All posts by Tom Bulman

part-time Community Organiser for Citizens:mk

Power holders pledge to support Citizens:mk campaign goals

The leaders of MK’s main political parties have pledged to support all the goals of all four current Citizens:mk campaigns.  Their pledges were made at Citizens:mk’s seventh annual Accountability Assembly, which took place at Cornerstone Church in Central Milton Keynes on 24th April.

225 people attended, including representatives from 17 member institutions and 24 other MK institutions.

After a members’ roll call, and the power-holders being led in by school children, the audience enjoyed a presentation of campaign successes over the past year.   

Cllr Peter Marland, Leader of MK Council (pictured above), was thanked for his role in delivering 130 Redway improvements – more than double the target of the Redways Relaunch campaign for MK’s 50th birthday year.

Then goals for the year ahead were presented by each campaign team (Fight Against Hate, Life Skills & Young People, Mental Health and House the Homeless) and pledges of support  were received.

Powerful testimonies were given from the victims of hate crime.  Jennifer Parsons of MK Muslim Association (pictured above), related how she had been verbally abused for wearing a hijab.

Supt Yvette Hitch, Area Commander for Thames Valley Police Milton Keynes (pictured below), stated her aim to deliver a police service for the whole community including marginalised communities.

In a one-to-one conversation during the break with Philip Shamamba, leader of MK Congolese Community, she agreed to attend an special meeting with that group.

Arriva Buses and Network Rail pledged to support the Fight Against Hate campaign with a poster display action during national Hate Crime Awareness Week in October.

The Mental Health campaign team won a pledge from the Deputy-director of MK Mental Health Service for further partnership in the campaign.

The students of St. Paul’s Catholic School (pictured above) won a pledge from their head teacher to include more finance skills education in the school curriculum.

Following a request from the House the Homeless campaign team, many members of the audience agreed an action to contribute to MK Council’s current consultation on affordable housing.

Each of the three political party leaders responded ‘Yes’ to each of Citizens:mk’s campaign asks and spoke briefly about their own party manifestos for the upcoming Council elections.  Cllr Alex Walker (Conservative), attending his first Accountability Assembly (pictured below), said he was impressed by the diversity of the Citizens:mk alliance and looked forward to working with the alliance.

The event ended with a rousing rendition of ‘We Built This City’ led by the choir of Summerfield Primary School (pictured below).

Mayor David Hopkins (pictured below) gave a final vote of thanks to all campaign team members and power-holders before the seventh annual Accountability Assembly was closed.

In a short evaluation by 25 participants immediately afterwards, the Assembly was scored 8/10.

Photos by Liam Hyatt.

Thanks to our grant funders in 2017-18:tudor-trust       and Master CMYK large

 

Citizens’ action on Affordable Housing consultation

Following the request by Lawrence Morgan, leader of our House the Homeless campaign team at the Accountability Assembly (centre in picture), here’s an action you can take to help create “genuinely” affordable homes in MK today.

We urge you to email a comment to MK Council’s Affordable Housing consultation by this Friday 27th April.

Below is our recommended comment, but please use your own words as you wish…

To: development.plans@milton-keynes.gov.uk

Subject line:  Affordable Housing SPD

Email Body: 

Greetings Council officer, I am writing today after attending the Citizens:mk Accountability Assembly and being made aware of your current consultation. These are the amendments I feel you should make:

Units under affordable housing rent model or LHA (whichever is lower) to be increased by a further 10% to what is already in the SPD. Social rent increased by another 5% in the document. With additional points:

  • Need for more diverse variety of housing tenure (include community-led housing models, CLTs,, co-op housing, coliving, cohousing etc) and include this into your affordable housing percentage to create “genuinely affordable” housing.
  • Priority of land allocation to be made available for community-led housing groups & self-build in support of Plan:MK section 7.43 (policy HN5).

Small scale IAPT Survey shows most don’t know meaning of ‘IAPT’

In Spring 2018, Citizens:mk’s Mental Health campaign team conducted a survey to find out about experiences of Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (‘IAPT’) among Muslim and LGBT+  communities in Milton Keynes.

This research was supported by Tyrone Blackford-Swarries, Director of MK Mental Health Services (pictured at the Citizens:mk Accountability Assembly last year), who is interested to know why some communities are less likely to undertake IAPT assessments than others.

Responses were received from 14 Muslims and 19 LGBT+ people, with combined results as follows:

  • 73% said that, if they needed a Mental Health assessment, they would use the IAPT service (12% knew the meaning of ‘IAPT’).
  • Two respondents (6%) gave ‘fear of bullying/prejudice/racism/sexism’ as a reason for not using the service.  Two said they were unable to face a phone assessment.
  • 88% said they were more likely to request and attend a face-to-face appointment if offered one in a location of their choice – 78% expressed home as a preference, 42% the Hospital, 30% Q:alliance meeting place).
  • 76% would take up the offer of a psychological therapy service.
  • Contact details were provided by 36% of respondents from Muslim communities and 3% of respondents from LGBT+.

These results will be discussed with the IAPT Team to explore policy implications.

 

Accountability Assembly 24th April 2018

Members of the local community are coming together in their hundreds at a Citizens:mk election assembly event to voice their concerns to would-be decision makers in order to improve the lives of poor and disadvantaged households including children and their families across the borough.

You are invited to attend our seventh annual

ACCOUNTABILITY ASSEMBLY 

Strengthening Our City

  • Citizens:mk hosts its Accountability Assembly on 24th April 2018 at Church of Christ the Cornerstone to address election candidates and ask that they pledge actions a range of social issues
  • Lawrence Morgan of Transition MK will lead a call for action to create a Community Land Trust in MK and a Citizens Guide advising pedestrians how to react to rough-sleepers, working closely with MK Homelessness Partnership
  • Fidele Mutwarisibo of The Open University will call for Restorative justice for the victims of hate crime and more action on removal of hate graffiti.
  • Others will call for action on Life Skills for Young People and Mental Health.
  • The leaders of MK’s main political parties will respond, also the Police Area Commander and other power-holders.

Powerful stories will be heard on stage from individuals who are directly affected by a shortage of housing in the city, difficult access to mental health services, lack of finance education in schools and hate crime on the streets of MK.  A school choir will sing about the city they want to grow up in.

 Book places here

Rev Tim Norwood, Area Dean and Co-Chair of Citizens:mk said: “We have planned this assembly to highlight the issues that matter most to people living in the borough ahead of the local elections with urgent asks on homelessness and hate crime.

“One of the benefits of being a non-political broad-based network of community leaders at Citizens:mk means we research broadly and listen carefully to what all corners of our neighbourhoods tell us they need and expect from their elected representatives.  We hope our asks will be accepted by candidates in the spirit we are sharing and put into action with promises.”

Arif Master of Zainabiya Islamic Centre, said: “Recently I experienced a series of hate incidents directed at me and my staff at my practice.  It was an unpleasant experience.  For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel like going to work in the morning.  Thanks to the leaders of the Citizens:mk Fight Against Hate campaign, the Police and local politicians began to respond and the young people were caught and made to apologise.”

 Book places here or call 07962 838685 if you have any questions.

House the Homeless – Day of Action 16.3.18

Citizens:mk partnered with YMCA Milton Keynes for a day of action to promote awareness and support for the new strategy of MK Homelessness Partnership and MK Council in addressing homelessness in MK.  The aims of the Day were to:

  1. Educate MK residents including children about homelessness and what city organisations (MK Council, voluntary organisations and businesses) are doing about it
  2. Celebrate the achievement of MK Homelessness Partnership producing its first MKHP Strategic Review Dec 2017 and MK Council approving a new Rough Sleeping Reduction Strategy  to reduce the number of people sleeping rough to zero by 2021.
  3. Collaborate in building power to support MK Council and MK Homelessness Partnership in achieving their goals.

First, at lunch time, pupils from three local primary schools enjoyed a facilitated Q&A session with four people who have experienced rough sleeping.  Click here to see what happened.

At 7.30pm, guests had an opportunity to quiz those in positions of leadership in addressing homelessness:  Cllr Peter Marland, Leader of the Council; Gamiel Yafai, Chair of MK Homelessness Partnership; Simon Green, CEO of YMCA MK; Lawrence Morgan and Suzanna Raymond of the Citizens:mk House the Homelessness campaign.  Guests enjoyed asking questions about the recommendations in the Strategic Review and their personal experiences of developing and delivering them (Cllr Marland pictured below)

At 9pm, 55 guests attended a House the Homeless Assembly at which Gamiel Yafai received a Citizens:mk Gold Award for MK Homelessness Partnership (pictured below) for developing a strategy with the goal of ending homelessness in MK.

Towards the end of the Assembly, a film was shown of Summerfield School Choir singing a song about homelessness, ‘We Will Fix You’.

After the Assembly, Ian Roberts and band played live music to entertain Sleep Easy volunteers as they prepared to bed down in the cold to raise money for YMCA.  Although the temperature didn’t get below freezing until 6am, the one-night volunteer ‘rough sleepers’ felt the chill and discomfort of sleeping rough in winter.   Click here if you would like to contribute to their fund-raising.

Truby’s Garden Tea Room, sponsored by Meals by Malik – a local Muslim Woman caterer) and the owner of a small Muslim led printing company Good Response, provided meals for those sleeping out and refreshments for those attending the Assembly.

Click here for link to recent MKFM radio interview with campaign leaders.

Children question homeless people at YMCA

At lunchtime on Friday 16th March, 16 pupils from three member primary schools visited YMCA MK to meet and interview four people who have direct experience of sleeping rough.

The aim of the event was to give the pupils a chance to get answers to some of the questions they had in researching for the House the Homelessness campaign, launched by Citizens:mk in February.

Pupil Rhianna Milne of Summerfield Primary School wrote afterwards:  “I have learned that homeless people don’t tell people because they’re embarrassed of people looking down on them.”

Another pupil, Olivia of St Monica’s Catholic Primary School, wrote:  “I liked that we got to talk to other people and get to know the experience they had.”

Another pupil, Nawaal of Jubilee Wood Primary School, wrote:  “It is hard to believe how people cope with homelessness.  I am grateful.”

Tom Davis (pictured), who had spent the previous night sleeping rough, said:  “Their questions were so intelligent and compassionate.  It was inspiring to hear how the young people have taken action to address homelessness.  I think we have potential campaigners!”

“This will inform our fundraising and awareness raising efforts,” said Rob O’Malley, Head teacher of St. Monica’s Primary School.

“We watched as our children demonstrated such compassion and care when speaking with our hosts,” wrote Ms Frost, teacher at Jubilee Wood Primary School.  “We were amazed as our children’s hearts melted as they listened and empathised with the experiences of others.”

To find out more about the Day of Action on Homelessness 16th March, click here.

Campaign leaders meet Leader of Council at Civic Offices

On Tuesday 13th March, campaign leaders met Cllr Peter Marland, Leader of MK Council, in his office.

First the pupils of three member schools – Jubilee Wood Primary, Summerfield Primary and MK Academy – presented evidence of their frustration that MK Council has still not provided a list dates for the scheduling of improvements to the Redways as part of his commitment to the Redways Relaunch campaign.  Cllr Marland agreed to arrange a meeting with the acting Head of Highways and report to the Citizens:mk Accountability Assembly on 24th April.

Then the pupils of Jubilee Wood Primary School shared their feelings about seeing rough sleepers in MK, stating that it made them feel “sad”, “guilty” and “disappointed”.  Lawrence Morgan, leader of the House the Homeless campaign, secured a pledge from Cllr Marland to attend the upcoming House the Homeless Assembly on 16th March and formally agree there to partnership in this important campaign (pictured below).

Police host Restorative Justice workshop in Fight against Hate

At Acorn House on 12th March, 19 people (pictured) attended a Restorative Justice workshop hosted by Police Area Commander Yvette Hitch and led by Ann Jansen-East of  Thames Valley Restorative Justice Service.

The workshop focused on what works in restorative justice, featuring powerful testimony from two women with direct experience of the process following abusive relationships.

Testimonies were also provided by Arif Masters of Zainabiya Centre and Cory Bond, formerly of YMCA MK.

At the end of the workshop, Area Commander Hitch pledged to:

  • increase the number of cases in MK where a restorative justice approach will be used (where appropriate)
  • ensure all her officers and staff have input from Ann Jansen-East
  • meet with members of the Citizens:mk Fight Against Hate campaign team to discuss the costs and benefits of growing police use of restorative justice in MK, especially looking at what has not worked in restorative justice approaches elsewhere and what could be done differently in the MK context.
  • attend the Citizens:mk Accountability Assembly on 24th April (if available).

Future discussions will include examination of what does not work in restorative justice and what could be one differently in the MK context?

Area Commander Hitch said:   “I felt the event was really useful in terms of highlighting  how victims can be empowered by the process and how offenders gain an insight into the effect of their behaviour on others.”

Action Learning Set motivates leadership

In the John Lewis Community Room on Saturday 10th March, three trainees from the Two-Day Training in October enjoyed their second Action Learning Set.

A short questionnaire a few days after the session, asking about self-perception Before and After, showed the following:

  • 33% average increase in ‘My awareness of tools for building relational power (6.0 to 8.0 out of 10)
  • 53% average increase in ‘My confidence in my community leadership’ (5.0 to 7.7 out of 10)
  • 26% increase in ‘My motivation to make positive change in my community’ (6.3 to 8.0 out of 10).

“I have gained so much beneficial knowledge from these sessions and it has definitely boosted me in confidence,” said Safee Khan of MK Muslim Association.  “This leadership programme has motivated me towards becoming a leader and has made me have more of a positive outlook on being part of a community.”

Sofia Hassan of Middle Eastern Cultural Group sad:  “In this session (my second Action Learning Set), I was more able to explain my concerns more than other sessions.  This is purely down to getting more confidence.  My awareness has increased tremendously.”

Action this Friday to support end to homelessness by 2021

As a first step towards the primary goal of our new House The Homeless campaign, Citizens:mk leaders have met with the Chair of MK Homelessness Partnership (MKHP) and agreed to work together.

At a special night-time assembly on Friday 16th March, Gamiel Yafai will receive a Citizens Gold Award for MKHP’s inspiring achievement in producing a Strategic Review to shift MK ‘from managing to ending homelessness’.  98 people from 13 Citizens:mk member institutions have pledged to attend.  Click here to come too.

MKHP is the Partnership through which MK Council has worked for 18 months with local homelessness organisations including Winter Night Shelter, Open Door, MK Bus Shelter and YMCA MK. Its mission is supported by all political parties on MK Council which, while managing the pressures of a greatly reduced budget, has agreed substantial funding to address the issue and end homelessness by 2021 (see recent BBC report).

Citizens:mk co-chair Kurshida Mirza said:  “We are delighted to be working with MK Homeless Partnership and look forward to supporting Gamiel and his team to help end homelessness in MK.  They deserve this award.”

Campaign leader Lawrence Morgan  said: “We are keen to support the MKHP in communicating its strategy through our campaign goals and network.  After talking with Gamiel, we recognise how the language in some of our goals needs adapting to reflect fully this supportive role.”

Jiten completes 6-Day Training

This month Jiten Patel of The Open University (pictured in action) has become the 19th MK leader to attend Citizens UK’s national 6-Day Training course since the Citizens:mk chapter was launched in 2010.

“It’s been a very good experience for me,” said Jiten.  “It has helped me to analyse where power really lies.”

Delegates launch campaigns on homelessness and life skills

On Monday 5th February, 85 people from 15 member institutions attended Citizens:mk’s 2018 Delegates Assembly.

Several moving testimonies were presented and four proposals were made for new campaign goals, all of which were formally approved by a majority of institutions present:

Pledges were also received for attendance at two upcoming assemblies to address power holders:

Institution Pledged Turnout at SleepOut Assembly  (House the Homeless campaign) 16.3.18 Pledged Turnout at annual Accountability Assembly  24.4.18
Church of Christ the Cornerstone 15 15
Future Wolverton
Jubilee Wood Primary School 4 15
Middle East Cultural Group 4
MK Academy 2 5
MK Muslim Association 5 15
MK Quaker Meeting 5 15
Open University 10 7
Q:alliance 7 7
St. Augustine’s RC Church
St. Frideswide’s Church 5 5
St. Monica’s Catholic Primary School 5
St. Paul’s Catholic School 10 10
Stantonbury Ecumenical Partnership
Summerfield Primary School 2 20
Transition MK 3 10
Truby’s Garden Tea Room 5 10
YMCA Milton Keynes. 25 5
98 148

In Evaluation immediately after the event, participants agreed a score of 7/10 for the assembly.

‘Sleep Easy’ mass sleep out 16th March

This year’s annual ‘Sleep Easy’ sleep out will take place in the Fred Roche Gardens behind the Church of Christ the Cornerstone, Central Milton Keynes.

YMCA Milton Keynes is raising funds for 2 reasons:

  1. To furnish the bedrooms in our new building, which is due to be complete  by June 2019 .
  2. To raise  funds to allow us to continue with our learning and support programme, because, as you will  be aware, funding from local government has drastically been cut, it is therefore vitally important that we fundraise to continue with our work with the help of organisations such as yourself , supporters of the YMCA and the local community.

For further information, click Sleep Easy booklet 2018.

To register to join the Sleep Easy sleep out, click here.  There is a small fee which will cover the cost of  hot drinks, soup & rolls, and a breakfast bap the next morning.

Please register and help us to reach our Sleep Easy Fundraising target of £10,000.

For those who are unable to sleep out, but are intending to come to the Assembly on the evening, please advise Paul Griffiths.

Twilight Training session 29.1.18

Nine leaders from 7 institutions attended the second of three Twilight Training sessions following Two-Day Training 6-7.10.17.

The aim was to cover the following:

  • Building and nurturing a campaign team
  • Finding and supporting powerful testimony
  • Identifying external power-holders
  • Presenting confidently to an Assembly.

The overall impact on trainees, according to their before/after ratings, was:

  • 34% increase in ‘My awareness of tools for building relational power’
  • 48% increase in ‘My confidence in my community leadership’
  • 26% increase in ‘My motivation to make positive change in my community’.

“This was a very good bite sized workshop where we were able to engage with each other and apply principles to real life community issues,” said Jiten Patel of The Open University.

“I’ve enjoyed these training sessions thoroughly,” said Safa Khan of MK Muslim Association.  “They have given me positive insight regarding community matters, I have gained beneficial knowledge which has motivated me to seeking more and doing more for society to create positive change.”

“While I was aware of the tools and techniques and have used them in the past,” said Linda McComie of Truby’s Garden Tea Room, “the training provided both reinforcement of my knowledge but more importantly gave a completely different perspective in how they can be used effectively.”

“This training has the benefit of building our relationships and networks with like-minded individuals,” said Linda Kirk from St. Frideswide’s Church.

“I really do feel the twilight training sessions are very beneficial in order to meet other like minded individuals who are on the same path, alongside trying to further our own campaigns,” said Jean-Louis Button of Transition MK.

“I found it a great opportunity for learning and enhancing my skills,” said Shamsa Qureshi of MK Muslim Assoication.  “I think its a very good initiative by you for MK community for developing insight towards the issues and learning practical approaches to resolve them altogether.”

At the end, participants were asked to share issues they face and actions they plan to take in preparation for presentation to Delegates Assembly on 5.2.18 and beyond.

The third and final Twilight Training session will take place on Monday 16th April 2018 @ 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm.  Click here for details.

Campaign Research teams meet to draft SMART goals

Following Leaders Forum in November, 10 people from six member institutions met to create first draft  SMART goals for a campaign to address Housing and Homelessness:

  • Street homeless – provision of a 10-bed wet hostel to be included in Health & Wellbeing Strategy
  • Homeless families -owners of Cable & Wireless building to sell or rent the building to MK Council for XX homeless families
  • LGBT and minorities – standardise gathering of data to identify the true number of homeless people including LGBT and minorities.

These draft goals, perhaps with others, will be considered at a further meeting on 23rd January, 5-7pm, at Acorn House.

Meeting participants gave a score of 8/10 for the meeting.

First action learning set for Two-Day Trainees

Five leaders from four member institutions attended the first of three Action Learning Sets  following Two-Day Training 6-7.10.17.

Each of the five participants took turns to present an issue blocking their leadership and take open questions from the group, then decided on one or two actions to take before next meeting.

The overall impact on trainees, according to their before/after ratings, was:

  • 78% increase in ‘My awareness of tools for building relational power’
  • 100% increase in ‘My confidence in my community leadership’
  • 67% increase in ‘My motivation to make positive change in my community’.

“I found the session very helpful and interesting,” said participant Sofia Hassan.  “It has helped me to have the confidence to talk about concerns that I have in the community and be able to approach some of the power holders.  I’m looking forward to the next session too.”

My experience of mentoring – Tim Norwood, 30.11.17

I’ve done one so far and have modeled it in sessions I’ve done with similar courses.

I’ve started the first session by laying out some ground rules, ie confidentiality, role, and expectations. I’ve been clear that my role is to listen and ask questions, not to tell them what to do. I have also pointed out that we are teaching community organising, so I will keep bringing the conversation back to the methods and principles of community organising.

I then asked questions about their context, focusing on their personal goals and self-interest/vocation. I’ve taken notes and probed on issues which seemed relevant.

When necessary I’ve made tried to frame questions in terms of 121s, self-interest, power analysis, etc… and made suggestions about how they might use these tools.

I’ve made notes as we went, high-lighting key issues and actions that they might take.

Towards the end of the season I began to focus on “next steps”. We finished the first season with three clear actions that they were going to commit to do before we meet again. We then agreed a date to meet.

Fight Hate poster display wows Jubilee Wood pupils – 27.11.17

Following the launch of the Fight Against Hate campaign poster display on the front of Church of Christ the Cornerstone last month (see news story), the banners have been moved to Jubilee Wood Primary School.

The photo above shows pupils chatting about the display a few hours after its arrival.  It is expected that more than 600 people – school pupils, parents, staff, governors and visitors – will pass the display in the next few days.

The posters will be displayed here for a while, before moving to other participating primary schools across the city.

Twilight Training launches Homelessness campaign research – 20.11.17

Ten leaders from seven  institutions attended the first of three Twilight Training sessions following Two-Day Training 6-7.10.17.

The aim was to develop power analyses for each of the main issues prioritised at Leaders Forum on 14.11.17 – Homelessness & Housing, Mental Health & Isolation, Young Voices and Life Skills.

The overall impact on trainees, according to their before/after ratings, was:

  • 100% increase in ‘My awareness of tools for building relational power’
  • 95% increase in ‘My confidence in my community leadership’
  • 30% increase in ‘My motivation to make positive change in my community’.

“Lots of information was covered in a short space of time,” said trainee Caro Marshall, of St. Augustine’s Catholic Church, “and some real work was done that wouldn’t have been otherwise achieved.”

“The session was good,” said Lawrence Morgan of Transition MK. “I like the fact more of an interaction type of training. the scale of power and influence is very useful.”

“(The training had) lots of different tools and ideas that can be of great value,” said Jean-Louis Bretton, attending his first Citizens:mk training session.

Plans were made for 121s with key individuals who might provide powerful testimony and help to create SMART campaign goals ready for presentation to Delegates Assembly on 5.2.18.

The first meeting for campaign teams will be held on Tuesday 12th December, 5-7pm, at Jury’s Inn.

Meeting with OCS Group UK Ltd gets us closer to MK50 Living Wage target

In a small action towards the target of MK50 Living Wage accredited employers, campaign leaders Debbie Wilson and Sheila Bacon (pictured) followed up last week’s action by meeting with OCS Group UK Ltd manager Roger Young.

Mr Young confirmed that OCS Group UK Ltd is already an accredited Living Wage employer and said he would do what he could to ensure that all contractors with thecentre:mk were also accredited, so that thecentre:mk can be recognised and celebrated as an accredited employer…hopefully before the end of 2017, MK’s 50th birthday!

Leaders Forum 2017 sets off new campaign research teams

This year’s Leaders Forum was hosted by Jubilee Wood Primary School and attended by 55 leaders from 15 member institutions.

17 issues were raised and four campaign research teams established:

  • Homelessness & Housing (led by Suzanna Raymond of Q:alliance, Paul Griffiths and Brett Farrier-Smith of MK YMCA)
  • Mental Health & Isolation (led by Meghan Taylor and pupils of St. Paul’s Catholic School, Caro Marshall of St. Augustine’s Catholic Church and Linda McComie of Truby’s Garden Tea Room)
  • Life Skills for young people (led by Rebecca Selves of Jubilee Wood Primary School and Polly of St. Paul’s Catholic School)
  • Young Voices (led by Alan Bainbridge of MK Quaker Meeting and Hilarie Bowman of Transition MK).

Each team has members from three member institutions, a leader and co-leader, at least one of whom will attend the Twilight Training session on research methods on Monday 20th November, 5.30-7.30pm at Acorn House.

Their task over the winter months is to craft SMART campaign goals to be presented for the consent of Delegates Assembly on 5th February 2018.

Other issues raised at Leaders Forum were:

  • Bullying
  • Buses
  • Debt
  • FishermeadHate crime
  • Male role models
  • Muslim female swimming facilities
  • Parking
  • Redways
  • Speeding
  • Plastic
  • Pollution.

In post-event evaluation, this year’s Leaders Forum scored 9/10.

Action to get thecentre:mk talking about Living Wage – 7.11.17

11 leaders from seven member institutions took action to get  the management of Thecentre:mk talking about the Living Wage.

Thecentre:mk is one of MK’s most famous institutions, defining in part at least our very culture as a community.  MK’s largest building, it was opened by PM Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and today attracts 27m shoppers to MK each year from around the region.  Earlier this year,  it was announced that thecentre:mk will undergo a £50m revamp.

Citizens:mk’s Living Wage campaign team has been working for more than five years to drive up the number of MK employers who are accredited  Real Living Wage employers, i.e. those who are committed to paying all staff and contract workers at least £8.45 per hour (the wage independently calculated to be what is needed for a decent standard of living).

And with some success…48 employers have been accredited so far (see list of MK fair employers).  But the campaign’s target was 50 by the end of 2017, to celebrate MK’s 50th birthday.

The Living Wage campaign team wanted to show thecentre:mk the various benefits of being a Living Wage Employer.

Led by Debbie Wilson and Sheila Bacon of MK Quaker Meeting, with the help of Kurshida Mirza and Ayser Al Jawad of Truby’s Garden Tearoom and the Middle Eastern Cultural Group, the team finally got a face-to-face meeting with thecentre:mk’s administrator, Debbie Stevens, which led to a meeting with CEO Kevin Duffy.

Mr Duffy is concerned that accrediting thecentre:mk as a real Living Wage employer will give the public the wrong impression that all retailers in thecentre:mk are all accredited.

This is a work in progress.

MK business leaders rally for Living Wage – 7.11.17

MK leads UK on Real Living Wage – press release

MK businsess leaders met to celebrate reaching 48 of a campaign target of ’50 MK employers accredited by the Living Wage Foundation in 2017, MK’s 50th birthday’.

See list of MK’s Real Living Wage employers.  More than 1,500 MK employees have received a pay rise as a result of our Living Wage campaign so far.

The breakfast event was  hosted by Dentons UKMEA LLP  and attended by 46 adults plus the Summerfield Primary School choir.  The choir performed its new Living Wage song led by teaching assistant and composer, Nikki Elgar,  See video of recording on 12.10.17 (pictured below).

There were speeches from business leaders:

  • Santander – Karen Robson
  • 123 Internet Group – Scott Jones
  • KPMG Living Wage stats – presented by Suresh Nesaratnam
  • The Open University – Lucian Hudson

and community leaders:

  • MK Council – Cllr Peter Marland, Leader
  • MK Community Foundation – Ian Revell, CEO
  • Winter Night Shelter – Richard Wightman, Chair

Lola McEvoy from Living Wage Foundation spoke about the Future of Living Wage, and the event ended with Summerfield Primary School Choir singing  ‘We Built This City Called Milton Keynes’.

Guests were then invited to join the campaign team in an action to present a letter to thecentre:mk management asking for a discussion about Living Wage accreditation.

It is hoped that two more MK employers will be recruited to become accredited Living Wage employers before the end of 2017,.

Network Rail share listening campaign with Summerfield School – 6.11.7

Three volunteers from Network Rail visited Summerfield Primary School to hear from pupil councillors what issues had been raised in the school’s recent listening campaign.  Then they returned to Network Rail to undertake some one-to-one meetings with colleagues and find out what community issues they were concerned about.

The three Network Rail staff were Taiwo Adesanya, Gullemo Porras and Tolu Adewole.  They discovered that their colleagues had very similar concers to the children:  redway safety and homelessness.   The children pledged to include this in their report to Leaders Forum on 14th November.

After meeting with the School Council, the three Network Rail staff volunteered to help 40 Year 5 pupils with a litter pick on the redways surrounding the school.  Pictured below is Tolu (far left) with some of the pupils.

“The redways are much freer of litter than before we began this campaign,” said head teacher Pam Weston.

Building Bridges across Fishermead – 4.11.17

34 people attended a Weaving Trust event at Jubilee Wood Primary School.  While their children joined a football tournament organised by Galaciticos FC, parents and others from the Fishermead community enjoyed eight short one-to-one conversations with guests including Citizens:mk members and representatives from Fishermead Residents Association and Thames Valley Police.

Head teacher Tony Berwick said:  “This event was a very important first step in building an alliance across Fishermead committed to raising the profile of this amazing community and our school will help in any way we can.”

Before the Weaving Trust circle of conversations, there were speeches in favour of community cohesion:  Tony Berwick, Headteacher; Sophia Kibirige and Fidele Mutwarisibo, Citizens:mk; PCSO Zoe Genova and PCSO Paul Colbourn of Thames Valley Police; Terry Baines of Fishermead Residents Association; and two pupils from Jubilee Wood School Council spoke to the group

“Fishermead is my home,” said a Year 4 pupil (pictured below with a fellow Councillor), “and I like living here.”
In the plenary after the Weaving Trust circle, many people commented positively on  the diversity and growing community cohesion in Fishermead.

Participants were then asked to write down their priority issue for action, as shown below.  These issues will be discussed by the School Council and two prioritised for taking to the Citizens:mk Leaders Forum.

Issues raised

  • Raise awareness about mental health especially among young people
  • Concrete, boring, uninspiring, urban
  • Post office missed
  • Deliberate damage to cars
  • Stop public drinking
  • Give parents more parenting tools to help their children – mental and emotional support
  • More activities in Fishermead and whole MK
  • I like to see more interaction within the community
  • Create more opportunities for community to interact with each other to promote cohesion
  • More meetings and more events for family
  • How to reach new residents on estates in MK inc Fishermead – community engagement
  • Getting wider sector together like Eastern Europeans to get a better mix of community
  • Create a platform to spread the good work that is being done in Fishermead
  • Create community platform for exchange of ideas
  • Community cohesion
  • Rubbish is always a problem.  Encourage each resident to keep own frontage clean
  • Rubbish dump outside of the house
  • Litter and recycling
  • Litter.  Stop littering
  • Litter.  Improve first impressions
  • More teenage activities so we could meet more people and teenagers won’t be bored
  • Engage teenagers in after school activities
  • Community youth groups
  • Put up more equipment for older students
  • Provide activities for young people to do after school
  • Clear redways
  • Trim redways
  • Community clean up redway, pirate park
  • Issue with pirate park.  Some people find it unsafe
  • Need for greater safety at night at the pirate park
  • Lighting on redways is missing
  • We would like the community gates to the corner flats made more secure, preventing groups from congregating in the stairwells
  • Pavements.  I have fallen over before.
  • Level paths so children don’t trip up.

Weaving Trust against Hate at Zainabiya Centre – 21.10.17

On Saturday 21st October, 20 guests form 9 institutions, including Supt. Yvette Hitch from Thames Valley Police,  were hosted in a Weaving Trust at the Zainabiya Centre, facilitated by Alan Bainbridge of MK Quaker Meeting.  Many conversations were enjoyed and thoughts on how to tackle hate crime were shared, including:

  • It is encouraging that so few of us have personally experienced hatred and we must not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed and become despondent by negative news stories.
  • On the other and we were a self selected and somewhat privileged group. We may be living in a bubble. How do we engage more marginalised people?
  • We cannot afford to sit on our hands. Someone referred to Martin Niemöller’s poem pointing out that if we don’t stand up for those who are oppressed then in the end no one will be left to speak for us.

Talking to people after the event, facilitator Alan reflected that there may have been deeper conversations about the issues than was represented in the telephone texts he collected.  “It may be difficult sometimes for participants to collect and record truly penetrating insights,” he said.  “However, the value of Weaving Trust lies more in the personal contact and conversations – it is our article of faith that dialogue creates its own benefits.”

Click here for full list of text insights.

Standing below are the organisers.

Children sing for city leaders’ support in Fight Against Hate

Children from Summerfield Primary School sang to the chief police officer and other city leaders at the city church in a plea for more action on hate crime.

In a day of action organised by Citizens:mk, as part of national Hate Crime Awareness week, the school choir sang a specially composed song, ‘Love is stronger than hate’.   See video.

“People look different, but inside we’re all the same,” the children sang.  “If we stand up strong together, we can stamp out hate forever.”

Clapped on by 75 supporters from 16 MK faith, education and business organisations, the song helped to secure specific pledges of further action from city power-holders.

Earlier the audience heard a series of testimonies from victims of hate crime, including  male and female muslims who had experienced Islamophobic hate against them and a gay man who had been assaulted in a club for dancing with his partner.

Bart Gamber, Director of Programmes at MK Community Foundation, reported that there has been a 25% increase in reports
of race-based hate crime in Milton Keynes since 2015.

After the children’s song, Yvette Hitch, Superintendent LPA Commander of Thames Valley Police (pictured below), pledged to organise a workshop on restorative justice and nominate a liaison officer to monitor and meet with Citizens:mk quarterly.

Hannah O’Neil, Deputy Leader of the Council, pledged to host two Healing through hearing events for victims of hate crimes and send two representatives to the new restorative justice workshop.

Kieran Lawson, General Manager of Arriva Buses, officially launched a new bus poster campaign to raise awareness of hate.  “Arriva wants our passengers and drivers to be fully safe at all times,” he said, “so raising awareness of hate crime through this poster campaign is absolutely in our mission.”

Fidele Mutwarisibo, who leads the Citizens:mk Fight Against Hate campaign team, said: “Milton Keynes is a great place to live and work, but there has been a 14% increase in reported hate crime over the past year and we must work together to do something about it.”

As part of the Day of Action, two large banners featuring the children’s ‘love is stronger than hate’ posters, were hung from the front of Church of Christ the Cornerstone.  The Rev John Robertson, Director of MK Mission Partnership, officially unveiled them.

Citizens UK’s Esmat Jeraj, who presented the ‘Missing Muslims’ report published earlier this year by the national commission on Islam, Participation & Public Life, said:  “It was truly an inspiring event, with strong and diverse turnout from individuals of all ages and backgrounds (from the LGBTQ alliance to the Church and Mosque). The passion from all those speaking was evident and reflections from attendees was that this was an uplifting and inspirational event.”

Click here for more photos (courtesy of Mubasher Maqbool.)

Click here to hear ‘Love is stronger than hate’ by the choir of Summerfield Primary School.

Click here for Fidele’s experience.

Click here for Nikki’s experience.

Click here to see design of posters on Arriva buses

For further information about the Citizens:mk Fight Against Hate campaign, click here.

Nikki’s experience of 18.10.17 action

I loved the Fight Against Hate action day that I attended and found it a hugely motivational and positive event. It was great that the children were so involved too, not only when singing the song, but when they had the opportunity to question and listen to others and share their own experiences of hate.

It was particularly beneficial for them to hear from other people’s experiences as this helps them to understand that words and actions have consequences but also that they are not alone if they have experienced hate directed at them.

Following on from my Leadership Training with Citizens MK, the importance of reaching significant power holders was demonstrated at the action day when pledges were made by people in power to support the anti hate campaign. This also showed the children how powerful we can all be in making a change and working together.

When writing the Love is Stronger Than Hate song, I really wanted it to highlight that differences are not reasons to divide and that all our friends are different from us but fundamentally we all want and need the same things. We are responsible for our feelings and actions and, by working together, we are powerful enough to make changes without pointing blame at others. When we are young, many of our thoughts are shaped by others’ opinions so it is important for children to question things and really recognise that hate is due to lack of understanding and isn’t based in fact.

The children love singing and I love writing songs and lyrics to teach them about their world and what a positive impact they can have.

Listen to ‘Love is stronger than hate’.

20 leaders complete Two-Day Training, 6-7th October

20 leaders from 13 institutions (8 member institutions) completed Two-Day Training on 6-7th October 2017.

In post-Training evaluation, the trainees gave an average score of 9.5 out of 10 for the Two-Day Training course as a whole, higher than last year’s score.

A short questionnaire a few days after the course, asking about self-perception Before and After, yielded the following results:

  • 97% average increase in ‘My awareness of tools for building relational power (4.2 to 8.3 out of 10)
  • 72% average increase in ‘My confidence in my community leadership’ (4.6 to 7.9 out of 10)
  • 35% increase in ‘My motivation to make positive change in my community’ (6.6 to 8.9 out of 10).

“I feel positive and inspired,” said Caro Marshall of St. Augustine’s Catholic Church.

“There were lots of people from different backgrounds,” said Brett Farrier-Smith of MK YMCA.  “I felt empowered.”

“What a great group of people,” said Tony Berwick, Head teacher of Jubilee Wood Primary School.  “I loved talking to them.”

“I look forward to starting some positive work for Q:alliance and feel the framework you have shared is a good tool,” said Helen Pritchard of Q:alliance LGBT+ group.

“When I started this course, I didn’t feel like I was a leader,” said Linda Mccomie of St. Edward’s Catholic Church.  “Now I feel i am!”

” I have realised the importance of the leadership course and I would like to join the following ones if it is possible,” said Rooda Abdillahi, of MK Somali Community and Global Outreach Foundation.

“I went on a break from humanity for a while,” said Will Cofie, a Greenleys resident.  “This training gave me hope again.”

“It was good & practical  learning experience,” said Ahmed Saadat, a Fishermead resident.  “In fact I learn new things which I can apply in my personal and public life.”

Now the trainees will embark on a series of follow-up activities over the next eight months:

  • Three Twilight Training sessions (Research, Action, Evaluation), 5.30-7.30pm on Mondays 20thNovember, 29th January and 16th April, at Acorn House, 381 Midsummer Boulevard, Milton Keynes MK9 3HP.
  • Three Action Learning Sets ending with final short presentation in last session, 9.30am-12pm on Saturdays 9th December, 10thMarch and 16th June, at Church of Christ the Cornerstone, 300 Saxon Gate, Milton Keynes MK9 2ES.
  • Three one-to-one Mentoring sessions with individual members of Citizens:mk Leadership Group who have attended Citizens UK’s 6-Day Training at mutually convenient dates/times/locations, to be arranged.

Attendees of Two-Day Training 6-7th October 2017:

First Name Surname Institution
Ahmed Saadat Fishermead  resident
Alifa Chowdhury Southwood Primary School
Beatrice Tz Global Outreach Foundation
Brett john Farrier-Smith MK YMCA
Caro Marshall St. Augustine’s Catholic Church
Christine Davies MK All Womens Welfare Association
Donna Taylor Smith Jubilee Wood Primary School
Helen Pritchard Q:alliance
Jimmy El-Zamek Conniburrow Big Local
Linda McComie Trubys Garden Tea Room
Maria Zimbabwe Global Outreach Foundation
Nicola Elgar Summerfield Primary School
Paul Griffiths MK YMCA
Philippa Marshall St. Augustine’s Catholic Church
Roda Abdillahi Ibrahim Global Outreach Foundation
Safa Aamir MK Muslim Association
Shammi Akter MK All Womens Welfare Association
Sofia Hassan Middle Eastern Cultural Group
Tess Price Church of Christ the Cornerstone
Tony Berwick Jubilee Wood Primary School
Wamedh Abdulkereem Middle Eastern Cultural Group
Will Coffie Greenleys resident
Leadership Group members who have attended 6-Day Training
Tim Norwood
Fidele Mutwarisibo
Kurshida Mirza
Debbie Wilson
Ayser Al Jawad

MK Academy students check MK Council progress on Redway improvements

Three students from MK Academy attended a meeting with MK Council’s Head of Highways, Sean Rooney, to check on the progress of his pledge to produce a list of dated improvement projects early this term.

Sean Rooney said the list hadn’t been finalised yet, but would be sent over by 16th October.  Sean and his colleagues showed the students around the Ringway site which maintains the vehicles and other equipment which keeps MK’s roads safe.

Afterwards one of the students said:  “It was good to be respected at the meeting, but we were disappointed that the list wasn’t ready yet.”

Pictured are students John, Tomasz Wisniewski and Harry Smith, with Gary Thorn of Ringway (left) and Sean Rooney of MK Council (right).

Network Rail plan to help MK Academy with Redways Relaunch

Taiwo Adesanya, Management Accountant of Network Rail, recently visited MK Academy to congratulate two pupils on receiving their Young Citizen certificates.

Student Harry Smith (pictured with Taiwo) was commended for his co-leadership of the Redways Relaunch campaign during 2016-17.

Taiwo pledged commitment to organising a team of Network Rail staff to volunteer a day of clearing and cleaning the Redways around the school in October 2017.

Noorah Mohammed wins Fight Against Hate poster competition – 19.7.17

Noorah Mohammed, Year 5 pupil at Summerfield Primary School, has been awarded first prize in the ‘Fight Against Hate’ campaign poster competition.  The runners up were Frankie O’Connor of Great Linford Primary School and Fariss Kapaga, also of Summerfield School.

The competition was sponsored by Arriva Buses, represented by General Manager Kieran Lawson, and The Open University, who hosted the awards event.

“We are proud of what the pupils have done to raise awareness of this very important issue,” said Lucian Hudson, the OU’s Director of Communications.

“It is good for Arriva to be doing something for the wider community,” said Kieran Lawson.  “I have no doubt we will be working together on this important issue in the years to come.”

Five primary schools brought pupils who were shot-listed for an award:  Great Linford, Jubilee Wood, St. Monica’s, Summerfield and Tickford Park.

“We are delighted to have two winners from our school,” said Pam Weston, Headteacher of Summerfield.  “We want to carry on with this important campaign next year.  Our school is located in a very mixed area of MK and we love to be part of it!”

The Summerfield children’s choir sang ‘We Built This City Called Milton Keynes’ and a specially commissioned new song, ‘Love Is Stronger Than Hate’.  Click here to hear Nikki Elgar and the Summerfield School Choir on BBC Three Counties Radio (1hr 50mins and 44secs into the show).

“We’re all different but we’re all the same on the inside,” said Nikki Elgar of Summerfield School.

“The Open University has an ongoing commitment to this campaign,” said Jiten Patel, the OU’s Head of Equality, Diversity and Information Rights, who organised the poster competition.  “Let’s make hate history.”

Pictured above are Noorah and Lucian Hudson, who presented the award.  Pictured below is the Summerfield School choir in full voice.

 

 

50 Redway improvements could be 500, Council Leader tells pupils

Seven pupils from three schools attended a second meeting with Cllr Peter Marland, Leader of MK Council, and Sean Rooney, Head of Highways.  Also attending were David Foster and Rob Riekie, Chief Executive and Operations Director of The Parks Trust.

This was the second formal meeting between pupils and the main power-holders in Citizens:mk’s Redways Relaunch campaign.  The schools represented in the negotiations this time were MK Academy, St. Monica’s and Summerfield Primary School.

Sean Rooney explained that his team had been researching the feasibility of the Redway improvements proposed by pupils at the last meeting, and that most would be implemented.  The changes will include new lamp posts, clearing bushes and applying new surface treatments.  He said these would be detailed in a RAG-rated list, including improvements on Parks Trust land, and this would be shared with the schools for accountability.

Sean Rooney pledged that works would begin this summer and some of the new lamp posts would be ready this autumn.

He also proposed that pupils could design with individual school branding the heavy-duty stickers that would be used on lamp posts to identify the relaunched Redways surrounding each school.

“We have listened to you,” he told the pupils, “and we need to keep on listening”.

Councillor Marland said:  “The 50 improvements you want could be 500 improvements if we involve other schools and some of the businesses you are working with.”  Various business partners are already engaged in the campaign – Dentons, Network Rail, Santander, Shoosmiths –  and the meeting agreed it would be good to engage them further.

“Let’s do this across MK,” said David Foster.  “It’s unusual to hear directly the voices of young people…and we want to hear more of them.”   Rob Riekie offered that Parks Trust staff could walk with pupils around the Redways on Parks Trust land to look at other ways they can be made safer.

“Talking to these important people has helped me become more confident,” said 11-year-old Miriam from St. Monica’s Catholic Primary School.

“It’s clear that they’re taking us seriously,” said 14-year-old John from MK Academy.

Josephine Osei – Citizens:mk Youth Leader of 2016-17

After a year leading the Redways Relaunch campaign, 18-year-old Josephine Osei of MK Academy has been awarded Citizens:mk’s Young Leader of the Year Award.  This is a new award recognising the extraordinary talents of MK’s most able youth leaders.

“Before I started the Citizens:mk program, I was just like any other teenager who had something that they were angry about but did not have any power or motivation to create a change,” said Josephine.  “Then I attended a one day training and realised that actually I could have the power to make a real change in my community.”

In its first year, the Redways Relaunch campaign has had remarkable success.  First, a student-led survey of more than 2,000 students in five MK schools showed that, while 80% used the Redways (pedestrian and cycle paths) only 40% felt safe on them.  Most thought that three things could be done to make a difference:  improving lighting, cutting back bushes and reducing litter.

“Young people like the Redways, but want them to be brighter, safer and cleaner,” said Josephine.  “Through this Citizens program I have learnt to be a leader, one who knows what is right and does it by collaborating with people in power.  Through this journey, I have seen my actions inspiring other people and this has been very fulfilling for me.

“One thing that I have been able to overcome is my fear of speaking in an open crowd.  It has actually made me feel unstoppable.  Now, if I want to do something, I feel empowered to do it because my self confidence has increased greatly.”

In her role as campaign leader, Josephine addressed  various audiences including 70 business people gathered at MK’s City Breakfast Club at thestadium:mk.

“Josephine has increased her confidence and developed her leadership skills to such an extent she can now communicate with all elements of the community,” said MK Academy teacher Debbie Gockelen, “sometimes leading adults much older than herself.”

“I would personally recommend this role to each and every student who knows that they also want to be a part of a change,” said Josephine.

Pictured above, Josephine speaks directly to the Leader of the Council in front of 400 school pupils outside Marks & Spencer in the city centre.  On behalf of the pupils in five schools she asked for, and won, a pledge in MK’s 50th birthday year to make 50 improvements to the Redways.

Researching young people’s priority mental health issues – 11.7.17

Roz Mascarenhas from the Youth Participation Team of MK Council invited Citizens:mk’s Mental Health campaign team to lead a Mental Health workshop at the MySayMK Conference for pupils from local secondary schools.  The conference was held at MK Christian Centre in Oldbrook (pictured).

The workshop was facilitated by campaign leader Tess Price and two new team members, Brett Farrier-Smith and Laura Gaskell from the YMCA, along with Community Organiser Tom Bulman.  The workshop was delivered twice to a total of about 50 young people aged 11-16.

Through structured conversations (121, small group and whole group), short-listing and a process of voting at the end, the following mental health issues were prioritised for action (in priority order):

  1. Teacher Support and Awareness of Mental Health Needs and Issues in School (20 Votes)
  2. Support at School for Individual Needs (16 Votes)
  3. Teacher education/training on Mental Health (12 Votes)
  4. Improving Access to Services and Support for ‘Lower Risk’ Young People who can’t access CAMHS (9 Votes)
  5. De-stigmatising Mental Health needs, especially taking into account students/young people’s individual backgrounds, cultures and religions (9 Votes)
  6. Treating everyone the same, in school and outside school, so that young  people don’t feel further isolated/stigmatised by their mental health needs/issues (9).

It was agreed that the outcomes would be shared with MK Council and other stakeholders including the Joint Commissioner for the Clinical Commissioning Group and the Director of MK Mental Health Services.

Pupils get creative in fight against hate – 3.7.17

From 12th to 19th July, The Open University is hosting an exhibition of children’s art work to raise awareness of hate crime.  In a campaign organised by Citizens:mk, posters created by pupils from four MK primary schools will be judged by a panel including Arriva buses, whose marketing manager has agreed to display Fight Against Hate posters on MK buses this Autumn.  The poster competition was launched by the Bishop of Oxford in May.

Lucian Hudson, Director of Communications at The Open University and Chair of Citizens:mk, said:  “The Open University is delighted to be hosting this exhibition.  Raising awareness of how hate crime affects us all  is important to our shared vision of MK as a thriving, more inclusive and fairer MK.”

Sophia Kibirige, Treasurer of MK Muslim Association and School Governor at Summerfield Primary School, said:  “This competition is a great way for the children to express their natural kindness and show how much they want to live in a community without hate.”

At the competition awards event on 19th July, the Summerfield School choir will perform a song written especially for the campaign, ‘Love not hate’.  Prizes for competition winners include Apple computers.

Fidele Mutwarisibo, member of Church of Christ the Cornerstone and leader of the Fight Against Hate campaign, said:  “Raising awareness through this poster competition is one of our four goals for the campaign in its first year.  I am so pleased that we are all getting a chance to see and hear how much the children of MK care about this issue.”

To see and hear the pupils’ views and voices, sign up to attend the Poster Exhibition & Awards event at The Open University on Wednesday 19th July, 10.00-11.30am (arrival from 9.30).  Contact Jiten Patel, organiser of the competition,  jiten.patel@open.ac.uk .

(Pictured above are pupils of Summerfield Primary School Council after receiving their ‘Young Citizen 2016-17’ awards at the end of June.)

Successful Healing through Hearing pilot – 28.6.17

On Wednesday 28th June, two groups of five hate crime survivors met to share their experience and ask one another questions.  Among them were men and women of different ages who have experienced hate because of their religion, race,  LGBT identity or disability.

Running this pilot event was one of the four goals of the Fight Against Hate campaign launched in February 2017.

Hosted at MK Civic Offices, and facilitated by two campaign team members from The Open University, the pilot event was seen to be a success because the participants, who had not met before, said they would like to meet again.

Themes discussed included verbal sexual abuse, bullying/victimisation, isolation, fear for personal safety, anxiety, not knowing where to turn, futility of reporting to police, anger and frustration, inter and intra community tensions and  violence.

One  facilitator observed that people left feeling more supported as a result of having shared.

Ayser Al Jawad, Middle Eastern Cultural Group

What is your proudest Citizens moment?

Witnessing  important issues, being presented by normal people (citizens) working together toward a common goal and achieving it.  I observed stake holders including the city councillors from all different political parties and MPs agree to the people’s requests for accepting more refugees, to sign up to Living Wage and more.  The most recent proud moment was being part of the team that planned the Great Get Together Iftaar on 16th June.

What’s the impact of membership been on you and your institution? 

This year, our community took part in various events and actions.   We developed strong links and relationships, both personal and as an organisation., friendships with people from all walks of life and from many local and national organisations.   We achieved exposure for our work and goals, and found common ground, values, aims and passions, shared with many in our wider MK community.

What are you most looking forward to over the next 12 months?

I am looking forward to the next task;  planning and organising a Fight Against Hate summit during national Hate Crime Awareness Week which will be mid-October.  We will be supporting Citizens:mk’s Fight Against Hate campaign team.   As a community we are looking forward to achieving more, grabbing opportunities, developing and making greater impact in our society under the Citizens:mk umbrella.

Santander clears St. Paul’s School Redway – 26.6.17

On Monday 26th June, 16 staff from MK’s Santander office spent a full day clearing over-grown bushes from a Redway path used by hundreds of pupils from St. Paul’s Catholic School.  It was part of a ‘Discovery Day’ scheme through which Santander encourage their staff to engage with the local community.

It was also a vital action day for the Citizens:mk Redways Relaunch campaign, with students wearing ‘Redway Warriors’ t-shirts and using litter-picking equipment purchased by Santander.

“We’ve coordinated well as a team.  It was so over-grown, litter everywhere!” said Luke Farrell, Contracts Manager at Santander, who spoke at the big outdoor meeting with the Leader of the Council on 21st April.

“We’ve found so much rubbish in the bushes,” said Jarrod Glover,  Head of Third Party Management (pictured above with Greg Maw, Assistant Headteacher of St. Paul’s Catholic School), “…cans, bottles, plastic bags, even nappies!”

“Working with the St. Paul’s students has been brilliant,” said Karen Robson, Santander’s Head of Third Party Management & Procurement (pictured below with student Tegan Dodimead).

“Suddenly this whole redway has opened up and all it’s taken is some people wanting to do it and a little bit of time.  All of my team has gained something from today just by being among the pupils and getting positive comments from the wider community.  It’s probably the most beneficial Discovery Day we’ve done so far.”

14-year-old pupil Tegan Dodimead said:  “It was great working with the Santander people.  They’re so friendly!”

A younger pupil, walking through on her way out of school at the end of the day, said:  “Wow, it’s got so much wider (the Redway path)…I feel safe now.”

“Working with the Santander team has been amazing,” said teacher Meghan Jones, who co-ordinated the action.  “We’ll definitely be doing more together.”

Another Santander staff member, Alan (pictured below), was happy to put in the extra effort because he’s training for a triathlon!

Great Get Together Iftaar Celebrates MK unity – 16.6.17

Two member institutions of Citizens:mk, Trubys Garden Tea Room and the Middle Eastern Cultural Group (MECG), teamed up to host a ‘Great Get Together Bring & Share Iftaar’ in Campbell Park Pavilion on Friday 16th June.  See video.

Inspired by The Jo Cox Foundation, this event aimed to celebrate both the unity of the people of Milton Keynes and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with a programme of talks, nasheeds (Islamic songs) and Christian hymns.  (Pictured reciting the Quran is Umar Mohiuddin from Bayt’ul Ilm Madrassa.)

More than 200 MK residents, including adults and children from all faiths and none, came together to share Iftaar, the breaking of the daily Muslim fast, in a spirit of solidarity.

Several non-Muslims, including the High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire,  Peter Kara, had a go at fasting throughout the day too.

“Food fasting is something I do regularly as part of my physical wellbeing,” said Peter Kara. “But the experience of not drinking any water from sunrise to sunset required a mental discipline that made me realise why spiritual fasting is embraced by so many different cultures.  By overcoming the desire to react to a basic instinct for food and water within us, we can also learn to develop the capacity to overcome other, more negative instincts, such as greed, envy, lust and hatred.”

Mark Lancaster MP and the Mayor and Mayoress also attended and spoke in celebration of MK unity.

Mark Lancaster said:  “One year one from Jo Cox’s murder it is right that we come together and reflect what we can all do to ensure that as a community we focus on celebrating what unites us rather than that which divides.  This event is a fine example of MK demonstrating just what a united community we are.”

Mayor David Hopkins later wrote:  “It was a pleasure to attend.  The atmosphere from the moment we arrived and the smiles on the faces of those attending confirmed what a warm and comforting evening had been generated.”

Kurshida Mirza of Trubys Garden Tea Room,  an interfaith community cafe run by Muslim women, said:  “The generosity of the people of Milton Keynes was amazing.  Everyone was so keen to work with us, to make the Great Get Together Iftaar a success for Milton Keynes.  The feeling of unity was very strong indeed.”

Ayser Aljawad, of MECG, said:  “This was a tribute to Jo Cox but at the same time to MK’s spirit and the Communities unity, the ‘let’s do it’ approach which is also core to MECG.  The diverse collection of passionate volunteers and generous participants shows that MK will not be divided.  This was a truly wonderful event, which I hope will set a precedent for years to come.”

The event was supported by funding from MK Community Foundation and the Rotary Club, with private donations from several individuals.

and

The event formed part of MK’s celebration of its 50th birthday, with a special emphasis on celebrating MK’s unity, justice and welcome to outsiders.

Pupils negotiate Redway improvements with Council Leader – 15.6.17

Following the action on 21st April, pupils from four schools met Cllr Pete Marland and his Highways chief Sean Rooney to lay out their initial plans for Redway improvements.

Each school had 10 minutes to present images and details of their top 10 priority ‘hotspots’ for improvement.  These included over-hanging bushes, broken steps, old paintwork, discoloured signposts and lots and lots of rubbish and broken glass.  The schools involved were Jubilee Wood, Summerfield (pictured), St. Monica’s Catholic Primary, MK Academy and St. Paul’s Catholic School.

Cllr Marland agreed to meet with the pupils again once his team had drawn up a list of RAG-rated works, and following a meeting with The Parks Trust, which has responsibility for some of the Redways on which improvements are needed.

On summarising the pupils’ thanks to Cllr Marland,  Josephine Osei from MK Academy said:  “We feel privileged that you are finding time to work with us on something we are so passionate about.”

“I’ve been very impressed with the students’ research,” said Cllr Marland.  “I really like their idea of painting the Redway lamp posts in the school colours, so that hopefully former pupils and parents will take as much care of their school’s Redways as the current pupils and staff.  If this works, I think it can be rolled out to include schools that aren’t members of Citizens:mk.”

Pupils pictured outside Civic Offices below.

Shoosmiths takes to the Redways with Summerfield pupils – 15.6.17

Seven members of staff from Shoosmiths LLP joined dozens of pupils from Summerfield Primary School for 90 minutes of litter-picking on the local Redways.

This was another good example of local businesses doing their bit to help Citizens:mk member schools generally, and the Redways Relaunch campaign in particular.

“I simply put a request out by email and all these colleagues came forward to volunteer,” said Sarah Lovell of Shoosmiths (pictured third from left).  “It’s good for us individually as well as a business to be involved in community projects like this.”

“This is fantastic,” said Pam Weston, Summerfield School head teacher.  “We want to get involved in our local community and that includes companies like Shoosmiths.”

Dentons LLP staff help pupils take on Jubilee Wood redway – 13.6.17

Four staff from Dentons LLP UMEA joined pupils from Jubilee Wood Primary School in a massive clean-up of the Redway alongside the school.  This was an action for the Citizens:mk Redways Relaunch campaign.

Working with Mitch Michener from Campbell Park Parish Council as well as Dentons, the pupils split into groups to clean different sections of the Redway.

“It’s great to see how enthusiastic the children are,” said Angela Monzione from Dentons.  “What they’re hoping to do is adopt this area and maintain it.  It’s going to happen for years to come, so it’s a project for now and for the future.”

“If we can monitor the area at least once a week, we can keep it clearn,” said a 10-year old member of the School Council.

“I’m using a litter picker and picking up some glass,” said a 7-year-old pupil, “so people riding their bikes won’t fall on it and cut themselves.”

“We love our Redways and want to look after them,” said head teacher Tony Berwick.  “Our children are learning to love Milton Keynes, and that is good news for us all.”

Click here to see short video of Tony Berwick speaking.

Healing through hearing the voices of hate survivors 28th June

This pilot event was planned by the Fight Against Hate campaign in accordance with one of its four main campaign goals.  It is not for everyone, only up to 16 survivors of hate crime who have registered interest and been formally invited.

Venue: MK Civic Offices, 1 Saxon Gate, Central Milton Keynes, MK9 3EJ

Date: June 28th, 2017

Time: 19:00 – 21:00 hrs

Outline of the Healing through Hearing session

The Fight Against Hate campaign of Citizens:MK won the support of MK Council in hosting a new approach to reducing the effects of hate crime.  Hate legislation covers five grounds: race/nationality, religion, sexuality, gender identity and disability.

MK Council hosted a twilight session, ‘Hearing through Healing’, to hear the voices of residents and/or those working or studying in Milton Keynes who have experienced some form of hate towards them in MK, no matter how big or small.  The aim is to reduce their discomfort by simply giving them the opportunities to listen to each other’s stories about what happened to them.

Two small facilitated groups came together to share their stories and be invited to explore feelings and possible next steps.   Finally, each participant was invited to say what, if anything they are taking away that may help to re-establish their sense of self confidence and self-esteem.  The whole session took 90 minutes.

All those participating committed to keeping whatever was said/discussed confidential to the relevant group and nobody’s contribution being shared outside the facilitating group without their permission.

This not a counselling or professional therapy session but rather an opportunity for sharing.

Participant guidelines

This event is intended to work through, with diverse and like-minded people who have also experienced hate crime, your reflections of your experience.

Using an action learning model the event will give you space to explore issues with the support of an experienced facilitator.

The event will also tap into individuals who may be available to answers any of your questions, for example,  how are police required to support a victim of prejudice based crime.

The event is not there to pre-empt,  so what you get out is what you put in, hopefully the attached briefing gives a good overview of what can be expected.

A key question for participants is ‘ What, if anything might I now need  to bring things to more of a closure or feel more resolved.’

The event will be underpinned by friendly, respectful,  dignified and fair conversations for all those involved.

Any actions arsing from the groups will be required to be actioned by individual members as the event is not geared to advocate or process issues on any individuals behalf.

If you require this information in a different format please do not hesitate to ask.

We require that you confirm your attendance also commit to confidentiality and consent for generic information to be used in the future.

If you wish to talk to a facilitator beforehand then please email fightagainsthatemk@gmail.com

Bishop of Oxford backs school competition to combat hate – 25.5.17

The Bishop of Oxford, Rev Steven Croft, joined other guests from  Arriva Buses and Thames Valley Police in an assembly organised by the children of Summerfield Primary School to launch a schools’ poster competition to combat hate.

The poster competition has been overseen by the Open University, who have created the rules and will be holding an exhibition of the children’s work from 12th July with an finale Awards event on 19th July.   Click here for competition rules.

Running the competition was one of the goals set by the Citizens:mk Fight Against Hate campaign which several power-holders signed up to at the 2017 Accountability Assembly.

Pupil Noorah, aged 9, said: “We often hear about wars in other countries as well as conflicts in England. There are many times when even in this city we love so much, harmony is replaced by hate. ”

The school choir showed its love of Milton Keynes and desire to support the Fight Against Hate campaign by singing their own song ‘We Built This City’.

Jiten Patel, a member of the campaign team who works for The Open University, said:  “Summerfield School can be proud of their student who were excellent ambassadors.  They are a credit to their school and left the guests at the launch with a strong impression of the values that are being lived by Summerfield.  The head teacher, staff and parents can rightly be proud of their students.”

Head teacher Pam Weston said:  “The children thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to share their ideas and perform for their visitors. The responses of their ‘VIP’ guests made them realise that they do have a voice and will be listened to when they contribute on issues of local and national importance.”

Fidele Mutwarisibo, chair of the Fight Against Hate campaign, said:  “The moment I stepped into Summerfield I knew this mini assembly was going to be great.  The welcome by the Heateacher, the staff and the pupils was second to none.  The presence of the Bishop of Oxford, the representatives of the Police and Arriva Buses highlighted the timeliness and relevance of our campaign.  The presence of Summerfield’s governors highlighted the importance of partnership.  The leadership of pupils was reassuring.  My lasting memory from this enjoyable event was how very impressive the pupils were. They made a huge difference.”

To thank the guests for attending the assembly, the children gave each guest a box of fresh eggs laid by the school’s own hens – and served them with slices of amazingly delicious cake made with eggs from the hens.

(Photo from Mubasher Maqbool.)

 

Weaving Trust with Middle East Cultural Group – 12.5.17

On Friday evening 12th May, 50 people took  part in a Weaving Trust event hosted by Middle Eastern Cultural Group (MECG) at Bancroft Community Centre.

“I feel very happy,” said Ayser Al Jawad, leader of MECG.  “You can feel it was good because people didn’t want to stop talking when the bell rang.”

Click here to see a short clip of Weaving Trust in action.

“It was obvious just from watching people, and later from the feedback I received, that everyone enjoyed it and appreciated it,” said Alan Bainbridge of MK Quaker Meeting, who chairs the Weaving Trust group.  “I think we can say that some trust was woven.”

Click here to see the text messages people sent at the end of the session.

Voter Registration – how you can help

The deadline for voters to register for the upcoming parliamentary election is 22nd May.   Leaders are encouraged to promote voter registration within their institutions, and are invited to attend a training session on Monday 15th May 5-7pm at Church of Christ the Cornerstone, to help with this.  Here are some ideas:

  • talk about it at Friday/Saturday/Sunday religious events and/or through 121s with people who may not know how to register
  • print this  ‘Register to Vote in 4 steps’ poster and put it on noticeboards
  • send through mailing lists and newsletters (include the poster as an insert, or include the blurb and link in an existing newsletter or mass email)
  • and via social media.

There is a simple Voter Registration form  online at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote .  If you want to print the registration form itself here’s the link to a printable version, click here.

It can work really well to print the forms where you have large groups of people in one place, but remember to collect them all afterwards and deliver them to your local council.  If you collect large numbers then it is worth tipping off your local council’s electoral registration office so they know you are coming and they have time to process them.

The stumbling block is often that people don’t know their National Insurance number, so it is worth putting some thought into how to get around that.  It is possible to submit a paper version with a note saying that they don’t have a record of the NI number, but there is a possibility that this will delay the processing of the form.  Though that is better than not submitting anything at all.

If you have any questions, contact Tom Bulman, tel 07962 838685.