38 people from a wide range of Citizens:mk member and non-member institutions attended a special online assembly to celebrate the unveiling of a World Refugee Day pillar at MK Rose (picturedabove). The pillar reads: People from around the world have helped build this city – Milton Keynes welcomes refugees. See video of unveiling.
The assembly heard testimonies from Syrian refugees and the leaders of the Refugees Welcome MK charity (RWMK) which formed five years ago, at the height of the Syrian refugee crisis, to support their settlement in MK.
Cllr Peter Marland was thanked as the Leader of MK Council for its courageous decision to welcome people from Syria as part of the Vulnerable Person’s Resettlement Scheme (VPRS). (Earlier in the day he received thank you baklava prepared by one of the Syrian refugee families, pictured above). Also celebrated was the work of the British Red Cross, both the staff and the volunteers who worked tirelessly to resettle refugees and support those who vulnerable or disadvantaged. Cllr Marland pledged to facilitate 4-monthly meetings at Civic Offices of a new multi-agency forum to address issues that refugees face in accessing health services and digital poverty.
Marc Eisenstadt, Treasurer of RWMK,, explained action that had already been taken to address digital poverty: a Working Group on Digital Poverty in MK has been set up to address three key areas : laptop provision, internet broadband or mobile pay-as-you-go gadgets for connecting the laptops, and training to make best use of the technology.
In post-assembly evaluation with leaders who organised and attended the assembly, the event scored 9.5 out of 10.
RWMK plans to close down its operation as a facilitator of VPRS. Citizens:mk will continue to campaign on Refugee Welcome issues.
Thames Valley Citizens is the newest chapter of Citizens UK, growing out of the pioneering work of Citizens:mk in Milton Keynes over the last ten years, bolstered by Sponsoring Committees for new alliances in Oxford and Reading (first meetings later this month), and member organisations across the counties of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the inaugural Thames Valley Citizens Assembly had been planned for late April, to coincide with the Police and Crime Commissioner election. What happened instead was a more reflective gathering which recognised and listened to those working on the frontline against Covid (council leaders, the CEO of a hospital, the Police Commissioner, volunteer co-ordinators, education providers, PPE-makers etc), held mini house-meetings in breakouts to envision a more just Thames Valley post-Covid, sought a seat at the table with with power-holders, and demanded action on 5 current issues: improving death registration services, Living Wage for Careworkers, tackling climate change, action on misogyny and improving death registration services (4 of these issues had been voted on at a Delegates’ Assembly that had been held pre-Lockdown on Zoom).
Turnout was 95 on Zoom (almost double the target) plus 600 views on Facebook live, with a balance of participants across MK, Oxford and Reading – and a smattering from the wider Thames Valley area.
The Police and Crime Commissioner committed to quarterly meetings with Thames Valley Citizens, with a firm commitment on action to improve relationships between young people and the police, and an open door to explore Living Wage accreditation, action to reduce carbon emissions, and recording misogyny as a hate crime, in his remaining year of office.
The leaders of Milton Keynes Council and Reading Council also attended, and became the first in the country to back our Living Wage for Careworkers Campaign – they are already accredited Living Wage employers and will publicly join our call on the UK Government to invest £1.4billion so that social care employees are paid the Real Living Wage.
The Assembly welcomed the Diocese of Oxford, which is funding the development of Thames Valley Citizens with a £150,000 commitment over 5 years. All 4 bishops participated, with the Bishop of Oxford leading the opening reflection. Here’s how the Diocese wrote it up.
Thames Valley Citizens will now grow through the creation of Temporary Sponsoring Committees in Oxford and reading. If you would like to know more, contact:
Six members of British Red Cross hosted six visitors from five Citizens:mk member institutions in the second online Weaving Trust event, using Zoom as a platform. This is the second of a series of events organised by Citizens:mk in a new strategic partnership with MK Community Foundation to support its Vital Signs research.
Weaving Trust is a carousel of short one-to-one conversations between people who wouldn’t otherwise meet. The focus question for this event was: “What are the current issues facing refugees and asylum-seekers in relation to poverty and disadvantage?”
Written comments from participants at the end of the session were as follows:
Home schooling is a challenge due to lack of the right technology, such as laptops, computers, etc, and because of language
It is a real issue if you don’t have the right technology and good internet.
Home schooling, mental health and relationship breakdown, are the main issues.
Dependency- ESOL not the suitable method for teaching-access to mental health support-digital poverty- hidden discrimination- a need to liaise more with council, politicians (local MPs), decision makers etc.,
Digital poverty – exacerbating social isolation and mental health illness. Reduction in mental health services – especially for those with language barriers and those who do not have access to public funds and can therefore not access specialists services.
Access to mental health support especially for parents with mental health needs as well as children with complex needs. Access to financial support to buy basic food essentials and health prescriptions. Issues with inability to claim Universal Credit. Issues around domestic violence and the need to leave the accommodation they are in. Issues around Home Schooling: Parents levels of literacy and digital poverty.
For health services, access to interpreter services is patchy; GP receptionists are saying they are not allowed to call an interpreter to help with arranging appointments. Letters from the NHS which give instructions for scans or tests, or letters reporting the outcomes are not understood. It was suggested that patient records should have a flag on them which alerts the GP or Hospital to contact patients in order to communicate these and bring in an interpreter OR have standard instructions templates in a variety of languages which are provided centrally and adapted locally.
Access to a translator at the GPs – not all GPs knowing what they are allowed. Not understanding how the healthcare system works.
Closing of hotels so refugees being made homeless. Option of moving in with a family no longer available
Accessing mental health, stigma attached (culture), language barriers
Issues around stigma are huge. Refugees, asylum seekers and migrants may have fear – fear of the unknown, not knowing who to trust, who to ask. Fear of being judged. Mental Health issues carry stigma, and with many people refugees and asylum seekers live with MH issues and less access to support and interventions. Lack of compassion and understanding in the general public is huge. Negativity and judgement is rife.
Weaving Trust events do help increase understanding when we talk! Thank you for this opportunity.
In post-session evaluation, participants scored the event 8 out of 10.
Eight members of St. Frideswide’s Church hosted eight visitors from five Citizens:mk member institutions in the first ever online Weaving Trust event, using Zoom as a platform. This is the first of a series of events organised by Citizens:mk in a new strategic partnership with MK Community Foundation to support its Vital Signs research.
Weaving Trust is a carousel of short one-to-one conversations between people who wouldn’t otherwise meet. The focus question for this event was: “Where do we see strength in our community and how can it be used to support mental health and wellbeing?”
Following the conversations, participants shared various reactions and suggestions (below).
Rev Catherine Butt, Vicar of St. Frideswide’s Church, said: “It went to prove that listening and learning can happen virtually in this way, despite the obvious compromises. At St Frideswide’s we are looking forward to working with our partner institutions as we emerge from these strange days, with hope for a fairer and more just society.”
Comments from participants at the end of the session were as follows:
What has struck me is that mental health issues can affect anyone at anytime to varying degrees – no one is immune
A minor stress for one person is unbearable for another
My own context would be very stressful for many people, whereas it’s not for me
We need to be aware of/sensitive to the mental stress of children
Community can be about social support too, for example, spot those who are lonely and bring them in. How we do that in lockdown may be more of a challenge for communities.
Community can help by making people feel as if they belong. People can feel very lonely and isolated in a whole slew of different contexts, but they have to feel they matter to someone, and feel valued, otherwise as humans we feel cut off even if we are in a crowd.
Aspects that came up in some of my chats: the benefit of green spaces and nature, the sharing of cross generational experience for the support of young and old; smaller communities with hubs at the centre for meeting and activities.
This session has been great and I think communities need to be very aware of children and young people and their mental health going forward
Acknowledging we cannot make it right but are there in support of others, we all have skills and experience and can use these to encourage and share in getting alongside others
It’s been great to talk to five different people coming at the topic from such different perspectives. Strengths in our community/ies that came up in our chats included green spaces in Mk, such as canals, lakes, parks; churches and faith groups a resource for community groups offering somewhere to meet, and volunteers to help community groups to build relationships, and talking to one another. During lockdown, MH is being talked about more because of the detrimental effect staying indoors not seeing loved ones, and the worry about work, money, ill health, etc. But it is good it is being talked about because we need to bring it out in the open, and break stigma. People are reaching out to one another during lockdown at a new level, which is building relationships and this is good for our wellbeing, and so is having a bit more time for quality times with family, parents and children, spouses, etc, and to do less and be more.
Stability is important in uncertain times – how do we provide/help that when projects/funding comes and goes?
It would be good if the new found community spirit could be continued past the lockdown phase. Checking in with a neighbour or group Whatsapps for example.
I wish we could come with other terms, something that carries less of the stigma and less of the medical baggage…wellbeing is a good start.
I was thinking about how we connect to the people who have any degree of mental health but are either coping or not coping behind closed doors. We don’t know about them and they may no know that there are agencies to help them or feel unable to ask for help. The only way seems to be building relationships within small communities.
We need to understand that whilst people’s physical needs can be met, anxiety and mental wellbeing is as important and being able to signpost people to help as well as talking is important. There are a number of different community initiatives that can help. Arts organisations, MIND, amongst others are all still working.
One key phrase that stood out was mutual aid.
How can community support those who are in acute need? There is plenty of advice coming out from agencies and local services e.g. Arthur Ellis on MKFM on Sunday.
It’s a concern that people living with MH issues that belong to groups are not able to attend during lockdown.
There has certainly been a shift in the community around me towards talking when there is an opportunity – we can encourage this by responding even just by smiling/body language.
In post-session evaluation, participants scored the event 8 out of 10.
On 13 March, Citizens:mk Co-Chairs Hala Afify and Jane Whild (pictured) met Ben Everitt, new MP for Milton Keynes North, his Communications Officer, Liam Andrews, and Alex Walker, Leader of MK Conservative Group. They thanked Alex for honouring the pledge he made at the Parliamentary Candidates’ Assembly in December, for Citizens:mk leaders to meet within 3 months of the recent General Election. Also in attendance was Community Organiser Tom Bulman.
During the first meeting rounds, everyone introduced themselves and their interests.
Following that, Tom, Jane and Hala presented our agreed CMK campaign priorities and aims for the Police and Crime Commissioner Assembly. At the meeting end, all participants agreed it was good to meet in person and that we had established a good foundation for future communication. As a next step, Tom will arrange for Ben to meet the Red Cross and Syrian refugees, who have been supported by our chapter.
In their reflections on the meeting, Hala said “it was good to meet my MP and to find him attentive and willing to engage. I spoke about the Fair Work campaign that I have been leading for a year and half, and I was able to tell the story of my involvement with Citizens:mk after my dismissal by email.”
Jane commented “it was good to meet Ben and hear about his local priorities as well as the Domestic Violence bill that will be coming before Parliament in the future. Misogyny is a root cause of domestic violence, hence my leading campaign which aims to tackle it. ”
Since the meeting, we learned that the Local Council and PCC elections have been postponed by a year, which means we’ll have to change our plans for 29th April Assembly! The Leadership Team will consider taking our campaigns to the incumbent PCC.
Finally, we welcome David Chapman, from The Church of Christ the Cornerstone, to the Treasurer role, which he has taken over from Linda McComie. On behalf of all our members, we thank Linda for doing such a marvellous job as Treasurer over recent years.
David was not present at the meeting with Ben, but having previously participated in the unsuccessful attempts to meet with Ben’s predecessor, Mark Lancaster, David said that he was very encouraged to hear of the positive start to building a relationship with Ben.
Hosted by St. Frideswide’s Church in Water Eaton, south Milton Keynes, the assembly was co-chaired by Rob Paton of MK Quakers and Hala Afify of Truby’s Garden Tea Room, and attended by 43 people from 11 Citizens:mk member institutions.
It was agreed to support the following four campaign goals and focus resources on the two which got the most votes (in brackets):
Action on Climate Change, led by Kirsty Forshaw of MK Green Alliance: Commit to declaring a climate emergency across the Thames Valley Police Force, meeting quarterly with us to prepare and present your action plan at next year’s Citizens Accountability Assembly for going carbon neutral by 2030 (48).
Police & Schools Together, led by Tony Berwick of Jubilee Wood Primary School: A Thames Valley Police contact and backup team attached to every school so that Headteachers can confidently expect communication throughout the school year and a shared understanding of local issues (40).
Real Living Wage, led by Rukhsana Malik of MK Muslim Association: Apply Real Living Wage to every employee and contractor in Thames Valley Police (21).
MisogynyAs Hate Crime, led by Jane Whild of The Open University: Classify misogyny as a recordable hate crime within a year and publish quarterly sex disaggregated data for all hate crimes within 6 months (21).
In group evaluation immediately after the assembly, delegates in MK scored the event 8 out of 10; in Oxford, 7.5 out of 10.
The venue was very good (much better than the Guildhall at Christ the Cornerstone, where MK’s Delegates Assemblies have been held previously).
The campaign leaders had prepared well, with clear presentations and clear goals.
Business was successfully completed to the satisfaction of most delegates.
Turnout below usual ‘5 delegates per institution’ target and several MK institutions only had one delegate.
Effective participation of Reading and Oxford.
Technology not perfect. Difficult to read what was on the screen at times (text too small). Some hiccoughs in the communication with Oxford and Reading. Hard for speakers not being able to control their powerpoints.
The voting was a bit confused. Would have been better if we’d known how the votes would be used before deciding on our scores.
A delegate from one of the Catholic Churches had said she was uneasy about speaking on behalf of her organisation because she was there on her own and said she would vote mainly for the Green campaign, because the Pope had spoken out strongly on environmental issues. Someone then shouted out ‘and what has the Pope to say about misogyny”, to which there was some laughter – not in the spirit of how Citizens works.
Partisan cheering and clapping by campaign teams also not in the spirt of how Citizens works.
Turnout pledged for the PCC Assembly was 185 as below:
On 2nd December, 181 people from 19 diverse community organisations gathered at Church of Christ the Cornerstone to hear MK’s parliamentary candidates introduce themselves and respond to the campaign interests of Citizens:mk alliance.
The event aimed to promoterespectful dialogue for more informed voting at the General Election on 12th December. All candidates were invited and co-chairs Kurshida Mirza of Truby’s Garden Tea Room and Neil Hutchinson of MK Academy (pictured above) expressed disappointment that the Conservative Party candidates for MK North and South, held by Conservative MPs since 2010, were unable to attend this Citizens:mk assembly because they were busy elsewhere.
A rap video was played, Planet Water by pupils from Orchard Academy primary school (see lyrics), and some attendees put on Greta Thunberg masks (pictured above) to show solidarity with the children and young people in MK and around the world who are campaigning for action on climate change.
After short welcome speeches from Rev George Mwaura and MK Mayor Sam Crooks (pictured below), the presentations from Citizens:mk’s campaign leaders (pictured below) got underway:
After everyone was asked to have a short one-to-one conversation with someone they didn’t know (pictured below) the six attending parliamentary candidates made their five-minute presentations, each strictly timed by Boyzie Morse of MK Quaker Meeting.
The candidates were asked to respond to the following questions:
why are you standing for election? (one minute)
response to one question selected by Citizens:mk Leadership Group from questions emailed in advance by registered attendees: If elected, how would you make sure your priority is to Milton Keynes before your party, and how would you ensure the views of local residents aren’t ignored? (one minute)
response to Citizens:mk Asks below (two minutes).
The asks – If elected, will you…
Attend and contribute to our Annual Assembly
Convene meetings we arrange with local business and other leaders, in support of a local Campaign (one per year)
Call for and support in Parliament measures conducive to our local campaigns
Meet with our Leadership Team twice a year for one hour, either in MK or Westminster.
These were the candidates and their responses:
Alan Francis, The Green Party (MK South) – see video
Stephen Fulton, Independent (MK South) – see video
Hannah O’Neill, Labour Party (MK South) – see video
Aisha Mir, Liberal Democrats (MK North) – see video
Charlynne Pullen, Labour Party (MK North) – see video
Catherine Rose, The Green Party (MK North) – see video
In the absence of the Conservative candidates, the Leader of the Conservative group on MK Council was given the opportunity to read statements from them (pictured below). He pledged to organise a meeting between any Conservative MP(s) elected and members of Citizens:mk Leadership Group within three months of the election.
Saleyha Ahsan, Liberal Democrat candidate for MK South, sent her apologies for absence due to ill health.
In a group Evaluation immediately after, the event was scored 8 out of 10, with points being dropped for lower than target turnout and insufficient audibility of all speakers. As Headteacher Neil Hutchinson later pointed out, “this would be a very high grade in GCSE or A level!”
On 26th November, Dr. Fidele Mutwarisibo, leader of Citizens:mk’s First Against Hate campaign, and Julie Upton, High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire, welcomed Citizens:mk and other community leaders to a light lunch with Anthony Stansfeld, Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Thames Valley, at Church of Christ the Cornerstone.
The purpose of the lunch was to find out more about the role and responsibilities of the PCC, and what it’s really like to do the job, from someone who’s done it for nearly 8 years and will be succeeded by a newly elected PCC in May. Citizens:mk leaders want to be better informed, understand the issues and share their own views to inform and influence the PCC agenda.
It follows the table-top workshop being hosted by MK Police Commander Tim Metcalfe on 17th October (see news story).
“it was a very valuable thing to create space for dialogue helping the Citizens:mk Alliance to work with a broad range of service providers,” said Citizens:mk Co-Chair Kurshida Mirza.
To find out more about how you can contribute to the agenda for PCC candidates at the 29th April Assembly, see this campaign briefing document and/or contact Community Organiser Tom Bulman, tel 07962 838685.
22 people from 11 institutions attended a Syrian lunch for Refugee Welcome Schools & Launch of Community Sponsorship.
After a delicious lunch prepared by the ladies of Syrian Kitchen, guests were welcomed by Ayser Al Jawad of Middle Eastern Cultural Group and Mayor Sam Crooks.
Syrian refugee Bassem Al Haj and his daughter Tasnim gave powerful testimonies of their experiences settling, as a parent and a teenager respectively, since arriving in Milton Keynes four years ago after four years in a refugee camp in Lebanon.
Following presentation of a new ‘Ideas For Action’ resource pack by Jess Maddocks of Citizens UK and Steve Sondhi of NASUWT Birmingham (Refugees Welcome Partner), senior leaders Gill Molloy of Denbigh School and Debbie Gockelen of Milton Keynes Academy pledged their schools’ commitment to attaining Refugee Welcome Schools accreditation. This will take the total number of accredited schools in Milton Keynes to 10, including The Radcliffe School, most recently accredited.
Following presentations from Bekele Woyecha of Citizens UK, and Rev Gill Barrow-Jones of St. George’s & Holy Trinity Church (pictured), Azim and Shelina Maghji pledged commitment to helping their organisation, Building Bridges, to lead MK’s second Sponsor Refugee project.
Mayor Sam Crooks announced the winners of the Refill Poster Competition at a special event hosted by Central Milton Keynes Library. click here to see winners
The bit.do/refillposter webpage also provides you with access to the event slides and a PDF documenting the final group reflections about ideas for where we can take the campaign next. These suggestions will be discussed further with the children and other members of Citizens:MK for us to decide together what we prioritise for worthwhile and winnable action over the coming months.
30 people from six member and 4 non-member institutions attended the Fair Work Round Table at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church in Heelands.
The aim was to share issues of inequality at work, build relationships with parliamentary candidates for MK North and, through open dialogue, develop ideas for common goals to which candidates will be asked to pledge commitment at a Parliamentary Candidates Assembly on Monday 2nd December.
After a welcome from Debbie Wilson of MK Quakers and Fr Francis Higgins of St. Augustine’s, and special addresses from Mayor Sam Crooks (pictured) and Ian Revell of MK Community Foundation, who presented latest Vital Signs findings on work and the economy), various testimonies of unfair working practices were heard:
Hala Alify of Trubys Garden Tea Room talked about a lack of transparency of contract and termination processes when she was fired from a zero-hours contract, after more than two years of continuous service, by email.
Marion Cole of Works4Us talked about how her organisation supports workers in this situation.
Rukhsana Malik of MK Muslim Association announced the results of an online survey conducted by Citizens:mk between September and November.
Nick Peacock, Managing Director of Ascendant Recruitment, spoke from a recruitment employer’s perspective. He explained his feelings of discomfort at watching workers being unfairly treated in zero hours contracts.
Wider research on fair work policies was presented by Jane Whild of The Open University and Professor Susan Edwards of University of Buckingham.
Jess Goble of the national Living Wage Foundation talked about the Real Living Wage and a new national Living Hours campaign.
David Chapman of Church of Christ the Cornerstone and Hala Afify of Truby’s Garden Tea Room asked for reactions from guest parliamentary candidates, Charlynne Pullen of the Labour Party and Aisha Mir of the Liberal Democrats (The Conservative Party was invited).
Each was asked to agree to include a statement of support for Fair Work in Milton Keynes. Aisha Mir, the Liberal Democrat candidate, agreed that she would include the Fair Work Team’s recommended statement in her maiden speech:
“Milton Keynes is proud to be a place with good employment
opportunities for all, and I will be working with local employers, community
groups and Citizens:MK to further strengthen fair work practices in the city.
Milton Keynes is committed to ensuring that all workers receive a fair day’s
pay for a fair day’s work and intends to lead the way with best practice fair
Charlynne Pullen, the Labour Party candidate also agreed to include these words her maiden speech, with the proviso that she would add ‘trade unions’ to the list of people she would work with in order to strengthen fair work practices,
10 leaders from six member institutions attended a workshop led by Supt Tim Metcalfe, supported by four police officers, at MK Police Station.
The aim was for leaders of Citizens:mk to understand better the aims, operations and constraints of MK Police, to help their research in planning an agenda for the election of the Police & Crime Commissioner in May 2020; also to help MK Police understand better the experiences of diverse MK community groups and get feedback on ways MK Police can improve its service.
As part of this process, five Citizens:mk leaders signed up to ‘ride-along’ with MK Police on duty, experiencing it from the back of a police car.
The workshop centred on a ‘table-top’ experience reflecting ‘a day in the life of’ from the perspective of Supt Metcalfe and some of the day to day operational decisions that have to be made regarding professional standards and the deployment of limited resources against assessments of threat, harm and risk.
This included anonymised details from a typical daily management meeting where decisions have to be made regarding missing persons and the prioritisation of activity in response to the previous 24hrs’ events. Also a discussion about use of taser guns.
The workshop ended with ideas for improvement and initial discussion about ways Citizens:mk leaders can involve their institutions in supporting the Police effort.
In closing feedback, participants said they found the workshop illuminating and helpful, they’d have liked it to be longer. Supt Metcalfe said he would be happy to welcome a wide range of citizens to attend a similar worksho to help more people understand how the Police operate.
Hala Afify’s team of Fair Work campaigners were disappointed not to see their MP, Rt Hon Mark Lancaster, at the end of their day with Citizens UK in London.
Mark’s PA had explained he was too busy with work at the Ministry of Defence, but campaigners hoped their gift of fresh cookies would give him a break for a few minutes!
In the end Hala and the cookies didn’t get past Reception.
David Chapman of Church of Christ the Cornerstone said: “I know MPs are busy but it is disappointing that my MP seems so hard to get to speak to. We are quite a friendly bunch and would have enjoyed sharing our cookies with him! But it was an enjoyable outing all the same, and hopefully we’ll get to speak to Mark back in Milton Keynes sooner rather than later.”
The team is determined to see Mr. Lancaster, to ask him for advice and support in their campaign to address the issus of unfair dismissal from zero hours contracts and termination of contract by email, and look forward to meeting with him soon.
In photos below, Hala and the team with the cookies and a card outside the MoD. (Note in the photo above BBC reporter Laura Kuenssberg also out and about in Westminster at that time – yes that’s her!)
Of the Citizens UK Delegates Assembly which the team attended during the day, Rob Paton of MK Quaker Meeting said: “It was another uplifting day with Citizens. The agenda we all came up with is quite distinctive. Its politics, Jim, but not as we know it…’
School councillors from the following schools attended: Jubilee Wood Primary, Orchard Primary, St. Monica’s Primary, St. Paul’s Secondary and Southwood Primary, who hosted the initial training at the start of the day.
Following a welcome from Southwood Headteacher Kate Mathews, the pupils talked in a series of 1-2-1s about their individual and institutions’ actions on climate change, then saw Greta’s video.
Three leaders of MK Green Alliance – Kirsty Forshaw ( Research Fellow for DeMontfort University on ‘POWER’ project & Refill Champion for MK ), Craign Broadbent (MK Cycle Forum) and Sharon Ghouila (Green Steps Consulting), presented testimonies on the impact of single use water bottles, cycling and recycling in/around thecentre:mk shopping centre.
The pupils then moved into three mixed groups to focus on one of the three issues, created SMART research questions and designed a questionnaire for their listening campaign in thecentre:mk:
After a break, students set off for the research action in thecentre:mk, splitting into four zones for thecentremk research), then moving to the Council Chamber in Civic Offices for squash, biscuits and packed lunch.
pupils presented their research findings by school group and heard from Cllr Jennifer Marklew, Cabinet Member for Sustainability and Climate Action, about MK Council’s pledge to be carbon-neutral by 2030.
Students then prioritised the issues for action, identifying power holders, and created the following SMART campaign goals:
75% of businesses in thecentre:mk sign up for the Refill scheme by 1st April 2020.
At least three new Refill stations are created in big anchor stores (M&S, John Lewis or Intu) by July 2020.
Clean and accessible public water fountains are created (up to 8) by July 2020.
Some schools also created goals for action on themselves:
Halve food wasted at Jubilee Wood Primary School by July 2020.
Reduce plastic water bottle use at Orchard Primary Academy by 85% by Easter 2020.
Provide Year 7 pupils at St. Paul’s Catholic School with school-branded water bottles by December 2019.
Pupils then took the five-minute walk to Church of Christ the Cornerstone – the fourth and last institution they visited during the day – to present their campaign goals to members of Citizens:’mk’s Leadership Group.
David Chapman, a member of Cornerstone Church, welcomed the pupils and talked about his own campaign to persuade the church to require its room hirers to complete a short environmental audit.
The pupils presented their campaign goals to eight leaders of Citizens:mk member institutions , including co-chair Kurshida Mirza, and received their formal consent.
In post-event evaluation, pupils gave this internal action – which was intended to create in pupils a positive reaction to opportunities for action on climate change – a score of 8 out of 10.
One pupil said: “I feel proud of what I did today.” Another said: “I’ve never spoken to a group like that before.”
Jo Cayley, Assistant Headteacher of Jubilee Wood Primary School, said: “The children were really inspired by the day. They have come back to school and shared information about the refill scheme and the school’s mission to reduce food waste at lunchtimes!”
As a young person in Milton Keynes, it is often hard to feel your voice is being heard, especially in the current political climate. that’s why organisations like Citizens MK are so important when it comes to the opinions and concerns of young people, being respected by powerholders in the community.
11 students from The Radcliffe School Sixth Form took part in a one-term ‘Anger to Action’ course organised by Citizens:mk and funded by MK Community Foundation.
With the help of Tom, the Community Organiser, a small group of us shared our thoughts and ideas about what angered us, issues such as part time jobs and school facilities were topics everyone agreed needed to be explored, but after further discussion, it became clear that there was a more pressing social issue that affected all schools across Milton Keynes. Single use plastics.
Tom assisted us in putting pressure onto our headteacher and other positions of power within the school, to try and get a response from them, in regards to the excessive amounts of single use plastics used in our canteen. Every member of staff we spoke to was extremely cooperative and after weeks of negotiating, research and bargaining, we took the issue to the student council.
This platform gave us yet a louder voice and through them we were finally able to create enough of a stir to be acknowledged and real steps to be taken in the direction of reducing our single use plastics.
We all enjoyed the project and ultimately learned a lot from Tom and the other inspiring leaders we mingled with over the months, many of which, gave us the opportunity to get our voice heard and make a change for good.
12 people from 7 member and 4 non-member institutions attended Citizens:mk’s first One-Day Training at MK Quaker Meeting House. Participants included guests from Hong Kong Citizens.
Co-led by Jonathan Cox, Deputy-Director of Citizens UK, the training included a simulation of planning for action on climate change in MK city centre as well as the concepts and tools of community organising for change in local communities.
In post-training comments, trainees said:
“The training helped me learn about power analysis and 1-2-1s”
“It was very informative. Managed to fit a lot into a short period of time, without it feeling rushed.”
“Good opportunity to meet other Citizens:mk members and disucss possibilities.”
“The time was just right.”
Trainees will now unertake action for social change in their communities, with the support of mentoring from members of Citizens:mk’s Leadership Group. School leaders will participate in a shared research action to reduce carbon footprint in MK’s city centre.
22 people from 8 member and 4 non-member institutions attended the Annual General Meeting on 17th September. The meeting included presentations from:
Rob Paton, Citizens:mk Ambassador (fomer Chair) – reflections on progress of Citizens:mk
Ian Revell, CEO MK Community Foundation – initial findings of Vital Signs 2019 research
Jess Maddocks, Development Organiser for Reading Citizens – growth of new Thames Valley Citizens chapter.
Other guests included representatives of MK Welfare Association and the University of Buckingham.
11 leaders were nominated and agreed to serve on the Leadership Group in 2019-20, as follows:
Kurshida Mirza, Truby’s Garden Tea Room
Tim Norwood, MK Deanery
Sheila Bacon, MK Quaker Meeting
Linda McComie, Truby’s Garden Tea Room
Sharon Ghoulia, MK Green Alliance
Jane Whild, The Open University
Rukhsana Malik, MK Muslim Association
Hala Afify, Truby’s Garden Tea Room
Kirsten Jeffery, MK Green Alliance
David Chapman, Church of Christ the Cornerstone
Michael Sheppard, MK Green Alliance.
Kurshida Mirza and Tim Norwood resigned as Co-Chairs. Kurshida agreed to stand in as Co-Chair until two other members of the Group were nominated and trained to take over.
Jane Whild volunteered to represent the MK Group on Citizens UK’s national Leadership Group.
Following a presentation from Hala Afify, leader of the Fair Work campaign, the Fair Work Listening Campaign was launched with attendees agreeing to promote the new online survey within their institutions, https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/QRRCS79.
Evaluation of the AGM, as an internal action, concluded a score of 8 out of 10.
David Chapman, who attended the AGM representing Church of Christ the Cornerstone, said: “It was frustrating that I was only able to stay for a short while because the mix of people present, from diverse backgrounds and a wide range of different organisations, is so inspiring. I really wanted to hear what everyone had to say. At a time of national stress and conflict, all Citizens:MK events are local oases of hope.”
Eight community leaders graduated formally from Citizens:mk’s Two-Day Training courses, which ran in September 2018 and March 2019.
At a Learning Exchange event hosted by MK Academy, eight leaders from five institutions gave short presentations on what they had learned on the course and how they had applied it in their community leadership.
“Presenting back to the group was a memorable moment of my life,” said Sagarika Chakravarti of Jubilee Wood Primary School. “The training has made a big difference to my passion for making impact in my community.”
“I found this event very encouraging,” said Gill Bradley of St. Frideswide’s Church. “It was good to hear from others how they had applied what they had learnt from the 2-day training, and what had been achieved. Even those who didn’t think they had achieved much, were able to articulate how what they had learnt had inspired them to do something specific. I was also encouraged by the affirmation I received from one of the guests regarding my presentation.”
“Hearing others’ stories helped me learn new strategies,” said Tom Bartlett of Aspire Oxford. “Hearing about the range of complex community-organising scenarios set foundations for useful steps I can take in making positive changes within Milton Keynes.’
Graduation certificates were awarded by Citizens:mk Co-Chair, Kurshida Mirza (photos below, with apologies to Craig Broadbent for neglecting to snap him).
Guests at the event included representatives from MK Community Foundation, who funded the training, MK Welfare Association and the University of Buckingham.
Assembly before or after the strike – inform students about likely costs and benefits of different types of action, e.g. strikes, petitions, relational power-building for negotiation with power-holders. Your Citizens:mk Community Organiser and leaders of member institutions can lead an assembly presentation.
Conversations– each student could have a one-to-one conversation with three other students – within or between year groups, indoors or outside – to discuss global warming. They could talk about:
Your global warming habits
what you do that contributes most to it?
what do you do that contributes most to reducing it?
what more would you like to do to reduce it?
Who has most power to reduce global warming?
who are the main power holders?
which of these are most accessible to you?
what can you do to help him/her/them?
Your family and friends
what’s the worst habit of someone you know
realistically, what could s/he do differently?
what would you say to them?
Survey Action – students could collect data to answer some or all of the questions below, and feed the results back to Citizens:mk who will collate the data from all MK schools and produce a report which you can present back to all participants:
Why are you taking part in this survey?
I care passionately about reducing global warming and feed driven to take action
I think it’s important and want to play my part
I like getting out of normal lessons
I didn’t want to take part, but was forced to.
If you think global warming is an importan issue, which power holders do you think have most power to reduce it (rank them 1-8 where 1=most powerful and 8=least powerful)
Milton Keynes Council
Other (please state).
For further information, or to express interest in taking part, contact Tom Bulman, Community Organiser, tel 07962 838685.
Citizens:mk hosted the first of a new series of ‘Weaving Trust’ events aimed at bringing Leave and Remain voters together.
The event was attended by representatives of the City Church, MK Muslim Association, MK Peace & Justice Network and three political parties, including Cllr Walker, Leader of MK Conservative Party.
The event involved a carousel of short one-to-one conversations between people who voted opposite in the EU Referendum of 2016.
“We wanted to listen to each other,” said Fidele Mutwarisibo, Leader of Citizens:mk’s Fight Against Hate campaign, “and build relationships at a time of division and conflict.”
“It is so easy to live in an echo chamber and to not challenge our views,” said Cllr Walker. “We all have a responsibility to challenge our positions on Brexit, otherwise there will never be a consensus or a way forward.”
“It was useful to be able to hear from Leave voters because there are so many different views,” said Hilarie Bowman of MK Green Alliance. “and the press and TV are rather stereotypical.”
“As a Leave voter, it has been so important for me to have a safe space to debate opinions, challenge existing stereotypes and understand how we have similar views as well as different ones,” said Jennifer Parsons of MK Muslim Association. “Deep questions here have left me thinking more about the issues, motivating me to compromise and work toward our future.”
“Leave/Remain is closer to Labour/Tory than I had thought,” said Malcolm Harper.
158 people attended Citizens:mk’s annual Accountability Assembly at the City Church on 25th April 2019, representing 17 member institutions and many other MK organisations.
After welcomes from Rev George Mwaura and Mayor Martin Petchey (pictured above) , a 50th birthday cake was presented to The Open University to mark its 50th birthday. Receiving the cake, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Keith Hetherington (pictured below) said: “The Open University is a social justice organisation. It is our mission to be open to people, places, methods and ideas. We are proud of our membership in Citizens:mk.”
Then Fidele Mutwarisibo of Cornerstone Church led a review of the progress of last year’s campaigns (Mental Health, Life Skills for Young People, House the Homeless and Fight Against Hate) and a minute of silence for the victims of recent hate atrocities around the world.
Alan Bainbridge of MK Quaker Meeting (pictured below left) organised attendees to send by text their ideas about ‘how can we reduce hatred and build a more caring and friendly society in MK’. While this was happening, Papa Huite of MK Congolese Community (pictured below right) sang a spiritual song.
Ian Revell, CEO of MK Community Foundation, presented teenagers and adults with certificates for attending Community Leadership training (‘‘Anger to Action’ and Two-Day Training) and 9-year-old pupil councillor Zoya (pictured below), from Jubilee Wood Primary School, gave testimony of her own training experience of the One-Day Schools Training.
Zoya said: “I am proud to have attended the training and I learned a lot about refugees who are trying to escape problems in their country and how we can help them and make our country a safe haven.”
Headteacher Kate Mathews and Southwood Primary School pupils (pictured below) read a poem about their successful campaign to get their broken steps fixed.
Then this year’s campaign goals were presented:
Police & Primaries Together
Campaign 1: Police & Primaries Together
Led by headteachers Tony Berwick and Kate Matthews, pupils presented their survey findings and told stories about feeling safer with ‘Police and Primaries Together’ (pictured above). They called on Police Commander Yvette Hitch (pictured below) to pledge more police officer time visiting their schools, which she did. With her colleague Tim Metcalfe, she agreed to implement, monitor, evaluate and report on increased Police presence in Jubilee Wood and Southwood primary schools in Summer and Autumn Terms 2019.
Campaign 2: Refugees Welcome
Following an introduction to Refugees Welcome MK from Area Dean and Co-chair Tim Norwood, Zvi Friedman of MK & District Reform Synagogue (pictured below left) gave testimony of his family’s experiences as refugees nearly 100 years ago. Debbie Brock of MK Cenotaph Trust (pictured below right)outlined the formal process required for creation of a pillar at MK Rose to mark World Refugee Day.
Then Jess Maddocks of Citizens UK and Fred Grindrod of NASUWT teachers’ union awarded Refugee Welcome Schools certificates to three schools and MK College who have recently been accredited (Jubilee Wood, St. Paul’s Catholic School, MK College and Lord Grey School – pictured below). “This puts MK in the lead nationally,” said Jess Maddocks.
A Special Contribution award was made to Janan Abdulbake, headteacher of Al Ajyal Supplementary School (pictured below) for encouraging mainstream schools to achieve Refugees Welcome School accreditation.
Then students from St. Paul’s Catholic School (main picture at top) asked to the front the secondary headteachers of MK Academy, Walton High and The Radcliffe School (pictured below), who were asked and agreed that their school would pursue Refugee Welcome accreditation.
The final goal of Citizens:mk’s new Refugees Welcome campaign is to launch MK’s first Sponsor Refugees scheme, in which a community group raises £9,000, secures accommodation and commits to helping a newly arrived Syrian refugee family to settle in. Rev Gill Barrow-Jones (pictured below) of St. George’s Church, Wolverton, asked party leaders to pledge that MK Council would formally approve the launch of the scheme, as legally required.
Campaign 3: Fair Work
The ‘Fair Work’ campaign presentation began with Fr Francis Higgins of St. Augustine’s Catholic Church (pictured below) talking about how unfair employment practices are criticised in the Bible.
When campaign leader Hala Afify began speaking, she was dramatically interrupted by testimonies shouted from around the hall (pictured below left): “People on zero-hours contracts are more likely to be young, part-time and women”, “I had to change my name to Agnes as my Polish name was a barrier to me getting a job”, “I worked four years as a System Analyst on a zero hours contract and never knew if I was an employee or self-employed”.
Hala gave her own testimony and explained that law firm Dentons had helped to draft the new ‘Fair Work Charter‘ which local employers were to be asked to sign up to, starting with MK Council. Anna DeLiddo of The Open University (pictured above right) explained that she has been involved in a bid for a research grant to help the Fair Work campaign understand the impact of being fired by email.
It was then the turn of the leaders of MK’s main political parties (pictured below – Cllr Peter Marland (Labour), Cllr Alex Walker (Conservative) and Cllr Douglas McCall (Lib Dems) – to respond in turn to the three Asks.
The Asks were:
read and consider all the text messages gathered at this Assembly, circulate to other Councillors, discuss at full Council meeting, and report back to Leadership Group members within three months?
commit MK Council to formally approving a Community-led Sponsor Refugees scheme in Wolverton?
commit MK Council to Level one Fair Work Charter status, committing the Council to maintaining a fair job application process and talking with contracting agencies about fair transparency and termination processes as outlined in the Fair Work Charter?
All three party leaders agreed to all three asks above apart from Cllr Walker (pictured below)who said he couldn’t commit to Ask 3, but would discuss it further with Citizens:mk campaign leaders.
Cllr Douglas McCall (pictured below), pledged commitment to all of the Asks.
Special event: Weaving Trust Between Leave and Remain
Then a special event was announced, ‘Weaving Trust Between Leave and Remain’, intended to promote dialogue and trust between MK people who have opposing views on Brexit. Volunteers were asked to stand if they could commit to attending on 16th May and bringing to the event one person who voted differently to them in the EU Referendum. Nine people, including Cllr Walker, stood. Click here to sign up.
Finally the Assembly was informed by Rev Alison Webster, Deputy Director of Mission (Social Responsibility) for the Diocese of Oxford (pictured above), of plans to grow the Citizens:mk alliance and create the newest chapter of Citizens UK, Thames Valley Citizens.
In post-event evaluation, the Assembly was scored 8 out of 10 and participants in the evaluation pledged to help to double the turnout (to more than 300) at next year’s Accountability Assembly.
10 leaders from 8 institutions, including four member institutions, attended our first ever Spring Two-Day Training in Community Leadership which took place at MK Quaker Centre on Fri-Sat 22nd-23rd March.
Funded by MK Community Foundation, the training taught the universal concepts of Power and Self-interest and the tools of Community Organising.
Trainees came with a range of motivations including: to understand a methodology to drive change, strengthen my institution, engage with the wider school community, organise diverse communities, develop my own and my students’ leadership, find out more about power, help parents set up a PTA in my school, get rid of the prejudice in society.
A short questionnaire after the course, asking about self-perception Before and After, yielded the following results:
110% average increase in ‘My awareness of tools for building relational power (3.9 to 8.2 out of 10)
98% average increase in ‘My confidence in my community leadership’ (3.3 to 6.8 out of 10)
32% increase in ‘My motivation to make positive change in my community’ (6.9 to 9.1 out of 10).
After the course, participants said they’d benefited most from: the techniques and strategies, practical tools, feeling empowered, feeling more useful to society.
Kirsty Forshaw of MK Green Alliance said: “Thanks for all your support on the course. I found it really worthwhile and will be encouraging others to do it too. It’s given me the kick-start I needed to have a more focused approach to how I can make positive change in my community. “
“I intend now to mobilise the community and start dreaming big about using some of the other green spaces in Conniburrow,” said Kirsten Jeffery of Big Local Conniburrow.
“I will now start gathering information from the children and what they’d like to change,” said Deborah Griffiths of Jubilee Wood Primary School. Her school colleague, Sagarika Chakravarti, said: “I’ll definitely that each and every member of staff (at my school) should join this course.”
In post-session evaluation, participants gave an aggregate score of 8.5/10.
A month later, three trainees participated in Action Learning Set. Craig Warne said: “This Action Learning set provided an essential space to reinvigorate my momentum and motivation. Talking with the group helped to refocus and realign my thinking to my vision. To think I nearly had not attended due to other commitments! I now have the conviction to revisit my priorities.”
30 members of St. George’s Church and the wider Wolverton community turned out to hear about a proposed Sponsor Refugees initiative. This has grown from a local resident’s offer of a house specifically to be a home for a family fleeing war-torn Syria and would be the first of its kind in Milton Keynes, following other successful initiatives in Canada and elsewhere in the UK.
The initiative follows a Citizens:mk campaign which began in 2015 and, having secured pledges from MK Council, became an independent charity, Refugees Welcome, in 2016.
The meeting was co-chaired by Michael and Tori Snell and heard from a Syrian family who have lived in Wolverton for more than two years following settlement under the government’s Vulnerable Person’s Resettlement Scheme (supported by a previous Citizens:mk campaign).
Rev Gill Barrow-Jones gave background to the initiative and researcher Sarah Dolphin gave the results of a recent survey of Wolverton people which showed 75% were in favour of the initiative. Rev Tim Norwood, co-chair of Citizens:mk, talked about how the scheme has worked elsewhere, the challenges – including the need to raise £9,000 for a two-parent refugee family – and the personal and community benefits of sponsoring a family in this way. Local social entrepreneur Marie Osborne also spoke about what it takes go make social initiatives successful.
It was decided to go ahead with a Sponsor Refugees initiative in Wolverton.
The evening ended with individuals signing up to provide active support, e.g. help a refugee family learn English, access schools, etc.
Rev Barrow-Jones said: “I was really pleased with how it went, how engaged everyone was, and how everyone was hanging around at the end chatting! It was also very powerful to hear from the Syrian family who already live within our parish too.”
In January Fraser Sones (pictured right), a sixth form student at Stantonbury International, joined other students from Stantonbury and The Radcliffe School in a new ‘Anger to Action’ leadership training course run by Citizens:mk with funding from MK Community Foundation.
When prompted to think about what made him angry about unfairness in his community, Fraser said it was the lack of conversation between students in the sixth form. “I want there to be more meaningful conversations,” he said, “and I’m worried that this isn’t happening due to a lack of social skills relating to greater risk of mental health problems.”
With help from Citizens:mk’s Community Organiser, Fraser conducted research to show that many Stantonbury students had a low number of conversations which students outside their immediate friendship groups…and decided to take action.
He organised a series of meeting with power holders within the Stantonbury Sixth Form, primarily the teachers and managers, for permission to advertise and run a half-hour session of conversation circles. This involved pairs of students talking to one another in a carousel of five-minute conversations about topics they were interested in, including current stresses and future plans.
On the day, 22 students participated and 20 completed evaluation questionnaires which showed:
46% increase in ‘I feel self-confident’
41% increase in ‘I relate well to my fellow students’
30% increase in ‘I have a positive attitude to life’.
Not a bad set of data from just 30 minutes of activity!
Some of the participants’ comments afterwards were:
“Incredibly useful, I was able to talk to people I don’t usually talk with and form new relationships”
“This has really improved my social anxiety slight(ly) and has worked on how socially awkward I am.”
“I never realised how happy I was to meet other people, people were ready to open up”
“I met people I’ve wanted to talk to before but were too shy or felt that it would’ve been weird.”
Fraser is in discussion with the power-holders among Stantonbury International staff about which direction to take next with this exciting initiative.
Dave Smeath, Head of Year 12 at Stantonbury International, said: “This unique event was a great success, and a credit to Fraser. I hope that the students who took part will now feel confident to speak to others. I look forward to seeing this work grow”
109 delegates from 15 member institutions attended our annual Delegates Assembly at Church of Christ the Cornerstone on Tuesday 5th February 2019.
After an inspiring welcome address from Rev Ernesto Lozada-Uzuriaga, and a roll call of member institutions present, co-chairs Kurshida Mirza of Trubys Garden Tea Room and Greg Maw of St. Paul’s Catholic School introduced new member MK Council of Faiths with a short speech from Rev. John Robertson.
Citizens UK co-chair Tim Norwood, MK Area Dean, explained new plans to create a Thames Valley Citizens chapter supported by Citizens:mk. Yvonne Smith of Cornerstone said she welcomed the idea of having new neighbour alliances in Oxford and Reading.
Sixth form students Zainab Athumani from The Radcliffe School and Fraser Sones and Dylan from Stantonbury International School presented their recent experiences of Citizens:mk’s new ‘Anger to Action’ course, funded by MK Community Foundation. Headteacher Kate Matthews led Southwood Primary School students in presenting their experiences of meeting with the Leader of the Council to raise the issue of the broken steps outside the school main entrance.
The choir of Summerfield Primary School then gave a first ever public performance of their new Refugees Welcome song.
After a short break and 121s, three campaign proposals were put, each with SMART goals as follows:
Refugees Welcome – led by MK Deanery, St. Paul’s Catholic School, St. George’s Church:
Three new Refugee Welcome Schools – led by St. Paul’s Catholic School
First Community Sponsorship
A pillar at The Rose for World Refugee Day
Fair Work – led by Trubys Garden Tea Room, St. Augustine’s Catholic Church, Congolese Community:
Zero hours contracts to include clear clauses on Termination and Appeal processes after 12 months.
HR staff to receive Unconscious Bias training and policies for blind application processes’.
Develop a Charter mark for ‘Fair Work’ employers, including both of the above, and test it with 3 MK-based employers within 12 months.
To get a formal partnership with a legal firm, e.g. Dentons, to help draft the charter.
Police & Primaries Together – led by Jubilee Wood Primary School, Southwood Primary School and St. Paul’s Catholic School:
To increase children’s positive perception of The Police in the community, based on regular feedback and surveys organised through School Councils, by December 2019.
To log regular, informal lunchtime visits by TVP to our schools to mix and meet with children, at least once every 6 weeks.
Delegates gave full consent to these campaigns being given special attention at our Accountability Assembly with power-holders on Thursday 25th April 2019.
In post-event Evaluation, the Assembly was scored 8 out of 10, with two points being dropped due to non-attendance of some members and poor audibility of some speeches.
On the night of freezing 29th January, a small team of Citizens:mk leaders ventured to Stadium:mk, the home of MK Dons FC, for their game against Oldham Athletic.
The purpose of this research action was to find out from workers at Stadium:mk, including both security and catering staff, how they perceived their experiences of working there.
The action began at IKEA nearby, where workers there were asked about their experiences of working at IKEA. Three staff members were approached and all three said they were happy working for IKEA, highlighting the benefits of permanent contracts, flexible hours and progression opportunities. They felt cared for by the management team.
At Stadium:mk, seven workers were asked, and the responses were more mixed. Most felt loyal to the club, but raised a range of including free parking facilities and promotion opportunities, both of which seemed very limited. One security supervisor had been in role for seven years with no pay increase or progression.
One young security attendant was wearing just a fluorescent bib over her own clothes said the flourescent coats had run out. Others said that the 50p subsidy on hot drinks (sale price £2.20) was too low.
This first ‘Fair Work’ research action was deemed successful in terms testing the questions which can now be used in similar research actions with workers from other companies in MK.
Fortunately, because it was really cold, Dons won 2-1, though it was a bit of a scrape!
As part their fourth Citizens:mk training session this school year, school councillors and other pupils from St. Monica’s Catholic Primary School met with Hannah O’Meara from MK Community Foundation to brainstorm ideas for fundraising for the international charity, Missio.
“I loved visiting the school and working with the pupils,” said Hannah Meara, “especially their creativity and listening to each other.”
Teacher Eleanor Day said: “It was a great chance for our school council to understand the processes involved in organising fundraising events.”
14 students have commenced Citizens:mk’s first ever community leadership training course for school sixth formers, ‘Anger To Action’, funded by MK Community Foundation.
Nine students from The Radcliffe School joined five students at Stantonbury International for the first full-day of training on 11th January.
During the training day, students were taught the core concepts and tools of community organising, including: power, power analysis, self-interest, stick person, relationships and 121s, leadership and broad-based organisation, and the cycle of research, action and evaluation.
Students heard from two witnesses, Linda McComie and Hala Alify from Trubys Garden Tea Room, both members of Citizens:mk’s Leadership Group.
In post event evaluation discussion, participants gave the training day a score of 8/10.
In individual feedback questionnaires, students showed the following increase in confidence before/after the training day:
240% increase (from average 3.2 to 7.7 out of 10) for ‘I am aware of the tools needed for building relational power’
173% increase (from average 4.2 to 7.3 out of 10) for ‘I am confident in my community leadership’
171% increase (from average 4.9 to 8.3 out of 10) for ‘I am motivated to make positive change in my community’.
One student wrote: “I enjoyed the quick pace activities as it allowed us to get through multiple things and stopped us from getting distracted or bored. I learnt about how much I actually have an opinion on how to improve my community.”
Another student wrote: “I really enjoyed discussing issues in detail with people from a different but similar school.”
Another student wrote: “I liked learning about the process needed to make a change, finding out the things I’m passionate to change, and meeting new people who can help me do it.”
Nearly every student wrote about how they had enjoyed meeting and working with students from another school.
The students will meet weekly until the end of Spring Term to develop and deliver social action campaigns in their local community.
“It was a real privilege to observe the students from both schools having the courage to work together so openly and develop skills in 1:1 communication, identifying relational power, power analysis and leadership,” said Sarah Chapman, Assistant head of Sixth Form at The Radcliffe School. ” A great opportunity for our students – I’m very excited to see what they achieve in their projects.”
Jubilee Wood Primary School is the first school in MK to join a campaign being championed by teachers union NASUWT and community organising charity Citizens UK. Following a breakfast launch hosted by Grant Thornton and Dentons solicitors at the end of November, six schools pledged commitment and three have already completed their accreditation booklet. The other two are Brooklands Farm Primary School and Lord Grey Secondary School.
“It’s important to our members that we engage in community campaigns which act on their concerns,” said Craig Warne, NASUWT Branch Representative for Milton Keynes. “To serve one of our fundamental values, inclusiveness, our members want as many MK schools as possible to signup to this standard of welcome for refugee children and young people”
“For our school, this is a good initiative,” said Tony Berwick, Headteacher of Jubilee Wood. “We have already developed various ways of welcoming children and families from a great many cultural backgrounds,and the Refugee Welcome Schools accreditation helps us to remain explicit and focused and how we embed this in our own school culture. It helps to strengthen our community.”
“Filling in the booklet wasn’t too difficult,” said Anesh Ramlugan, NASUWT member who teaches Year 3 with STEM specialism at Jubilee Wood. “We just had to think about what we are already doing and come up with some exciting ways of involving more of our community in welcoming refugee children and their families.”“It’s exciting to see how quickly the pupils in various MK schools have reacted to the training session we ran for them in early October,” said Tom Bulman, Community Organiser for Citizens:mk. “Several other primary and secondary schools are taking interest and securing commitments at senior management level.”F
18 leaders from 10 civil society institutions, including 7 member institutions, attended Citizens:mk’s first ever Study Action training morning. The session was led by Jonathan Cox, Deputy Director of Citizens UK.
Building on the methodology of community organising, the aim of the session was to bring leaders together to organise a ‘study action’ in January from which all would learn best practice for their own campaigns and institutions.
The theme was ‘unfairness in the workplace’ and the session began by hearing a wide range of testimonies from participants about injustices they had experienced at work, led by Hala Afify’s story of Zero hours contract termination. Other issues highlighted included discrimination in screening of job applications, uncertain probationary arrangements, unfair notice arrangements, lack of pay for work travel time and low pay generally.
Plan a strategic response to the issue – identify the problem, break into an issue which winnable and worthwhile, who are the people with the power?
Take Action to get a Reaction
Get a seat at the table and Negotiate.
“What I liked was meeting other members of Citizen:mk and knowing that we can work together for the common good,” said Philip Demarco of St. Frideswide’s Church. “What was re-enforced for me,was that ‘ordinary people’ can achieve great things if they go about matters in a peaceful, cohesive and just way.”
“Building a wider community alliance is both empowering and powerful,” said Rachel Redford of The Open University. “What I liked about this training session was realising that changing perspective and shaping perceptions changes everything. There is always a way. Re-evaluation with a strong alliance are powerful tools to finding the way.”
One of the ideas emerging was that Citizens:mk might target local employers to lead a new ‘Community Jobs Compact’ (like the one organised by Wales Citizens), including fair recruitment practices (name/address blind, maybe age too) and Unconscious Bias training for interview panelists, Real Living Wage and secure contracts and progression opportunities for workers.
The group resolved to undertake an action to find out more about the experiences of workers at MK Dons’ stadium (stewards, caterers, cleaners) on Saturday 5th January 2019. 10 leaders agreed to meet for lunch at 12.30pm in IKEA, then proceed to the MK Dons v Oldham football match, talk to stadium workers, and evaluate soon after the game ends at 5pm.
If you or anyone you know is interested to join this research action, please contact Community Organiser Tom Bulman.
At a breakfast launch of the Refugee Welcome Schools initiative on Thursday 29th November, hosted by Grant Thornton LLP and Dentons LLP UKMEA, six MK schools committed themselves to achieving Refugee Welcome Schools accreditation. These included two mainstream secondary schools, two mainstream primary schools and two supplementary schools.
This initiative promotes and supports a new standard for the awareness, welcome and action, which a school pledges to undertake in support of refugee and other new students in their school.
40 people from 18 institutions attended the event, which was organised by Citizens:mk, in partnership with NASUWT, and co-chaired by Kurshida Mirza and Hala Afify, members of the Citizens:mk Leadership Group.
Cllr Martin Petchey, Mayor of Milton Keynes Council(pictured above), which has welcomed 16 Syrian refugee families to MK under the government’s VPRS scheme since 2015, opened the proceedings by referring to recent news of serious bullying of refugee pupils at a school outside Milton Keynes (read full story).
Testimonies were then heard (through volunteer interpreter Jamila Kaouri) from three Syrian mothers and one teenage daughter, who have recently settled in MK, about the traumatic conditions of school provision in Syria compared with the warm welcome and access to services provided by Milton Keynes.This was followed by three students from St. Paul’s Catholic School(pictured above) talking about why they feel compelled to campaign for a warm welcome from their school community.
Support worker Kerri Chana of British Red Cross (pictured above), and Hasnain Datoo and Shelina Meghji of Building Bridges MK (pictured below), then spoke about the importance of supporting refugees and asylum-seekers with English language translation and teaching.
Kerri said: “Our volunteers have a range of different roles. There are caseworkers, administrators, orientation project workers and English language teachers. They are all community members who are using the British Red Cross volunteering role to make a positive difference to the experience of newly arrived families.”
Fred Grindrod, Principal Official of NASUWT, a Refugees Welcome Partner (pictured above), spoke of the international movement to support refugee children and the importance to NASUWT of its partnership with Citizens UK.
Then pledges were received from MK schools (main picture above) as follows:
commitment Refugees Welcome Schools accreditation – Brooklands Farm Primary School (pledge received before the event), Jubilee Wood Primary School, St. Paul’s Catholic School, The Radcliffe School, Al Ajyad Supplementary School, Middle Eastern Language School (pledge received at the event of the event).
commitment to discuss this at Senior Leadership Team meeting – Lord Grey School, MK College, Shenley Brook End School, Southwood Primary School (pledge received before the event).
Finally Tim Finch (pictured above), Director of the Sponsor Refugees project created by Citizens UK, and Paul Eedle (pictured below), Community Sponsorship Ambassador of Muswell Hill Methodist Church in North London, talked about the benefits of Community Sponsorship and how a school community might embrace this opportunity.
In post-action evaluation, the event was given a score 8/10, with praise for the turnout and criticism of directions about parking arrangements and lack of working microphone.
Citizens:mk’s annual Leaders Forum, this year hosted by St. Paul’s Catholic School, attracted 40 people including leaders from 16 member institutions and some external guests. Each member institution presented one or two priority social problems arising from their listening campaigns, powerful testimonies were heard and the following research teams (with named leaders and institutions) pledged to work over the winter months with the goal of reporting to Delegates Assembly on 5th February:
Cycle Safety – Craig Broadbent, Deborah Cooper and Phil Ashbourne of Green Alliance, Leo Nicholas of St. Paul’s Catholic School; The Open University.
Fair Deal/Work – Hala Afify and Linda McComie of Truby’s Garden Tea Room, William Appaih of St. Augustine’s Catholic Church; Middle East Cultural Group.
Housing & Homelessness – Lawrence Morgan and Carol Barac of Green Alliance, Ayser Al jawad of Middle East Cultural Group.
Mental Health – Saira Sajid of MK Academy; Gabi and Tom Navin of St. Paul’s Catholic School, William Appaih of St. Augustine’s Catholic Church.
Police at Primary Level – Tony Berwick of Jubilee Wood Primary School, Kate Matthews of Southwood Primary School; St. Paul’s Catholic School.
Refugees Welcome Schools – Elysia Roach of St. Paul’s Catholic School, Craig Warne of NASUWT, Susie Hancock of The Open University.
Youth for Elderly – Richard Lyons of St. Frideswide’s Church, Sofia Hassan of Middle East Cultural Group, Rachel Redford of The Open University.
Research team leaders were asked to contact Community Organiser Tom Bulman, tel 07962 838685, asking him to attend their first research team meeting and deliver training to the team.
An alliance-wide training workshop has been arranged for Saturday 1st December 2018, 9.30am-1.30pm at St. Frideswide’s Church, where leaders from all teams/institutions will receive Action Research training from Tom and Jonathan Cox of Citizens UK.
In post-event evaluation, this internal action was scored 8/10.
On Tuesday 13th November, pupils from Summerfield Primary School took part in a public action to raise awareness of hate crime in MK. While pupil councillors met and got pledges from a range of local power-holders, the school choir sung an original song, ‘Love Is Stronger Than Hate’ (music and words by teacher Nikki Elgar), to attract attention. The action, which took place at the Arriva Buses booth opposite The Point in CMK, was organised as part of Citizens:mk’s Fight Against Hate campaign, and filmed by BBC TV Look East.
Campaign leader Fidele Mutwarisibo of Church of Christ the Cornerstone and The Open University first introduced Richard Solly and Sgt Catherine Story of Thames Valley for an update on statistics which show a recent increase in hate crime in MK. Then Summerfield School councillors Harry and Maureen explained why kindness is important in their school and why they are taking action to reduce hate in the community, and personal testimonies of shocking hate incidents witnessed were heard from teacher Mrs Elgar and pupil Sofia.
Jennifer Parsons of MK Muslim Association spoke of her own direct experience of a painful hate incident on a public bus and Johnson, a bus driver from Arriva Buses, spoke of his own experiences of receiving hate abuse while on the job in MK.
The Summerfield pupils then gave thanks and a gift of sweet biscuits to the Arriva bus drivers for sharing with their colleagues at the bus depot as a small token of thanks for Arriva’s work in publicising their campaign with posters on the buses recently.
Towards the end of the action, the following pledges were made:
Cllr Sam Crooks, Deputy-Mayor of MK (pictured above), pledged to include in his mayoral speeches whenever relevant that MK’s young people want to promote love not hate.
Greg Burnet of MKFM pledged to promote their campaign on the radio.
Arriva Buses pledged to organise for a group of bus drivers to be interviewed by Summerfield pupils about their experiences of hate.
Sgt Catherine Story of Thames Valley Police (pictured below) pledged that Thames Valley Police would do all they could to reduce hate crime in MK.
In a powerful finale, pupils and power-holders held hands in a ring and walked around the Arriva booth chanting ‘Love not hate, Together we can do it, Love not hate, Together we can do it!”
“Today’s young people have a deep sense of injustice,” said Fidele Mutwarisibo. “This is their way of telling adults about the kind of community they want to live in.”
“It’s important to us that all passengers and drivers feel safe on our buses,” said Arriva Buses Manager Kieran Lawson in a statement made earlier (as he couldn’t attend on the day). “Not only have we displayed posters showing who to call if you experience hate crime, Arriva Buses have also pledged to train all our drivers in ways to react safely and effectively to hate crime.”
“The children have reminded us how important it is to stand up for what is right,” said Fidele. “Being hateful is simply wrong and helping others away from hateful behaviour is something we can all play a part in. “
At the start of national Hate Crime Awareness Week, more than 100 people – including school pupils, academics and MK’s civic and business leaders – gathered at The Open University for Citizens:mk’s ‘Fight Against Hate’ day of action on 15th October 2018.
After a welcome from The OU’s Josie Fraser, and a series of powerful testimonies about racial, trans and religious hatred, the audience heard songs from the students of four schools – Great Linford Primary, Jubilee Wood Primary (pictured below), Summerfield Primary and St. Paul’s Catholic Schools.
Then power-holders – including Arriva Buses, MK Council, MK Dons and Thames Valley Police – were asked to make pledges (see pledges below).
In post-event evaluation, the action was scored 8/10.
Afterwards lead organiser Jiten Patel, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at The OU, said: “I’m delighted to see so many coming to support our aspiration for a safer community in MK”.
Campaign leader Fidele Mutwarisibo, of Church of Christ the Cornerstone and also at The OU, said: “It’s great to see our campaign getting stronger and stronger”.
Work with Citizens:mk Fight Hate Crime campaign leaders to develop and deliver a 12 month communications plan, sending out monthly messages encouraging our staff to be more aware of hate incidents/crime and to report the same, either internally or directly to the Thames Valley Police Service (This will also include bullying and harassment which often lead to poor productivity, high stress, and related sickness absence).
Invite Thames Valley Police to deliver up to 3 one-hour training sessions to selected staff in recognising and addressing Hate crime/incidents so that our staff, students, and our citizens can feel safer in Milton Keynes.
Come and report progress achieved in terms of the messages communicated and numbers of incidents reported, at the citizens:mk accountability assembly in Spring 2019.
The Open University
We pledge to:
Invite Thames Valley Police to deliver up to 3 one-hour training sessions to selected staff and students of The Open University in recognising and addressing Hate crime/incidents so that our staff and our citizens can feel safer in Milton Keynes.
We pledge to:
Work with Citizens:mk Fight Hate Campaign leaders to develop and deliver a 12 month communications plan, sending out monthly messages encouraging our staff to be more aware of hate incidents/crime and to report the same, either internally or directly to the Thames Valley Police Service (This will also include bullying and harassment which often lead to poor productivity, high stress, and related sickness absence).
To negotiate with Council staff to invite Thames Valley Police to deliver up to 3 one-hour training sessions to selected council staff in recognising and addressing Hate crime/incidents so that your staff and our citizens can feel safer in Milton Keynes.
Come and report progress achieved in terms of the messages communicated and numbers of incidents reported, at the Citizens:mk accountability assembly in Spring 2019?
Thames Valley Police
We pledge to:
(With their agreement) Deliver one-hour training sessions to at least 4 schools in Milton Keynes during the next 12 months to up-skill school council members and school playground supervisors (where permitted by schools) in recognising and addressing Hate crime/incidents so that our future leaders can feel safe in their places of study.
Deliver 3 one-hour training sessions to selected staff and volunteers of MK DONS in recognising and addressing Hate crime/incidents so that our future leaders can feel safer in Milton Keynes.
Negotiate with the Leader / Deputy Leader of MK Council to deliver training sessions to selected staff at the MK Council in recognising and addressing Hate crime/incidents so that our future leaders can feel safer in Milton Keynes.
Deliver up to 3 one-hour training sessions to selected staff and students of The Open University in recognising and addressing Hate crime/incidents so that our citizens can feel safer in Milton Keynes.
Come and report progress achieved in terms of the messages communicated, numbers of incidents reported, and number of training sessions agreed/delivered at the Citizens:mk accountability assembly in Spring 2019.
We pledge to:
Invite all schools who participated in the Harmonies 4 Harmony Music Festival to take part in the MK Dons Parade Day on 4th May 2019 and to promote the ‘Fight Against Hate’ Campaign.
Provide an allocation of spaces to MK Council, Thames Valley Police, Arriva Buses, Network Rail and the Open University to promote the ‘Fight Against Hate Campaign’ on 4th May 2019.
Display banners and posters, and to provide space in front of the MK DONS Stadium for an Arriva Bus displaying the’ Fight against Hate Poster’ on 4th May 2019.
Select one school from those who have prepared and presented songs the Open University’s Harmonies 4 Harmony festival on 15th October, 2018, to perform their song at the DONS on parade day 4th May 2019.
Promote the ‘Fight Against Hate Campaign’ by agreeing for Thames Valley Police to deliver 3 x 1 hour sessions in recognising and addressing Hate crime/incidents to our staff and stewards so that our citizens can feel safer in Milton Keynes.
On Friday 5th October, 63 pupils from five member schools completed Citizens:mk’s annual One-Day School Councillor Training, this year hosted by St. Paul’s Catholic School. The other schools were Jubilee Wood, St. Monica’s, Southwood and Summerfield primary schools.
The theme for the Training was Refugees Welcome. The pupils heard testimonies from two Syrian teenagers who were welcomed in Milton Keynes two years ago; also from British Red Cross, who facilitated their settlement and Ian Fraser, Head Teacher of Summerfield School, who was involved in welcoming refugees in his previous MK primary school.
Representatives from MK Council, Thames Valley Police, NASUWT Teachers Union and Citizens UK presented ideas of campaign goals which the pupils might adopt, relating to hate crime awareness.
The pupils discussed and voted to campaign for the following:
The pupils prioritised the number one shared goal of ‘becoming a Refugees Welcome School’ with the aim being to persuade their number one power-holder, i.e. head teacher and/or chair of governors, to formally agree it.
They then drew up power analysis maps to identify the key power-holders, and discussed ideas for acting on their interests to achieve the campaign goals.
The day ended with role play negotiations with power holders followed by a run-around game involving the key terms in community organising: power, interest, stick person, relationship, negotiation.
On Friday-Saturday 28-29th September 2018, 17 leaders from nine member institutions and one external organisation participated in Citizens:mk’s third annual Two-Day Training at MK Quaker Centre.
The Training was facilitated by Citizens:mk’s Community Organiser and six current and former members of Citizens:mk’s Leadership Group.
A short questionnaire after the course, asking about self-perception Before and After, yielded the following results:
129% average increase in ‘My awareness of tools for building relational power (3.5 to 7.6 out of 10)
104% average increase in ‘My confidence in my community leadership’ (3.3 to 6.8 out of 10)
43% increase in ‘My motivation to make positive change in my community’ (5.9 to 8.4 out of 10).
“This training exceeded all my expectations,” said Caroline Higgins of Rethink. “It has brought structure to my thoughts, new ideas and networking. I thought I would feel like a fish out of water but swam along happily with everyone.”
“I feel motivated and inspired,” said Gill Bradley of St. Frideswide’s Church. “I’ve learned a lot about leadership.”
“It was wonderful to have time to think and explore ideas and to meet such a wonderful group of people,” said Jude Watt of Summerfield Primary School.
“It has encouraged me to take actions to improve my local community,” said Jennifer Parsons of MK Muslim Association. “I am now full of connections and ideas.”
Other (anonymous) evaluation comments from trainees included:
“A good mix of theory, planning/reflection and helping others with campaigns.”
“Very interesting to learn the basics of interaction between Leaders and Followers.”
“Very engaging and inspiring…it’s made me want to get involved.”
Now the trainees will proceed with follow-up activities over six months:
2-4 Mentoring sessions with a member of the Citizens:mk Leadership Group at mutually convenient dates/times/locations, to be arranged.
3 Action Learning Sets ending with final short presentation in last session, 9.30am-12pm on Saturdays 3rd November 2018, 1st December 2018 and 19th January 2019.
One half-day Graduation & Learning Exchange, 9.30am-12pm on Saturday 16th March 2019.
Ian Revell, CEO of MK Community Foundation (a grant funder of Citizens:mk, spoke about some recent findings of the Vital Signs research (launched officially on 2nd October).
In the Annual Hearing, Hala Afify of Truby’s Garden Tea Room spoke of her suffering from recent termination of her zero hours contract (read Hala’s testimony). Then the mother of a recently arrived Syrian refugee family spoke of her experiences as a mother in relation to her children’s school.
Driving on the M1 to attend the 6-Day leadership training course organised by Citizens UK, I could not help but thinking how I got involved with this organisation and what am I going to benefit from this course.
Only six weeks before, I was working as an Arabic Language tutor with the Ministry of Defence (MOD), I loved my job and the rapport that I built with my students over the two and half years that I worked there was great. I was looking forward to the summer holidays, a time in which my family and I go back to Cairo to see our relatives. Then the bomb shell fell, I received a notice of termination of contract with immediate effect.
I was devastated, considering this decision came only after ten days from the renewal of my contract.
I realised that as a contractor I did not have any rights under zero-hour contracts, unlike employees who could go to a tribunal for unfair dismissal, nor did I have the right to appeal. I was, in every sense of the word, stuck and the overwhelming feeling of injustice and shock engulfed me to the point of despair.
Then I bumped into a dear friend of mine, Kurshida Mirza, at the door step of the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in Milton Keynes. I told her about my ordeal and she suggested that I speak to the community organiser of Citizens:mk, Tom Bulman. Tom and I met and he mentioned the 6-Day training course.
Driving back home after finishing the course, my head was full of ideas, plans, questions, answers, good memories, but above all, a sense of relief due to the skills I acquired during the course.
On the first day of training, we were engaged in the most interesting yet provocative role play; The Athenian/Melian Dialogue. At the beginning of the task, I had so many detestable stereotypical views about power holders, and very favourable opinions about ordinary people whose only power is to take the moral high-ground. To my utter surprise, at the end of the task I appreciated the Athenians, the power holders, and wanted to emulate their tactics and vision. The lesson I learnt is that power is good and it is a force to be embraced, not shunned. Relational power is the ultimate power to be sought and this can be achieved by conducting 121s, establishing self- interest, acquiring leadership role, and actively building core teams to serve the goal of the group or the campaign.
The other crucial concept is that of bringing about change to achieve social justice. The experience I had with the termination of my contract left me feeling isolated and helpless. However, when I started thinking that I would not want anyone to feel what I felt, I realised that the change I am seeking is not only to benefit myself but every contractor who may experience such treatment under the terms of such contracts, and this emboldened me with a sense of purpose.
I went to a course in leadership, however there is no real leader without followers; followers who share the vision, feel the same pain, are power hungry in the wider sense of the word.
So, I need to hear from people who have been in the same unfortunate position, people whose contracts have been terminated abruptly, people who want to see changes in the terms of self-employment and zero-hour contracts, people who want to follow me in my campaign against these contracts.
Latest results from the 2017-18 Community Leadership Training course funded by MK Community Foundation are very positive for the new Mentoring activity, included for the first time. Mentoring appears to have the greatest impact of all activities for those who experienced it (see chart above). scoring an impact rating of 75%.
“I met 3 times with one of my mentees,” said Ayser Al Jawad of Middle Eastern Cultural Group, “It felt very good to discuss the Citizens concepts from the training and clarify certain aspects.”
“I met with my mentor formally once although I had other interaction with him over the year,” said Linda McComie or St. Edward’s Catholic Church. “As a result of that meeting I set some goals which i subsequently achieved. I then set some further goals which i am slowly working through. My awareness of relational building tool within the context of community change is theoretical and mentoring overlaid this with more practical aspects some of which I was able to use.”
“The Mentoring experience was a good one for me,” said Tess Price of Church of Christ the Cornerstone. “She was a really great mentor! She was encouraging, empathetic and supported me by listening, giving me good advice and being very supportive.”
Mentor Tim Norwood, co-Chair of Citizens:mk who has attended national Six-Day Training, said: “I started the first session by laying out some ground rules, ie confidentiality, role, and expectations, and 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.”
Another mentor, Kurshida Mirza, also co-Chair of Citizens:mk, said: “I only met my mentees formally once but kept in touch with them virtually as well as chatting to them over the phone and supporting them at events. I also supported them with creating opportunities for them by opening up dialogue with others to enable them to develop their potential.
“For me I found the experience as a mentor highly rewarding, it was my way of giving back to Citizens: mk for giving me the tools to enable community organising. It was such a delight to see my mentees develop and the best of all was that my own institution gained from being able to recruit such competent individuals. One of the mentees has become a Trustee of my institution and the other a sister organisation … so all in all it has been a win, win!”
On 12th July, MK Council Leader Peter Marland and other VIPs met in the Council Chamber, Civic Offices, to celebrate with pupils of Citizens:mk member schools their achievements in active citizenship over the past school year (pictured above).
Chaired by Kurshida Mirza, of Trubys Garden Tea Room and co-chair of Citizens:mk Leadership Group, the event began with a photo slideshow summary of recent successful actions led by pupils.
Then two student leaders from MK Academy (pictured below) stepped up to describe the recent successes of the Redways Relaunch campaign.
Josephine Osei, who initiated the campaign to achieve the ’50 Redway improvements’ pledge from Cllr Marland 18 months ago, was joined by John Wambeek, who has been holding Cllr Marland and his Highways team to account for implementing the pledge. John announced the news that MK Council has scheduled 262 Redway improvements (more than five times the original pledge), of which 92% have already been implemented.
Pupils from Summerfield School (pictured below) then described their experiences in the Day of Action for the Fight Against Hate campaign on 17th October.
Maja Mirecka, Year 6 student from Jubilee Wood School (pictured below with chair Kurshida), told of the impact of meeting and interviewing rough sleepers as part of the House the Homeless campaign.
“I think that it is a significant experience for children that are my age or maybe even younger to talk to homeless people,” she said. “We all deserve a home don’t we?”
Jean-Louis Button (pictured below), leader of the Life Skills for Young People campaign, commended the achievements of St. Paul’s Catholic School students in securing pledges from Santander and The Open University to deliver Finance Skills training sessions at the school next term.It was then the turn of VIP guests to speak. First, Chief Inspector John Batty, Deputy Area Commander of Thames Valley Police (pictured below) said:
“If the police have good relationships with young people, then there is likely to be less crime and society will be a safer place. Young people are the ones who will shape our future society and if the police are to adapt effectively to a changing society then we need to know what is important to young people. I also hope some of you will want to become the Police officers of the future.”
Short speeches were made by Lorna Rogers, Senior Associate of Dentons solicitorsand Emilia Hardern, Diversity and Inclusion Manager of Network Rail. Both companies have partnered schools in the Redways Relaunch campaign.
Lorna Rogers (pictured at right above with colleague Sarah Treharne receiving gift from the Jubilee Wood pupils), said: “We really enjoyed attending and seeing how proud the children were to be part of such a positive movement. We are very proud to be part of the Redways Relaunch programme and look forward to continuing the work we started with Jubilee Wood in the upcoming year. ”
Emilia Hardern (pictured above) said: “The passion, enthusiasm and drive of these young people amazes me! They are a great reminder that no matter what age you are you can make a difference. I am increasingly proud to live and work in Milton Keynes. Network Rail will continue to work alongside Citizens:mk on the Fight Against Hate campaign with the aim of making Milton Keynes as inclusive as it is diverse.”
Cllr Marland then awarded all the pupils with their Young Citizens 2017-18 certificates, and special awards were made to John Wambeek (pictured in hat above), Young Citizen of the Year, for his special contribution to the Redways Relaunch campaign; also Pam Weston (pictured below), retiring head teacher of Summerfield Primary School, for her extraordinary commitment to involving her pupils in citizens actions.
Tony Berwick (pictured below), head teacher of Jubilee Wood Primary School and member of Citizens:mk Leadership Group, then reflected on the exciting opportunities available for today’s young citizens as they grow up in MK.
Finally pupils from MK Academy and Summerfield School secured pledges from Cllr Marland to visit their schools next term, and the event was closed with a rousing rendition of ‘We Built This City Milton Keynes’ by the famous choir of Summerfield Primary School (pictured below).
Hala Afify Selim, a Citizens:mk leader who was attending the event shortly after returning from 6-Day Training with Citizens UK, said: “Everyone in the room was buzzing with excitement and the cameras kept flashing trying to capture the vigour, energy and enthusiasm of the singers. It was a great event where power holders, pupils, citizens and organisers shared a dream of a better future for a place where we all cherish and adore: Milton Keynes.”
Photos below show (from left to right): Pupils from Summerfield School and Jubilee Wood School with their award certificates, and Cllr Marland receiving a gift from the pupils of Summerfield School.
You are invited to attend a free film and discussion event hosted by Transition Town MK (TTMK) in partnership with MK CLT and a number of other community groups in Milton Keynes. The event is on Monday 25th June 2018, 7.30pm, at the CentreCom community centre in Central MK. This will include discussions on the variety of community-led housing models. (6 short films, approx 6-10 minutes long on successful schemes in UK). Click here to attend.
At the Accountability Assembly on 24th April, Citizens:mk obtained pledges from all MK Council party leaders pre-election to support the principle of setting up a ‘Community Land Trust’ (CLT) in Milton Keynes. This is a goal of the Citizens:mk House The Homeless campaign.
The steering group of the fledgling CLT meet every three week (all are welcome to attend the next meeting on 4th July – contact Lawrence.firstname.lastname@example.org).
Lawrence Morgan, of Transition MK is leader of the House the Homeless campaign. He is also a member of The Big Local Conniburrow partnership and works for ‘Community Housing Action:MK’ (CHAMK), a start-up social enterprise which has been lobbying the council to adopt community-led housing since start of 2017.
In the recent elections, MK Labour Party included community-led housing in their manifesto, as follows:
Use MKDP land to deliver more truly affordable housing, requiring at least 36% affordable housing on development sites.
Develop a new housing co-operative, by working with local people on proposals for a Community Land Trust to provide and maintain truly affordable housing.
Bring disused and empty housing back into use, by using all powers available to the council including use of Compulsory Purchase Orders.
75,000 new truly affordable homes by 2050, as part of any additional future growth.
Lawrence Morgan said, “It’s been a long journey, when I arrived back in England in 2016 at the high of the Brexit referendum campaigns, after having been in the southern hemisphere for 3 years. I moved to Milton Keynes as have some families ties here, my first 8 months were sleeping on my grandmother’s conservatory floor and an unreliable job on zero hours for Tesco distribution centre in Fenny Lock. Everything seems to of changed in my home country, I had serious case of post travelling blues borderline mild depression.
“Given all that I’m really glad I did come to MK. So much happening in the way of grassroot community action here. It took me a good solid year of trying to recruit other people to help me, with not much luck in mobilising those who said were interested. After meeting my co-founder and friend Andy Coaton at a People’s assembly conference in Wolverton CHAMK was born. I joined TTMK and eventually got involved with Citizens:mk. That is where things really took off”
“This movement is nothing new, Milton Keynes has a history of co-operative housing models in the form of Rainbow housing Co-op in New Bradwell and Giffard Park Housing Co-operative in Giffard Park. It’s been steadily growing across the UK and backed by central government in the form of the “community housing fund” and other powers through devolution and the Localism Act 2011. We are seeing elements of David Cameron’s’Big society’ coming through.
“We do not have to look far to see further examples of community-led housing. In our other two neighbouring cities along the growth corridor, Cambridge and Oxford there are great examples of community groups working in partnership with their local community foundation, community action organisations and supported by the City Councils.
“Given that Milton Keynes has a heritage of innovation from its very inception by the MK Development Corporation, we are in a prime position to leverage the resources that are being pumped into the growth corridor by central government. If this is going to be sustainable growth in the area we have to look outside the box of commercial developers who use a broken house market for profits, do not provide anywhere near actually genuine affordable homes compared to earnings.
“The planMK master plans states, the Council will strongly support community groups which to use custom and self-build. In order to achieve this, you can list yourself on the self build register, Self-Build & Custom Housebuilding Act 2015, MK Council is obliged to maintain a register of individuals seeking to acquire land in the Borough for a self-build or custom-build home. Local authorities have to legally allocate self serviced plots on a 3 year circle. The register can be found here: https://www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/property/self-build-register
“Community Housing Action:MK is preparing itself to become a non-profit developer of genuinely affordable co-operative homes with the aid of the MK Community Land Trust which has the ability to hold assets for the benefit of the community in perpetuity.
“30% of the price of a house being high, is because the buildings are connected to the high values of the land which they sit in, by working with the MK CLT, we can separate that land value from the cost of building new homes, which are co-designed with those that will live in them and provide highly energy and heating efficient homes with low running costs. Also aiding in fighting fuel poverty when you also take the living environment around the homes into account and include communal food gardens you are also then lower people’s dependency on rising food costs from corporate suppliers and creating further benefit on health and wellbeing, the social impact has great potential. We are in discussions with some key senior officers and Councillors who support this aim.”
All those wishes to support the work being carried out by CHAMK and MK CLT can link and share their facebook page www.facebook.com/CommunityHousingAction
Five leaders made presentations to complete the final assignment and graduate from the local Community Leadership training programme 2017-18. They were awarded their certificates by Citizens:mk Co-Chairs Kurshida Mirza and Tim Norwood.
The graduating leaders were: Safee Khan of MK Muslim Association (pictured centre above), Tony Berwick of Jubilee Wood Primary School, Sofia Hassan and Alifa Chowdhury of Trubys Garden Tea Room, and Paul Griffiths, formerly of YMCA (pictured below).
If you would like to participate in Citizens:mk’s Community Leadership Training Programme in 2018-19, see details and contact Tom Bulman, tel 07962 838685.
The graduation event also provided the opportunity of final assessment for two MK leaders who have attended Citizens UK’s 6-Day National Training in the past. Mike Kasibo of Global Outreach Foundation and Ayser Al-Jawad of Middle East Cultural Group each presented their learning from the course and were assessed by Richard Weaver of Citizens UK (pictured below with Ayser). If successful, they will receive module certification by Newman University.
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.
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.
See pledges from all party leaders in short video:
The event ended with a rousing rendition of ‘We Built This City’ led by the choir of Summerfield Primary School (pictured below).
See short video of choir singing 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.
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.
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).
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.
Five leaders from five member institutions attended the third and final Twilight Training session following the Two-Day Training 6-7.10.17 funded by MK Community Foundation.
The focus of the session was ‘Evaluating Social Impact’ and was intended to help leaders to improve the their goal-setting in terms of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound) objectives.
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.
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.
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.”
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:
Educate MK residents including children about homelessness and what city organisations (MK Council, voluntary organisations and businesses) are doing about it
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.
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.
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.
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.
alliance of diverse community organisations acting together for a thriving, inclusive and fairer Milton Keynes