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This page is a draft page, and is currently under construction.


This page shows a collection of links to writings and videos on my ideas about some aspects of the relationships between citizens and authorities and other institutions. This is a temporary first collection parked on the Peckham Vision website to make them easily accessible. Eventually I will bring this all together on its own website.

About me – a recent biog is on page one of this discussion paper: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/generic/tsrc/documents/tsrc/working-papers/community-engagement.pdf

Social eco-system dance model Eileen Conn.jpg

The paper is published on the TSRC (Third Sector Research Centre) website:

Underpinning philosophy

http://comment.rsablogs.org.uk/videos/ Renowned psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist explains how our ‘divided brain’ has profoundly altered human behaviour, culture and society. Taken from a lecture given by Iain McGilchrist http://www.thersa.org/events/video/vision-videos/iain-mcgilchrist as part of the RSA’s free public events programme.

My papers

My Social Eco-System Dance model Aug 2011
my paper on community engagement - http://tinyurl.com/social-eco-system-dance

House of Commons Inquiry into the Big Society Apr 2011
my submission - http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmpubadm/writev/smaller/bs110.htm
all submissions: http://tinyurl.com/EC-Commons-review-Big-Society my submission on pp 270-273,
Commons Inquiry report: Dec 2011 –http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmpubadm/902/90202.htm
Commons press release: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/public-administration-select-committee/news/publication-of-big-society-report/
Press comment:<br> http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/dec/14/big-society-mps-parliamentary-committee
EC comment: the report and the press comment appear to focus on the real difficulties for the organised voluntary sector to deliver public services. Disappointingly, the report appears not to address at all the other issue that the whole community sector beyond the radar is a key to the real Big Society, ie communities taking power over their own neighbourhoods. This aspect raises different issues from the delivery and management of public services, which are also not being addressed by government nor by the voluntary sector.

GLA review of Community involvement in Planning in London Oct 2011
my submission: social eco-system dance in planning
Latest GLA paper on the review: http://www.london.gov.uk/moderngov/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=5844&CT=2
The GLA report is expected March 2012.

References to my paper/model

- Informing Civil Society The work of the Third Sector Research Centre 2008-2011 page 43 Below the Radar research stream: http://www.tsrc.ac.uk/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=%2bx47B%2bqn%2bIY%3d&tabid=825

- my paper goes global: Greek language website - http://tinyurl.com/Greek-SESD

- these two blogs are picking up the need for a new paradigm of collaborative working between the organised agencies and the community in all its forms. This relates to my diagram Space of Possibilities and the need for supportive culture change by small steps to enable that to happen:

  • Tessy Britton blog Nov 2011 -


- this blog takes up my analogy of a community group as like a particle and has recognisable mass as matter, but often is not there and is like an energy wave.

Note: The Higgs boson and the energy wave: The search for the Higgs boson: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16116230

Eileen suggests that the way that informal community groups operate, with no paid staff, is fundamentally different from the more conventionally managed operations of funded voluntary organisations (and public services, of course). The groups work through horizontal person-to-person networks, while organisations operate vertically and hierarchically. Taking an analogy from physics, one is matter, one is more like energy waves. Thinking about joining bottom-up and top-down misses the complexity of the social ecosystem. If you accept Eileen’s analysis, it goes a long way towards explaining why Big Society – as expressed by Cabinet Office – doesn’t play out on the ground. It’s not just a matter of “something invented by the Tories” or too tied up with the cuts: it is just from another planet.

  • Lorna Prescott blog 12 March 2012 - Seeking Praxis A space for reflection on theory and practice

http://lornaprescott.blogspot.com/2012/03/must-you-be-so-linear.html?showComment=1331773742180#c2291683992308251880 http://tinyurl.com/6ww3gpx
- this blog shows how the linear way of thinking in the vertical heirarchical system of working in the voluntary sector gets in the way of seeing the different way of being in the horizontal peer system. "The Third Sector Research Council recently published a fantastic paper by Eileen Conn which helps me to understand why I’m struggling to communicate my idea. In Community engagement in the social eco- system dance Eileen describes two systems, as below..."

  • David Wilcox video interview of Sean Brady from Formby First, acting as a network weaver.


comment by Lorna Prescott: "She and I have been delivering training together using your Guide, and I had thought we had a shared understanding of what we were saying. Apparently not! I found myself trying to describe the sorts of participation which takes place completely outside the spaces, agendas, and support of public and voluntary sector agencies (in other words outside Eileen Conn’s vertical hierarchical system as described in http://www.tsrc.ac.uk/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=K8%2BrbdUTghQ%3D&tabid=827). And arguing that the ladder of participation has no relevance outside those spaces. That an individual might have initiated an activity, collaborated with others, made change etc. but would be nowhere on the ladder because the activity was in a different sphere (or system, as Eileen Conn helpfully differentiates)."

  • Mark Gamsu blog December 7, 2015 Healthwatch & the two systems: What do people think about local Healthwatch and why?


RTPI President in discussion in Peckham Vision studio
  • Ian Tant retiring President of RTPI (Royal Town Panning Institute) in his valedictory address said:

We are 50 years on from the landmark Skeffington Report of 1969 which sought to draw out lessons from the planning failures of that decade and set a route map for better involvement of communities in planning. It’s chastening to learn that as a profession we still have a long way to go in improving our processes and in planning with and for communities. When I say “learn”, I’m not just referring to the excellent Nathaniel Lichfield Lecture in November in which Professor Gavin Parker of the University of Reading set such a challenge to the profession. I’m also referring to a number of direct discussions I’ve been privileged to hold in the course of the year. The first was in Peckham where, thanks to RTPI London, I was introduced to Eileen Conn of Peckham Vision. A retired civil servant, Eileen has a carefully considered view of where planning goes wrong and what we could do to improve. At the core, her argument is that we approach communities in a structured manner from our councils and organisations with our appointed leaders and roles. And we expect communities to follow suit. But communities are not structured bodies – they are a wide range of people and families and businesses and groups who come together for widely differing reasons and in each area form an organic cluster of communities, not a single community.
To plan well for an area, planners need to take the time to sit down with and understand the various community groups and their objectives and desires.
Eileen’s arguments resonated on the other side of the world, at the Planning Institute of Australia Congress in Gold Coast...
January 2020 -

Video interviews

How the community is very different from the authorities and the voluntary sector, and the need to grasp this:

Local projects

Transforming Peckham, transforming the world
5x15 event, 8th September 2011: 15 minute performance linking my local work to my theory

Peckham campaign history
Audio interviews in local history recordings Summer 2011 http://soundcloud.com/peckhamstories/eileen-conn-interview-part-one http://soundcloud.com/peckhamstories/eileen-conn-part-two
London radio interview: Peckham Action Group campaign 23 Feb 1979
an Athens account or similar is needed to log in to hear this audio recording. http://radio.bufvc.ac.uk/lbc/index.php/segment/0002200510015

The local websites I run-
Residents Network: http://peckhamresidents.wordpress.com
Local rail services: http://www.southwarkrailusers.net
Peckham town centre: http://www.peckhamvision.org
Bellenden neighbourhood: http://www.bellenden.net

Local projects demonstrate the model
These are part of the new processes I have been creating and exploring to enable local people to become informed and connected with each other sufficiently to collaborate effectively with the institutions. I do this on a shoe string so it is very slow; but evidence shows it is working. My theory and model are part of my effort to explain why I think it works.

This quote from Dr.Albert Dzur, Bowling Green University, Ohio, USA is a useful way of encapsulating the same kinds of ideas http://www.bgsu.edu/departments/acs/faculty/dzur_a.htm:
“… the value of citizen participation in the professionalized and expert domains that impact public affairs, and how collaboration helps bridge the distance between professionals and the communities they serve, encourages mutual trust, develops skills, and builds networks for communication. [this is] "democratic professionalism" - the importance of sharing previously professionalized tasks in order to enable and enhance broader citizen engagement in major social issues...”

Other relevant references

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/lsereviewofbooks/2014/04/30/book-review-rediscovering-voluntary-action-the-beat-of-a-different-drum-by-colin-rochester/ Book Review by Dr Armine Ishkanian: Rediscovering Voluntary Action: The Beat of a Different Drum by Colin Rochester. Dr Armine Ishkanian is the Programme Director of the MSc in NGOs & Development, LSE Department of Social Policy. She is the author of Democracy building and civil society in post-Soviet Armenia (2008 Routledge, London), The Big Society Debate: A New Agenda for Social Welfare? (May 2012 together with Simon Szreter; Edward Elgar Publishers) and numerous academic journal articles. Her research examines the relationship between civil society and social transformation as well as how civil society organisations and social movements engage in policy processes. Read more reviews by Armine.

What we have to do

Eileen: “… The whole way everything works has changed in the last 60 years and the whole global society is managed by technical experts – technocratic, bureaucratic experts. It’s like a sort of alien brain on top of all of us; what we’ve got to do is get the real brain, that’s us, to articulate its views to help the alien brain do its job better…” quote from http://tinyurl.com/Peckham-Rye-Fete-interview 3rd September 2011



GLA review of Community involvement in Planning in London - October 2011
my submission: social eco-system dance in planning
House of Commons Inquiry into the Big Society - April 2011
my submission - http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmpubadm/writev/smaller/bs110.htm
My Social Eco-System Dance model - August 2011
my paper on community engagement - http://tinyurl.com/social-eco-system-dance


  • Employment of Women in the Civil Service 1972
  • Information Technolgy in the Civil Service 1984
  • Holistic Business Framework 1986
  • The Ecological Organisation 1991
  • Visions of Creation 1995
  • Human Society as a Living System 2005