Speaker and panelist biographies
Tessy Britton is a senior associate at Nurture Development and is a social designer and thinker focused on all types of asset-based creative collaboration. She is a specialist in cognition, emotion, learning and human behaviour, which she applies to contexts which require a wide range of systems thinking about people work, both individually and collectively.
Tessy is Director of Social Spaces, which aims to research, understand and spread new emergent knowledge and practice for positive citizen-led community action. The project she is best known for The Travelling Pantry project which visited communities all over the UK, travelling 20,000 miles in 4 months, conducting creative community workshops with about 800 people in 2010/2011. Social Spaces publishes the Hand Made series of books which reveals and documents inspiring community-led projects from around the world. Later in 2011 the project will begin to publish The Community Lover’s Guide To The Universe – a collaborative, appreciative, crowd-sourced series of city and town guides where a high level of creative community activity is emerging.
Tessy is also Co-founder of Mindapples, an organisation focused on wellbeing, whose goal is to make looking after our minds as natural as brushing our teeth. Both these social projects work directly with people, designing innovative tools and methods to reveal and connect their existing capacities.
As Associate Lecturer of the University of Chichecter, Tessy delivers a module on the MA Education course on Metacognition, Learning and Wellbeing. Tessy is a member and former Chair of the RSA Fellowship Council, and a member of the International Mind, Brain and Education Society.
Jim Dier’s has worked passionately to champion participatory democracy for the last 34 years. Following his early career as a community organiser, Jim was appointed head of the city of Seattle’s new Office of Neighborhoods in 1988. By the end of the Jim’s 14 year tenure, the four-person Office had grown into a Department for Neighbourhoods with 100 staff. The Department’s mission is to decentralise and coordinate the City’s services, strengthen communities and their organisations, and work in partnership with these organisations to preserve and enhance the neighbourhoods.
Currently Jim teaches courses on community organising and community development at the University of Washington. He also speaks, conducts workshops and provides technical assistance to communities and agencies around the world as a faculty member of the Assets Based Community Development Institute. Jim is also a partner in Nuture Development.
Jim has recently been appointed to the Expert Reference Group on Community Organising and Communities First by Nick Hurd MP, Minister for the Civil Society in the UK. Over the last two years his work in the UK includes the delivery of workshops to a wide range of organisations, including NHS trusts, Local Authorities, NGOs and think tanks including the Centre for Social Justice). More recently he delivered a capacity building workshop to all applicants of NESTA‘s Community Challenge.
Dharmendra is BIG’s Director of England. He has held senior management positions in Scotland and GB-wide working in the voluntary and statutory sector. This has involved improving operational and management standards; devising high impact delivery; managing and developing political relations; developing new ways of working and conceptualising ideas and developing policy focused on public/community benefit.
Formerly the Head of the Commission for Racial Equality Scotland and later the Director of Countries, Regions and Communities GB-wide at the CRE, he worked until 1999 as a Director of Racial Equality bodies in Scotland and London. He chaired a number of voluntary community organisations at national and local level in Scotland and London, and has established a number of new community organisations dealing with employment training, youth mentoring, community advocacy and social housing. Dharmendra has been an adviser to a number of national statutory and voluntary organisations, Scottish Executive and Whitehall Ministerial Groups. He is the Chair of the Scotland Funders’ Forum, and a board member of several arts bodies in Scotland.
“Putting people and communities in charge. Building the confidence, resilience and sustainability of those at the sharp end of need. Providing the glue of civic life through small grants. Enabling hope and opportunity to organisations that want to make a difference. Shining a torch on where change needs to happen and how – all of this gives meaning to working at BIG”.
Cormac is Managing Director of Nurture Development and a faculty member of the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute at Northwestern University, Chicago. He has trained communities, agencies, NGOs and governments in ABCD and other strengths based approaches in Kenya, Southern Sudan, South Africa, the UK, Ireland, Canada and Australia.
In January 2011 Cormac was appointed to the Expert Reference Group on Community Organising and Communities First, by Nick Hurd MP, Minister for Civil Society in the UK.
Some recent examples of his national and international work include the following:
- Working closely with I&Dea in the UK, advising them on the development of an asset based approach to health and on addressing health inequalities in low income communities. Advising on their ground breaking report: The Glass Half Full: how an assets approach can improve community health and well being.
- He sits on the Health Empowerment Leverage Project steering group, which was commissioned by the Department of Health (UK) this year to demonstrate the business case for wider use of community-based methods of health improvement.
For the past two years Cormac has acted as an adviser to Local Government Improvement and Development’s Healthy Communities Team. More recently he has also supported the delivery of the Local Government Ageing Well Programme.
He has an extensive knowledge of asset based community development, both in the UK and international settings. His faculty membership of the ABCD Institute at Northwestern University in Chicago and his relationship with several internationally acknowledged academics and writers in the field gives him a breadth of experience that makes him one of the foremost thinkers in the field of asset based approaches.