Never underestimate the power of a good cup of tea


I recently met Andrew Coulson at our Faith in Action workshop with Peter Kenyon.

Andrew shared with me his idea of how the process of making and the ingredients of a cup of tea resemble an easier to understand definition of how community engagement works. And as a Brit. Andrew has an appreciation for a good brew.

There is no trouble so grave that cannot be diminished by a nice cup of tea

-Bernard-Paul Heroux

Andrew is the Community Engagement Officer for he Salisbury Council north of Adelaide. He is passionate about the responsibility of local government in community development:

“Community engagement at a local/state government should be part of culture not an add on… like how a cuppa is part of your morning routine not just an afterthought.”

And the creative way he goes about his work is very clear even from a short conversation with him (for example he told me a great story about engaging children in community planning through simple game play).

So how does Andrew see that community engagement is like a cup of tea?

1. The process of making a cup of tea require simple planning towards a purpose. A good cup of tea has become a culture, it’s in our routines.  Community engagement should be as a much a part of our routines as a morning cuppa. We make our cup of tea (or coffee) first before we make the rest of our plans for our day. So it should be with community engagement.

2. The process requires identification of existing assets towards a felt need: Where are the cups? Who wants one? Who knows how to make the best brew? Who makes a good biscuit?

3. There are some key ingredients:

  • Tea Leaves = Community members: There are lots and many different kinds
  • Sugar = Other stakeholders, organisations, local business: Sometimes needed to change the flavour but only need a few.
  • Hot water = Lead organisation, local authority: Always needed, always present.
  • Milk = Specialists: Sometimes you need it, sometimes you don’t. (This could include appropriate staff, professionals, legal etc)
  • Tea mug = Facilitator: Holds it all together, encourages and motivates.
  • Tea Spoon = The tools of engagement: Stir it all together with this and you get a good cup of tea.
  • Time = brew, don’t rush

4. We’re working towards an outcome on which we will receive feedback (ie. “nice cuppa!”)

5. People have found that with a good cup of tea other decisions become easier.



So what do you reckon? Is that about on the mark? Anything you would add?

Hit me up in the comments box below


Thanks again for your thoughts Andrew


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