Non-Directive Consultancy

George Lovell developed Non-directive consultancy, by providing training for church and community workers. He ran his organisation, called AVEC (the French for “with”), at Chelsea Methodist Church in London. (The link takes you to my sequence about non-directive consultancy.)  It ran from the 1970s through to the 1990s. After AVEC closed, George Lovell, with a few others, developed a course about consultancy, mission and ministry. George has retired but the course continues at York St John’s College. Consultancy for Mission and Ministry is an excellent course for anyone interested in non-directive consultancy.

What is Non-directive Consultancy?

Consultancy has something of a bad name primarily because of out-sourcing, where specialist consultancy organisations carry out tasks instead of employees. We all know where that’s led.

Non-directive consultancy does the opposite. It is a mutual method, aiming to empower the people who are doing the work. It starts with the assumption that the consultor knows their job. They may need help in thinking things through. Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes they need help to see where they went wrong and how to move on from where they’ve ended up!

George Lovell’s two books, “Analysis and Design” and “Consultancy, Ministry and Mission” are the best introduction to the approach, although the course is essential if you want to learn the method.

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About the Author

I've been a community development worker since the early 1980s in Tyneside, Teesside and South Yorkshire. I've also worked nationally for the Methodist Church for eight years supporting community projects through the church's grants programme. These days I am developing an online community development practice combining non-directive consultancy, strategic management, participatory methods and development work online and offline. If you're interested contact me for a free consultation.

Leave a Reply 4 comments

Mark Woodhead - July 1, 2014 Reply

People interested in non-directive approaches might also be interested in the work of Reg Batten – who influenced Lovell. See the piece about Batten on Infed –

Although, in community development in recent years, I think there has been a move to some extent away from non-directive approaches, it seems to me that there is still much value and mileage in such approaches, especially when, for example, I hear a CD worker saying ‘community group X doesn’t want to do anything’, and it turns out on further investigation that, translating this into English, what he means is that he has been trying to push his latest fad or enthusiasm to community group X, and community group X have shown little enthusiasm, probably because they already have their own plans and priorities.

Chris - July 1, 2014 Reply

Yes thanks for the reminder about Batten, the actual page where you can find his details is . His contribution was based on his experience in Africa. So, rather like Participatory Rural Appraisal, the inspiration came to this country via Africa.

Your other point is interesting. I’ve found local people take to participatory methods more readily than so-called professionals. Try to hand over power to a professional and they push it back. “Oh no, you hold the pen!”. Once local people work out its genuine they generally don’t have a problem with it. I wasn’t aware there had been a move towards non-directive approaches, they’ve never been popular primarily because it means you can’t impose the latest fad through them.

Incarnation Online - Community Web Consultancy - December 28, 2016 Reply

[…] George Lovell’s non-directive consultancy for community and church workers, known as AVEC, supported many workers from all over the UK in the 70s and 80s. Lovell did not visit every community he helped. He was able to get alongside practitioners, who were the people present in their communities. […]

Why Does Business Development Matter? - Market Together Blog - January 16, 2019 Reply

[…] a coach or non-directive consultant.  A good coach not only boosts your brain power (two heads are better than one!) but sees your […]

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