Category Archives: News

Twilight Training launches Homelessness campaign research – 20.11.17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leaders Forum 2017 sets off new campaign research teams

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

17 issues were raised and four campaign research teams established:

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

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

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

Other issues raised at Leaders Forum were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thecentre:mk appears to pay all its staff above the Real Living Wage (£8.45 per hour at 2.11.17) but to be uninterested in accreditation.

Over the past four weeks, thecentre:mk management has not responded to three emails, one letter and one phone call from the campaign team (e.g. letter to Kevin Duffy).  Is this because the annual accreditation fee of £120 is too high?

The Living Wage campaign team thought so…and wanted to show thecentre:mk the various benefits of being a Living Wage Employer if only we can have a few minutes’ conversation.

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

“We would like to be able to celebrate thecentre:mk as our 50th Employer before the end of this year,” said Debbie Wilson.

Debbie Stevens promised she would organise a further meeting.

Following the action, Citizens:mk has been contacted by thecentre:mk CEO Kevin Duffy and meetings are being arranged with thecentre:mk and OCS Group UK Ltd, which manages the cleaning services.

MK business leaders so near to 50 target – 7.11.17

MK leads UK on Real Living Wage – press release

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

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

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

There were speeches from business leaders:

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

and community leaders:

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

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

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

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

Network Rail share listening campaign with Summerfield School – 6.11.7

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

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

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

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

Building Bridges across Fishermead – 4.11.17

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

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

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

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

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

Issues raised

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

Weaving Trust against Hate at Zainabiya Centre – 21.10.17

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

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

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

Click here for full list of text insights.

Standing below are the organisers.

Children sing for city leaders’ support in Fight Against Hate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for Fidele’s experience.

Click here for Nikki’s experience.

Click here to see design of posters on Arriva buses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attendees of Two-Day Training 6-7th October 2018:

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

MK Academy students check MK Council progress on Redway improvements

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

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

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

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

Network Rail plan to help MK Academy with Redways Relaunch

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

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

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

Noorah Mohammed wins Fight Against Hate poster competition – 19.7.17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

50 Redway improvements could be 500, Council Leader tells pupils

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Researching young people’s priority mental health issues – 11.7.17

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

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

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

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

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

Pupils get creative in fight against hate – 3.7.17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Successful Healing through Hearing pilot – 28.6.17

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

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

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

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

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

Santander clears St. Paul’s School Redway – 26.6.17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great Get Together Iftaar Celebrates MK unity – 16.6.17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and

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

Bishop of Oxford backs school competition to combat hate – 25.5.17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo from Mubasher Maqbool.)

 

Weaving Trust with Middle East Cultural Group – 12.5.17

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

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

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

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

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

Voter Registration – how you can help

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accountability Assembly 2017 pledges to build bridges, not walls

259 individuals from 18 member institutions staked their claim in Citizens:mk for the year ahead and heard pledges of commitment from power-holders to build ‘bridges, not walls’ between MK’s diverse communities in this, its 50th birthday year.

Mayor Steven Coventry shook the hands of each member institution’s representative as they came up to call out their institution’s commitment – people brought and dues paid – for the year ahead.

The Assembly were shown a video of the MK Council Leader’s apology for absence and accountability for actions he has taken over the past year – click here to see the video.

Jo Astor of Network Rail pledged to host the biggest-yet Living Wage Business Breakfast at Quadrant:mk on 7th November 2017,   “We plan to welcome 50 Living Wage employers,” she said, “and wish the Citizens:mk campaign team every success in achieving that target.”

Having earlier performed a mime of ‘building bridges, not walls’ to John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ song by the Youth Choir of Church of Christ the Cornerstone, the pupils of Summerfield Primary School performed ‘We Built This City’ (pictured above) to great applause.  “I just wish we’d all got up and danced to that one!” said Carmel Schmid, a seasoned Citizens:mk campaigner, after the event.

Harry Smith, Year 9 pupil of MK Academy, asked The Parks Trust to meet in June with members of the Redways Relaunch campaign team to plan the cutting back of bushes on the Redways to increase students’ sense of safety.  In response, Alex Chapman, a trustee of The Parks Trust, said:  “We are willing to be  part of your campaign and initially help each school identify which of their Redway landscaping concerns we can help with.   We will listen and respond quickly to any suggestions from Citizens:mk for ways we could make improvements to Redways in our responsibility.”

Following testimony from external guest Olumuyiwa Adekunle, the Fight Against Hate campaign team gave local testimony and secured important pledges from power-holders, all of whom then signed a ‘Fight Against Hate charter:

  • from Arriva Buses, to run a hate crime awareness raising poster campaign on MK buses.
  • from Pam Weston of Summerfield School, to run a schools poster competition to raise awareness of hate crime.
  • from Liz Gifford of MK Council, to host a peer support meeting for victims of hate crimes in MK.
  • from Supt Vince Grey of Thames Valley Police, to plan a restorative justice event.

Tyrone Blackford-Swaries (pictured above), recently appointed Director of MK Mental Health Services, heard testimonies and agreed to work with the Citizens:mk Mental Health campaign team, meeting quarterly, to help achieve its goals.

Leaders from the three largest political parties in MK Council – Labour, Conservative and LibDem, also pledged support for Citizens:mk’s campaigns 2017-18 and signed the Fight Against Hate charter.

In an evaluation session immediately after the event, this year’s Assembly scored 7 out of 10.

Pupils in mass action for Redway improvements – 21.4.17

On Friday 21st April, 400 pupils from five MK schools walked from their schools to the city centre to ask the Leader of the Council for 50 Redways improvements in MK’s 50th birthday year.   This was the first major action of the Redways Relaunch campaign, which was filmed and broadcast on BBC TV Look East.

Two pupil leaders, from MK Academy and St. Paul’s Catholic School (pictured below left), knocked for Cllr Pete Marland at Civic Offices and asked him to accompany them across the road to City Square, outside Marks & Spencers, where all the other students and pupils were gathered.

Employees from local businesses including Dentons, Santander and Shoosmiths, joined the action and pledged to help support the schools on Redway litter patrols later this term.

Pupils collected rubbish along the way and presented it to the Council Leader.  A told him:  “We are fed up with the litter, broken glass and other rubbish dumped on the Redways and we want to clear it up. Our school council are willing to look after the Redway next to our school and we have already started to pick up litter and think about ways to make it a better route to the city centre.”

A survey of 2,300 pupils in six schools showed that 80% of pupils use the Redways but only 40% think they are safe (survey results).

A pupil from Southwood Primary School said: “The more people use the redways, the less scary it is”.

The main goal of the campaign is to gain pledges from MK Council and The Parks Trust to plan and implement 50 Redway improvements. The priority improvements which the pupils want are:

  • litter removal (backed by 67% of the survey respondents)
  • improved lighting (62%) and
  • cut back hedges (56%).

Lucy Gray of Shoosmiths LLP (pictured below) said: “Seeing Milton Keynes through the eyes of local pupils gives you a very clear view of what our local Redways should look like.  Our colleagues love volunteering in the community and working with schools and that is why we are really looking forward to joining forces with Summerfield and making a real difference to our Redways.”

Luke Farrell of Santander UK said:  “It’s really important that children have a safe route to school and we’re delighted to be able to do our bit to support our local community.”

Cllr Marland pledged to support the pupils’ goal of 50 realistic Redway improvements and organise for his senior officers to meet with the pupils so that plans would be agreed before the end of MK’s 50th birthday year.  For this he was thanked with a garland decorated with pupil comments on the Redways.

The five schools who took part in the action were members of Citizens:mk, an alliance of 23 community groups including churches and Muslim associations as well as schools, who had taken part in a joint training session back in September and resolved then to launch a Redways campaign.  The schools (and number of pupils they brought to this action) were:  Jubilee  Wood Primary (22), MK Academy (13), St. Monica’s Catholic Primary (8), St. Paul’s (7) and Summerfield (360).

“We value active citizenship and training young leaders from schools is an important part of what Citizens:mk does,” said Lucian Hudson, Chair of Citizens:mk and Director of Communications at The Open University.

“I am really impressed by the children,” said Tony Berwick (pictured in grey top above), Headteacher of Jubilee Wood School.  “They have put their case across  with style.  We now hope the wider community here in Milton Keynes will support this campaign.”

Accountability Assembly Invitation

Citizens:mk  invites you to its annual Accountability Assembly

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Imagine MK beyond 50:  Building Bridges, not Walls

Tuesday 25th April 2017, 6.15pm for 6.30-8.00pm

Church of Christ the Cornerstone, 300 Saxon Gate West, MK9 2ES

RSVP to info@citizensmk.org.uk or book online.

Click here for Council Leader’s video Apology and Accountability 2016-17.

Imagine a Milton Keynes where it is clean and safe for children to walk or cycle to school, to play outside with their friends…

Imagine a Milton Keynes where communities and individuals get along, knowing that they have the same basic interests and desires, rather than worry about the things that make them different…

Imagine a Milton Keynes which provides support and assistance to those who are most in need, those who are sometimes unable to cope with life’s difficulties…

Imagine a Milton Keynes in which people are focused on building bridges, not walls.

On 25th April, Citizens:MK will hold its annual Accountability Assembly and present to the people of Milton Keynes and their leaders three campaign proposals to help diverse communities improve their city.  The three campaigns being promoted, and for which Citizens:mk seeks the support of Milton Keynes authorities, are: 

Last year’s campaigns were: Living Wage, Weaving Trust, Community Energy and Refugees Welcome.

Citizens:MK is an alliance of 23 diverse member institutions including faith, education and other community organisations.

For further information, contact Tom Bulman, tel 07962 838685.

Interdirect Proud to be a Living Wage Employer

Milton Keynes leading full service marketing agency, Interdirect has become an accredited Living Wage employer.

Nicholas Mann, Managing Director of Interdirect explains why he feels it is important that everyone working for his business receives a Living Wage: “With 21 years’ experience as an employer I know and understand the importance of building and maintaining a happy and fulfilled team.

“There are many ways in which we can show our appreciation for the hard work and dedication that our employees put into the business, and a fair rate of pay is a crucial one.”

Living Wage Foundation Director, Katherine Chapman said: “We are delighted to welcome Interdirect to the Living Wage movement as an accredited employer.  The best employers are voluntarily signing up to pay the Living Wage now.”

Jubilee Wood pupils take Redways campaign to Dentons – 27.2.18

On Monday 27th February, three pupils and the head teacher of Jubilee Wood Primary School met with staff at Dentons solicitors in Central Milton Keynes.

The aim was to brief the Dentons staff on the goals of the Redways Relaunch campaign and find out their interests in supporting it.

“The children thought the office was amazing,” said head teacher Tony Berwick.  “Dentons’ support and help is very much appreciated and we are very pleased they have agreed to attend the Day of Action outside Civic Offices on Friday 21st April.”

“We hope to have Dentons employees working alongside our children on a Redways project in the future.”

 

Three new campaigns launched at Delegates Assembly – 7.2.17

Three new campaigns were launched at this year’s Delegates Assembly (total number of votes from institutions in brackets):

  • Mental Health – face to face appointments for screening assessments and notebooks for all mental health patients (69 votes)
  • Redways Relaunch – 50 improvements to the Redway network and a day of action on 21st April (50 votes)
  • Fight against Hate – awareness raising on public buses and in schools, and peer support for victims of hate crime (49 votes).

The assembly was attended by 85 people from 18 member institutions, who jointly committed a turnout of 255 for the upcoming Accountability Assembly on 25th April, where the new campaigns will be asking power-holders to make campaign pledges (numbers in table below).

Click here for details of what was said at the Delegates Assembly.

“What was really impressive (as an outsider),” wrote Jonathan Cox, Deputy Director of Citizens UK, “was the depth of the members’ ownership of the organisation and the process.  In particular the accountability around dues, with each institution being asked to pay its dues for the year ahead by April.   Also the seriousness about turnout and democracy…and the wide range of leaders proposing new and very local issues to take forward.”

Turnout Turnout pledge for 25.4.17
Brooklands Farm Primary School 3 15
Church of Christ the Cornerstone 7 15
Future Wolverton Apologies received
Global Outreach Foundation 2 15
Jubilee Wood Primary School 6 15
Middle East Cultural Group 3 17
MK Academy 3 15
MK Muslim Association 2 15
MK Quaker Meeting 6 16
MK YMCA Apologies received
Open University 1 10
Pakistani & Kashmiri Muslim Welfare Association
Q:alliance 5 15
St. Augustine’s RC Church 6 15
St. Francis & St. Mary’s Catholic Church 1 10
St. Frideswide’s Church 2 5
St. Monica’s Catholic Primary School
St. Paul’s Catholic School 5 15
Southwood Primary School Apologies received
Stantonbury Ecumenical Partnership 6 12
Summerfield Primary School 9 20
Transition MK 8 15
Truby’s Garden Tea Room 5 15
guests 5
TOTAL 85 255

 

50 MK organisations create Weaving Trust 50 – 28.1.17

On Saturday 28th January 2-4pm, 90 individuals from 50 MK organisations took part in the ‘Weaving Trust 50’ event to celebrate MK’s 50th birthday.

Following short testimonies from individuals of different faiths, talking about their experiences living in Milton Keynes, participants had seven conversations about their own experiences in a carousel of six-minute conversations with people they didn’t know.

“It is so important to talk to new people,” wrote one participant at the end.  “We are often so busy in our own world, jobs that it takes someone to set up an opportunity for us to be able to have the time and space to meet other people from all walks of life in MK. It can only serve to bring communities together.”

Another participant wrote:  “It’s really opened up my eyes to the diversity of people, faiths and groups in Milton Keynes and how many community and charitable organisations there are which are dedicated to the social cohesion and celebration of them. Perhaps this is what makes MK so different. We’re not just roundabouts and concrete cows after all!”

“It was lovely to talk to so many interesting and MK committed people,” said Sir Henry Aubrey-Fletcher, Lord Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire.

“The feedback has been wonderful,” said Alan Bainbridge, of MK Quaker Meeting, who chairs the Weaving Trust campaign team and facilitated the event.  “It was marvellous to stand on the podium and gaze down to see 90 people engaged with each other and so obviously enjoying the experience, and clearly getting a lot out of it.”

 

Weaving Trust at HMP Woodhill – 6.12.16

Alan Bainbridge, Chair of the Weaving Trust action team, writes:

We met seven prisoners and Alan Hodgetts, the managing chaplain acting as a host. I  introduced the session by saying that Weaving Trust is simply about meeting people we otherwise wouldn’t and through personal contact getting a fuller appreciation of each other’s lives. This may not immediately create trust, but without contact and conversation trust is impossible.

I was initially a bit apprehensive about meeting prisoners, some of whom were serving long sentences, but by the end of the session I was no longer apprehensive and I think that sums up the event. I learned a lot about prison life and found the prisoners to be reflective and insightful.

One interesting observation that came out strongly was that the prisoners wanted there to be more prison officers on duty. This reflects and supports the recent strong representations made by prison officers themselves that they are too few in number. The prisoners were generally respectful of the prison officers and recognised that they make the environment safer and enable prisoners to have more freedom within the prison, rather than being locked in their cells or ”behind the door” as they called it. I learned that prison life is tough, but not as tough, or cruel, as it is sometimes represented on television or in the press. The major difficulty was boredom, and the prisoners themselves seemed to greatly appreciate the opportunity to meet people from beyond the wall.

I came away from the event strangely conflicted because the people I met seemed remarkably ordinary, and yet they were prisoners and, as they all acknowledged, were there because they had done something wrong. In Weaving Trust we don’t expect any outcome, other than greater understanding, and I think I will reflect on this experience for some time. I wish all the people I met well.

Leaders Forum bursting with issues and ideas – 22.11.16

On Tuesday 22nd November, MK Academy hosted our annual Leaders Forum.  This is where leaders from member institutions share their findings from listening campaigns  and seek partners to research those issues and craft SMART campaign goals.

The room was bursting with 57 people representing 20 member institutions.

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And there was no shortage of stories about issues affecting our communities.

“We heard about a lot of very serious issues, perhaps too many to ultimately take forward,” said Tom Robbins of Q:alliance.  “There was a lot of energy and a sense of being the right people, in the right place, at the right time to address them.”

Six research teams were created, each with a leader and representatives of at least three member institutions, to find out more about the following issues (leaders in brackets):

  • Air pollution (Michael Sheppard, Transition MK)
  • Hate (Fidele Mutwarasibo and Anthony Okotcha, Church of Christ the Cornerstone)
  • Homelessness and housing (Chloe Markevics, YMCA, and Anna Kearns, St. Mary Magdalene’s Catholic Church)
  • Mental health (James Cartman, Q:alliance and Imogene Okotcha, Church of Christ the Cornerstone)
  • One-stop cultural centre (Liz Kasibo, Global Outreach Foundation)
  • Redways (Josephine Osei, MK Academy).

Any proposals for new campaigns must gain the consent of our members’ alliance at Delegates Assembly on 7th February, when current campaigns may also be proposed further work in the year ahead.  We can proceed only with campaigns which have SMART goals and which we have sufficient support.

To support research teams, a training event will be held at MK Academy on Tuesday 6th December, 5.30-8pm.  We strongly recommend that all members of research teams attend this session.   Click here to book places.

Standing Room Only To Welcome Refugees – 14.11.16

On Monday 14th November, more than 150 MK citizens packed into the Guildhall at the city centre church yesterday evening to formally welcome five Syrian refugee families who have arrived in MK this year.

Following a negotiation immediately before with the leaders of three main political parties at MK Council offices, Council Leader Peter Marland said:  “The Council is committed to increasing the number of refugee families welcomed to 50 if the Refugees Welcome campaign group will continue to help us find new private accommodation.  The more you can help, the more we will take.  MK will never turn its back on refugees.”

Campaign leader David Wolfson thanked MK Council for taking a lead on welcoming refugees:  “Again and again we are hearing from around the country that we are doing this well in MK…but there is more to do.”

One member of the campaign group, Marie Gracie, said:  “Council officer Jeremy Beake has been a star, supporting refugees in so many ways.  We’re very committed to helping him develop relationships with local landlords.”

One of the refugees, Assad, spoke through a translator of his thanks for all MK Council and the British Red Cross have done to welcome his family.  “I feel lucky to have been born again twice…first when I found my children alive in the rubble, and again when we arrived in MK.”

“MK is my new country,” said another.

Click here for longer article.

Leaders Complete Two-Day Training – 24.9.16

On Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th September, 21 leaders from 10 member institutions completed a two-day course on the Craft of Community Leadership hosted by MK Quaker Centre.

The aim was to prepare a group of diverse leaders to develop skills and knowledge to use in community organising, especially to co-ordinate listening campaigns within their own institutions and report the issues back to Leaders Forum on 22nd November.

“It gave me a self-critical tool to see my strengths and weaknesses as a leader,” said Fr Bernard Barrett of St. Francis de Sales & St. Mary Magdalene’s Catholic Church.  “It gave me a clear pathway for both finding and forming people as leaders in my community for mission and community development.”

“The Two-Day Training has given me more understanding about what being a leader means,” said Elizabeth Kasibo of Global Outreach  Foundation, “and also opened my eyes to the other passions and needs that are being focused on within MK.”

“I felt well supported throughout the course,” said Chloe Markevics of MK YMCA.

“The course has helped me to be determined to actually reach my goals,” said Kate Abrahams of Church of Christ the Cornerstone.  “I feel that what I thought would not be possible now might very well be possible.”

The training included a new Annual Hearing of short testimonies of current  issues of social concern in MK, such as homelessness, hate crime and the impact of ‘Brexit’ on MK employees from Europe.

It is expected that both the Two-Day Training and the Annual Hearing will be expanded next year.

Parishes can benefit from community-owned energy – 15.8.16

Community Action: MK is inviting members of Parish Councils in Milton Keynes to a special event being organised during the national Community Energy Fortnight taking place between 3rd-18th September.

The event will take place at the Imovation Centre at Transport Systems Catapult (170 Midsummer Boulevard) between 5-7pm on Tuesday 13th September.

This short and practical session will provide useful information about the role that your parish council could play in promoting community ownership of energy. We will be using case studies of successful MK-based projects, such as Wolverton Community Energy, to illustrate how this model can act as a vehicle for community cohesion, at the same time as raising income for community investment in your area. In particular, we will be exploring:

  • Planning for sustainability and resilience – how you can include community energy outcomes in your Neighbourhood Plan, Parish/Business Plan or other strategic documents
  • Ways of improving efficiency of local buildings
  • Community ownership model – challenges and benefits
  • CAPE, Community Action Platform for Energy – new project in Milton Keynes

There will be an opportunity to network with representatives of other parish councils from across MK Borough and to find out about the exciting new MK Community Energy Alliance, and how your parish could become a part of it.

If you would like to represent your parish council at the event, please RSVP to anna@communityactionmk.org.

The event is being organised in collaboration between CAPE, Community Action Platform for Energy (one of Community Action: MK’s projects) and Wolverton Community Energy.

Thank you to Transport Systems Catapult for providing the venue. 

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You can see this and other events listed on the official Community Energy Fortnight 2016 website and follow updates on Twitter through #CEF16:

First MK Church Accredited Living Wage – 28.7.16

Church of Christ the Cornerstone has become MK’s first church to be accredited by the Living Wage Foundation.  This means that all its employees and employees of sub-contractors will be paid at least the current Living Wage of £8.25p per hour.

Debbie Wilson, co-chair of the Living Wage campaign, welcomed the latest accreditation.  “It is very good to add Christ the Cornerstone to our list of 30 employers accredited so far, one step closer to our target of 50 for MK’s 50th anniversary next year.”

“I am delighted we have achieved this,” said Rev Brenda Mosedale, who is due to retire from her post in a few days.  “I hope other faith institutions are not put off by the paperwork.  In the end, only a small proportion was relevant to us.”

Pictured from left to right are:  Bob Collard, Rev Ernesto Lozada-Uriaga and Rev Brenda Mosedale of Church of Christ the Cornerstone, with a gift of flowers; Debbie Wilson, Sheila Bacon and Jacqueline Eustace of our Living Wage campaign team.

Weaving Trust at MK Council – 14.7.16

On Thurs 14th July, 18 MK Council staff and councillors hosted 18 guests from Citizens:mk’s alliance in the 9th Weaving Trust event organised since the campaign began.  The event took place in the main Chamber at Civic Offices.

Cllr Liz Gifford, who formally welcomed everybody at the start, said:  “This event is brilliantly timed because as a country we must work on how to bring people together and in MK we have a model for doing it.  Now we must do more!”

As usual at a Weaving Trust event, ach participant took part in eight short conversations with people they didn’t know.

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“I was impressed most by the strong sense of community shown at the event,” said Opheas Shiridzinodya of MK Council, “from people who have lived in MK since the 70s to those who moved here two years ago.”

“The event was well organised and really enjoyable,” said Sharon Bridglalsingh of MK Council.  “What shone through was the pride we all share as citizens and Council officers in our city.”

At the end, participants scored the event with a 9 out of 10.  One commented:  “This proves what a lovely bunch of people we have in MK.”  Another said:  “It’s all about making connections.  This has helped me to become more aware of the commitment of churches in making MK a great community.”

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Colin Wilderspin of MK Council said:  “You can see people’s passion, what they believe in and how we can do more together.  I hope to be involved in future.”

Tim Norwood (pictured top facilitating the session), chair of the Weaving Trust campaign group, said:  “The Chamber was a fantastic venue for a Weaving Trust event.”

Statement After the Referendum – 28.6.16

The following statement was issued by MK Interfaith, Citizens MK and the MK Council of Faiths:

The people of the UK have voted to leave the EU. Whatever our views about the decision we must now unite to strengthen generosity, hospitality and compassion in our city. Let us cherish our differences as well as what we have in common.

We know that amongst neighbours, friends and colleagues, especially those from overseas, there may be a sense of insecurity.

At this time we stand together to speak out against racism and other forms of prejudice.

We also recommit ourselves to work together for the good of all people in our city, regardless of their origins.

Assembly Sets Justice Agenda For MK’s 50th Birthday – 26.4.16

Citizens:mk has won pledges from MK’s business and political leaders to achieve 50-themed social justice goals in MK’s 50th birthday year next year: 50 accredited Living Wage employers, 50 parish councils advised on renewable energy, 50 MK organisations in Weaving Trust events and plans to welcome 50 refugee families.

The pledges were made at our sixth annual Accountability Assembly at Cornerstone Church on 26th April, which drew a turnout of 260 people from 17 member institutions. The overall theme was ‘building community’ and the assembly heard personal testimonies of problems facing communities whose voices are not normally heard.

Care worker Jayne Meadows talked about how her life would change if she was to receive the real Living Wage.

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Syrian refugee Nour Sakr (pictured above) talked about her experience of being welcomed in Milton Keynes. Headteacher Helen Hann talked about the benefits to Wyvern First School community of being involved in a community energy scheme.  Hala Rafify of MK Muslim Association (pictured below) talked about her positive experience of welcoming non-Muslims to a ‘weaving trust’ event at the Islamic Centre on Coffee Hall.

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Several prominent MK businesses including Network Rail, Santander, KPMG, Dentons and IKEA, took turns to talk about the business benefits of being accredited Living Wage employers and urged others to join the Living Wage accreditation campaign. The new Living Wage Business Network made a ‘Special Contribution to the Community’ award to Julia Upton, who is retiring from her post as CEO of MK Community Foundation, for championing the idea of Milton Keynes as a Living Wage city.

MK Council Leader Pete Marland was given a fresh baked cake for completing seven of the eight pledges he made at last year’s Assembly, Then the leaders of MK’s main political parties each committed to further pledges for the year ahead. “We have three main parties on the Council and 80% of the time we actually agree,” said Cllr Edith Bald, Leader of the Conservative Party. “These are pledges about things that really matter to the people of Milton Keynes.”

And there was more. The Bishop of Buckingham pledged to fund additional training in community organising for church leaders. And student Daniella Ghansah of St. Paul’s School shared the results of a survey of 500 students which showed that students were being charged different bus fares by different drivers. “We are working on a campaign to introduce an All-in-One card with a flat fee for any bus journey across the city.” The Council Leader pledged to meet with the students and discuss it further.

International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia – 17.5.16

On May 17th, CitizensMK member institution, Q:alliance will be hosting a celebration to mark the annual International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia. There will be a short ceremony at the MK Rose in Campbell Park at 1pm, followed by refreshments at the Milton Keynes Gallery Project Space.

Despite tremendous advancements over last 15 years in the UK, prejudice continues to be a serious issue at home and abroad. Although steadily declining, homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic violence and discrimination continues to make headlines in the UK.

CitizensMK works to bring together the diverse communities of Milton Keynes to work together for a better MK. Our Weaving Trust campaign has been focussed particularly on bringing ordinary people together to meet each other as neighbours in our city.  We are delighted the Q:Alliance are a member of CitizensMK and are keen to create more understanding and tolerance.

Living Wage at Ikea – 25.4.16

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On the 1st of April IKEA introduced the Living Wage for all its co-workers. In the Milton Keynes Store. Staff were also treated to a celebration Living Wage breakfast and a box of goodies.

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Tanya Hamilton, HR Manager of the MK store said “I am very proud of IKEA for paying the Living Wage. I am really looking forward, together with my team, to exploring the relationship with Citizens MK and the Living Wage team.”

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Invitation to ‘Building Community’ Assembly 26.4.16

Members and non-members are invited to attend our annual Accountability Assembly on 26th April, this year themed ‘Building Community’.  Here you will see Citizens:mk in action as member institutions rally their members to support our four campaigns.  We will ask for pledges from power-holders, including the Leader of the Council and business leaders, to support our goals.  We will also hold them to account for pledges made last year.  Leaders of all main political parties will attend.  See the leader of your institution or click here to book a place.

Bus Passengers Charter At Last – 14.3.16

On Monday 14th March, the new MK Bus Passengers Charter was launched at The Bowl. This document outlines the rights and responsibilities of bus passengers in MK and takes another step towards improved bus services.

It also gives a big tick to MK Council who pledged to Citizens:mk to help make this happen.

“Bus transport has been a big issue for some time,” said Jacqueline Eustace of St. Augustine’s Catholic Church and Citizens:mk Fair Transport campaign group. “Although the bulk of the work on this has been done MK Bus Users Group, our campaign helped get this going in the first place.”

“I’m very pleased we’ve got it off the ground at last,” said Peter Ballantyne, Chair of MK Bus Users Group. “The next stage is to get MK Council to publish it and get in posted in bus shelters across MK.”

Click here for the new bus passenger charter

Southwood School meets Leader of Council – 10.3.16

16 school councillors from Southwood Primary School visited the Leader of MK Council, to talk about the problems they are experiencing at the back gate of their school because of too many parents collecting their children by car.

After hearing testimony of the problem from several school councillors, aged 7-11, Cllr Marland pledged to send a Council roads officer to the school to investigate the problems.

“It was very good to meet the pupils and hear them talking about real issues,” said Cllr Marland. “This is one of the best parts of my job!”

“The pupils really enjoyed the experience,” said deputy headteacher Elaine Hawkins, “and they are enjoying working on this campaign.”

The school councillors will be holding Cllr Marland to account for his pledge when they meet again at the Citizens:mk Accountability Assembly on 26th April.

MK leaders attend Citizens UK Council in Nottingham – 25.2.16

by Kurshida Mirza, MK Muslim Association

Five members from Citizens:mk attended the Citizens UK National Council Meeting on 25 February 2016:  Tim Norwood, St. Fridewside’s Church; Mike Kasibo, Global Outreach Foundation; Fidele Mutwarasibo, Church of the Christ the Cornerstone; Kurshida Mirza, Milton Keynes Muslim Association; and Community Organiser, Tom Bulman.

The CUK National Council is in effect a Delegates’ Assembly with representatives from each Chapter of alliances affiliated to CUK.  The aim is to debate the direction, planning and implementation of UK wide political issues and to ensure the Manifesto agreed into the last General Election is implemented.  The meetings provide an opportunity to bring issues which cannot be tackled solely by local chapters to the attention of the national Council.

This was the first time MK fielded a delegation comprising five people and was a great learning curve and an eye opener to those of us who are new members to CMK:

“CUK Council was an eye opener and an opportunity to get a whole picture of the work of Citizens UK. It was also an opportunity to network and make new friends” (Fidele Mutwarasibo).   “I was so much inspired by the great enthusiasm and courage of CUK. I thought the phrase ‘It takes a Community to raise a Child’ was only applied in Africa, but on Thursday I learnt that it’s actually everywhere in the world. We all live in the same global village!!” (Mike Kasibo, Global Outreach Foundation.

And few actions we took away:

Living Wage – Building on our successful work in MK continue to work to see if we can get more institutions to become accredited and target care providers to become Living Wage employers (the CUK noted that social care workers are poorly paid and this needs to improve).

Refugee Welcome – we reported on the successful work in MK which has brought together a diverse group of people to put together a package of support for new refugees arriving in MK and acknowledged that we needed to consider also other ways in which we could support the refugee settlement effort across the UK and elsewhere.

Weaving Trust with Q:alliance – 20.2.16

At 11am-1pm on Saturday 20th February, 11 people from five institutions of Citizens:mk alliance met with eight people from Q:alliance in a Weaving Trust event in the Community Room at John Lewis.

“The event helped me understand the issues faced by LGBT people,” said Yvonne Smith of Christ the Cornerstone Chuch.  “I was impressed by the openness, stoicism and resilience of the Q:alliance members.”

“The Weaving Trust event was a valuable exercise to find out what common interests we have as a community, regardless of age, gender, religion or sexuality,” said Suzanna Raymond, Support, Advice & Advocacy worker for Q:alliance.  “It was also a great way to find out ways we might support each other now and in the future.  I hope that Q:alliance can use this as a basis to build strong community connections in Milton Keynes.”

 

“Weaving Trust is going from strength to strength,” said Phil de Marco of St. Frideswide’s Church in Water Eaton.

In a short evaluation session at the end, the event was given 8.5/10.

Thanks to Anne Dodds, Community Liaison Coordinator at John Lewis, for use of the space.

Delegates Assembly visions MK in 50 years – 9.2.16

On  Tuesday 9th February, 95 delegates from 15 member institutions attended the annual Citizens:mk Delegates Assembly in The Guildhall, Cornerstone Church.  After a roll call and updates from several institutions on successful training events and campaign developments within their institutions, delegates were asked to consider MK’s 50th birthday next year and imagine what MK will be like in 50 years.

The key themes emerging from this visioning were:

  • city – MK a proper city, one of the best in the UK
  • energy – self-sufficient, sustainable city
  • equality – fewer families in poverty, able to hold my partner’s hand in public
  • environment – lots of green spaces, beautiful
  • housing – more affordable housing, integrated infrastructure
  • public transport – reliable, friendly and fairly priced
  • diversity – full integration of refugees unable to return to their country
  • technology – more tech businesses, robots to tidy!

The most frequently mentioned was public transport (see full list here).

Delegates were then asked to vote for campaign proposals presented by campaign teams.  The following campaign goals were formally approved for the year ahead:

  1. Weaving Trust – hold at least 8 Weaving Trust events between April 2016 and March 2017, including one massive event  involving 50 different MK institutions in January, to begin MK’s 50th birthday celebrations in January 2017.
  2. Living Wage – to have 50 accredited Living Wage employers in 2017 to celebrate MK’s 50th birthday.
  3. Community Energy – ask MK Council to:
    • Work with Wolverton Community Energy on a pilot community energy project, involving the installation of solar panels installed on at least 2 roofs it owns or controls.
    • Work with Citizens MK to share lessons learned from this project with communities across MK.
    • Designate a Cabinet member and Director with responsibility for tackling Fuel Poverty, reducing energy use and making MK a more sustainable city.
    • Provide information and help to promote the Citizens MK Big Green Switch initiative to MK residents.
  4. Refugees Welcome
    • identify 25 landlords willing to lease premises to MK Council for purpose of housing refugees.
    • school members will receive a presentation or workshop for staff and/or students about refugees and the current crisis and we will engage with 25 or more other schools
    • lobby MK Council to double its current commitment (80 refugees) and settle 50 refugee families during this Parliament.
    • continue to build up a directory of support services.

At Accountability Assembly on 26th April, power-holders will be asked to pledge commitment to achieving these goals.   Pledges made by member institutions for turnout on 26th April is 170 against a target of 300, with some still to be confirmed, as follows:

Brooklands Farm Primary School 20
Christ the Cornerstone 10
Future Wolverton 10
Global Outreach Foundation TBC
MK Academy 20
MK College TBC
MK Equality Group TBC
MK Muslim Association 10
MK Quaker Meeting 20
MK YMCA TBC
Open University 10
Q:alliance 15
St. Augustine’s RC Church TBC
St. Francis’ & St. Mary Magdalene’s 7
St. Frideswide’s 12
St. Paul’s RC School 10
Stantonbury Ecumenical Partnership 9
Southwood School 9
Transition MK 8
170

“Chairing a meeting like the Delegates’ Assembly is always a game of two halves,” said Peter Leeson of Q:alliance.  “On the one side, there is the thrill of seeing so many volunteers and people willing to support and encourage and move things on, on the other side, the continuous angst as to what is about to go wrong: the person who does not show up, the one who will ignore the bell and not stop talking, the failure of technology, the project which does not get the support it needs… Thankfully, no major incidents disrupted the evening and the whole event was dominated by the optimistic support of all participants and volunteers.”

“Co-Chairing the Delegates Assembly was a real pleasure,” said Rukshana Malik, of MK Muslim Association.  “It was really nice to see so many people voice issues that matter to them. It really made me appreciate how much effort people were putting into their campaigns and opened my eyes to things going on in and around Milton Keynes.”