tell your research: Find out everything that has been done related to what you are interested in pursuing. Find out who influenced who and who they borrowed/cheated on. Tell others about the people who inspired you and how and where you learned your answers.

Re/ create: All contexts are different, but similar interest groups exist. Community projects, businesses, policies can all be recreated in similar, but not exactly the same situations. Copy objectives and methods but use your own language to fit your own context. Create. It’s ok to name those who you cheated on (or were inspired by), in fact you should celebrate and honor them regularly.

Make it last: Recently I typed up notes from a training I facilitated with a group of front line homeless services workers. I typed up all the resources mentioned in the workshop onto a Google doc, and then printed the Google doc hyperlink on a handbook. The Google doc can be revised by anyone and will last as long as Google is around. In that way, the document does not end up in the filing graveyard we have in every office, but instead it remains a living document that changes, grows and can be used for cheaters.

Pretend to/ Be someone: Find someone who inspires you and do what he or she does. Act like them. Use their language. Find out they came to be. Hang around where they work. Also: be someone. Be a mentor. Share your style. Invite people along for the ride. Help people who want to know what you know.

Assume shortcuts: I have worked with a lot of social workers the past couple years – one trait many had was never accepting No. They are always looking for ways around and through the social services system for people who have often been excluded from it. With that in mind – talk to people not papers. Talk to three people with different backgrounds but the same experience to figure out the best way through a situation. Realise that assets are not just money, there is value in all sorts of things to use to your advantage. When you have figured out the shortcuts – make sure you tell people about it.