Community Connections: More inclusive and connected spaces

Agirre Lehendakaria Center (ALC) has participated in a process of partnership based in progressive evaluation and co-creation for community-connected dialogue. This is a significant component of any community, but one which is often perceived differently by stake-holders depending on their roles.

How can an agreement be reached on a shared definition while attributing specific functions to roles? How can we make sure that all the applicable stakeholders in the community participate in the project and the proposed activities for this community dialogue?

The following is a summary of the process which Agirre Lehendakaria Center supported called Mi Casa: Una vida en comunidad, and the conclusions reached by our work group.

In recent months Agirre Lehendakaria Center (ALC) has developed a partnership of progressive evaluation and co-creation surrounding the project Mi casa: Una vida en comunidad. This Project was initiated by Plena Inclusión the collection of experimentation and deindustrialization projects started by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Agenda 2023.


We have participated in a process of experimentation towards community-connected dialogue as a component of deindustrialization and inclusion efforts in the community of people with a wide range of disabilities. This form of dialogue, which has been tested around the world, is often perceived differently by stake-holders depending on their roles. After completing the first half of the process, we have generated shared lessons which will contribute to future implementation efforts.


The experimentation phase of the project, Mi casa: Una vida en comunidad, consisted of a process of mapping and community listening. We identified initial perceptions about the structure of the community dialogue based on testing in 6 different territories and with varied contexts: Sant Pere Claver (Barcelona), Don Benito (Badajoz), Orotava (Canary Islands), Teruel (Aragón) San Sebastián de los Reyes (Madrid) and Yepes (Toledo).


These perceptions, which were sometimes contradictory, were shared in collective interpretation spaces in order to contrast main narratives we identified. As a result, a series of key insights have emerged through collaboration and territorial assessment. ALC also provided advice to the participants involved in the process which has allowed for collective sharing and co-creation surrounding the nature of the community-connected dialogue.


More than 70 people have participated in this process coming from diverse backgrounds such as agents of the Mi casa project, institutional representatives, economic leaders, family members and neighbors.


The implementation of ALC’s approach

One of the main challenges ALC faced was bringing the stakeholders together, and with regard to the community-connected dialogue, developing a multistage process culminating in the joint creation of the community connector role.


During this process ALC used a progressive evaluation method. Unlike traditional evaluation systems, progressive evaluation is a process of analysis, dialogue and reflection that allows teams to understand what their participation is achieving in real time as well as what may be impeding a desired change. Thus, it allows internal and external adjustments to be included in the experimentation process based on perceptions and barriers identified among participants.


The progressive evaluation team worked in coordination with the other evaluation teams and community connectors as well as the directors of each housing unit. These evaluation techniques have been tailored to address challenges identified during the Mi Casa project.


ALC worked hand in hand with the community connectors, local representatives and Plena Inclusión to apply progressive assessment in each territory. Other stakeholders who contributed their perspectives and experiences included external agents working in the field of disabilities, family members and individuals in the community who helped achieve a collective definition. This diversity has been essential to ensure that all voices are heard and that the final result accurately reflects our established objectives.


As a result, we completed a structured approach of community mapping; collective listening and analysis of narratives; the generation of connections and implementing ideas, projects or initiatives that respond to the challenges and opportunities detected through listening; and executing participatory processes of new experimental projects.


This is an extended process, and we have noticed that multiple possibilities have arisen in the definition of this project.


How is this role perceived?

"The definition of these roles needs to be reviewed. At first, I felt shocked, but I thought well, let's wait and see, because this is being defined and it's something to be developed. But time goes by and there's still a disconnect"

-Entity Manager


In the listening phase, interesting conclusions were drawn about the figure of the community role:

● There is a generalized perception of the connector as an unknown figure. Many narratives share this idea, and it is a very important opportunity to co-create it together.

● We have identified an ongoing debate among the professional teams about the function of the community role with two versions that have been evolving throughout the process. First, the role of the community connector implies linking people from the housing project with the community. Second, that the task of whoever occupies the role is to generate change in the community.

● The perception of the community role among people in the community is understood as necessary once its functions are explained.

● The communities perceive collective interpretation spaces as mechanisms that need to be sustained over time and supported by the municipalities. Furthermore, the connector is understood as someone who has a determining role in community life.

● There is a shared perception that the attitude and personality of the connector directly influences the achievement of the objectives associated with the role.

● There are diverse and contradictory narratives regarding the roles of facilitators and connectors.

● Most of the people consulted share some concern about the working conditions of people within the community role.

 Narratives of competition between entities and connectors coexist with those of cooperation. The entities are unaware of the implications of the community role and, on the other hand, highlight the difficulty of inserting the role into their organization. On the other hand, there are also narratives of organizations that do not understand the added value of the connector.


The co-creation of the nature of community connectors

Given that this is a process of experimentation, we have designed spaces for co-creation and co-design of specific responses that complement and improve existing ideas around community connectors.

A key idea that emerged from the work is the role of the connector as an agent of community transformation in a broad sense as opposed to a vision focused solely on disability.

Co-creation facilitates the adaptation of interconnected ideas in this area. In this case we worked to define the role of a community connector while addressing the gaps and opportunities which arose during dialogues.

Based on our consultation with diverse stakeholders during the community-connected dialogue, the main focal points we’ve established are:

● defining the role

● the hours of a working day

● skills and abilities

● the connector’s added value in the deinstitutionalization process

● the financing of the role

● tools, training and support


Lessons and conclusions

The core lessons regarding the role of a community connector reflect their importance as an agent of change and social inclusion while highlighting the challenges of its implementation and sustainability looking forward.


The added value provided by this role is as new and innovative element within an ecosystem that, despite having an identified objective, is failing to achieve it.


Therefore, this role seeks to approach the work differently and evaluate whether the results obtained can lead to a new outcome. In the coming months we will continue to experiment on these issues while supporting community connectors in their own experimentation processes. In parallel, ALC will continue its work of community connection as a part of the Getxo Zurekin process.

Story of a community connector's experience