What our work is

Our work is about change.

Change in people’s thinking and feeling, in their lives, their organisations, the cultures that they create and are shaped by, and the structures and systems in which they live. Without changes at all of these levels, we cannot make a world in which it is safe to be different, but still recognised as human; in which justice is available to all; and in which all people can reach their potential and make their unique contributions.

Purposeful, conscious change is led by people who see the need for it and commit to making it happen. People who have claimed their own power and sense of self-efficacy. People who have a nuanced understanding of the systems they are trying to affect and the skills to build relationships and effect strategies that will catalyse change.

For these reasons, people are at the heart of Positive Vibes’ work – individual human beings in their specific social contexts and lifeworlds. The essence of this is captured in our Inside-Out process, a model inspired by the work of Paolo Freire.

This is an iterative process that begins with personalisation – we start with the self:

  • “What does this mean for me and my life?”
  • “How does this issue (e.g. of exclusion/discrimination) connect to my experience?”
  • “What is my part in creating this reality?”

Working with these kinds of questions in a variety of creative ways, and supported by a community of peers, strengthens self-esteem and self-efficacy – both for the people who we work in solidarity with, and for others with the power to facilitate or undermine the realisation of their rights.

Personalisation connects people intellectually and emotionally to their own realities and the experience of others – and begins the process of personal exploration and change that is needed to support wider relational and structural change. It is the beginning and the heart of PV’s approach.

The actions that people take, and the process of moving along the Inside-Out spiral through multiple iterations (deepening the change in consciousness begun at the personalisation stage) leads ultimately to personal and social transformation.

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Political goals │ Psychological processes

The old feminist slogan, “The personal is political,” is true at many levels. The Inside-Out process starts with the self – the individual human being. And, it does so in the context of a set of unequal and shifting social and power relations: relations which need to change if we want to foster social justice and inclusion. We strongly believe that enabling greater self-efficacy and resilience (psychological strengths) is a critical foundation for effective political action. The individual human being is the fundamental unit of all social systems – so almost all our work includes a focus on the self. If you fail to address the individual in her or his context, you cannot effect sustainable change in larger human systems.

Further, although it is true that everyone already has agency, many experiences (oppression, trauma, minority stress) can lock people away from this basic human capacity. Unlocking it in individuals, groups and organisations is a key ingredient for facilitating social change. And this is essentially healing/therapeutic work. In essence, PV’s approach and practice combines a level of psychological sophistication with grounded political analysis.

One further note on the implications of supporting people to claim their agency: we recognise that it is seldom useful to tell people what to do or to impose decisions on them. This is especially true if you are trying to build self-efficacy and leadership, and you want to contribute to sustainable change. Therefore, we strive to work in a consensus-building, collaborative and Adult-Adult (as opposed to Parent-Child) relationship with participants and partners. This is particularly important with people from oppressed groups: imposition either creates dependence or generates resistance. Either way, it would make an authentic relationship impossible and render our work ineffective.]