Recently I was sent an email asking me provide an update about the HVNSA for INTERVOICE, the international network at the major conference coming up. This is what I sent in:
Here in SA the past year has seen our network continue to exist in an informal ‘small n’ way rather than a formal, capital N way. There are currently three groups operating around the state, and a loose community has been gathered by the screening of the film Healing Voices on several occasions. There are a number of passionate, dedicated people behind each of the groups, resources, and developments, often separated by distance, different organisations, or different dreams of how things should progress in SA. There remain significant challenges to formalising a Network across organisational, personal, and ideological differences, so individuals and small groups tend to be very independent of each other, even those run within the same organisation but in different locations.
Historically there’s a great deal of trauma and distrust around structures and formal processes for many within the network in SA, many have had terrible experiences of loss of power and crushing of natural friendships and relationships so there’s distrust and suspicion about working together, formal organisations, or joint resources. It remains to be seen whether trust can be built and anything more can be developed in terms of a formal network to link the various groups and initiatives.
In the meantime I’m holding the space online and as a first point of contact and referral for those looking for local resources through my own business. We have had one unusual development recently which was acquiring a work placement student who has enjoyed visiting and speaking with as many people in the network as possible. It has been enlightening and useful to support him in these visits, both to learn what is happening on our own doorstep, and to see where the blocks and concerns around the network itself are and begin to develop ideas about how they might be turned into assets that support the development of something rich and genuine here in SA. Certainly the need is great.
On reflection, I find myself wondering that if the local groups do not feel there is a need for a network to support or connect them, then perhaps we do not want or need a network, in any sense, here in SA? Perhaps I have misread the need or misunderstood the situation, or the time is not right, or I am not the right person? I have been holding the space for SA, hoping that at some stage I would be able to bring greater life to the network and support the development of more resources around SA, but it may be that I should focus my time and energy elsewhere. I’d be curious to hear other’s thoughts.