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.
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.email@example.com).
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
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.
On Tuesday 13th March, campaign leaders met Cllr Peter Marland, Leader of MK Council, in his office.
First the pupils of three member schools – Jubilee Wood Primary, Summerfield Primary and MK Academy – presented evidence of their frustration that MK Council has still not provided a list dates for the scheduling of improvements to the Redways as part of his commitment to the Redways Relaunch campaign. Cllr Marland agreed to arrange a meeting with the acting Head of Highways and report to the Citizens:mk Accountability Assembly on 24th April.
Then the pupils of Jubilee Wood Primary School shared their feelings about seeing rough sleepers in MK, stating that it made them feel “sad”, “guilty” and “disappointed”. Lawrence Morgan, leader of the House the Homeless campaign, secured a pledge from Cllr Marland to attend the upcoming House the Homeless Assembly on 16th March and formally agree there to partnership in this important campaign (pictured below).
At Acorn House on 12th March, 19 people (pictured) attended a Restorative Justice workshop hosted by Police Area Commander Yvette Hitch and led by Ann Jansen-East of Thames Valley Restorative Justice Service.
The workshop focused on what works in restorative justice, featuring powerful testimony from two women with direct experience of the process following abusive relationships.
Testimonies were also provided by Arif Masters of Zainabiya Centre and Cory Bond, formerly of YMCA MK.
At the end of the workshop, Area Commander Hitch pledged to:
increase the number of cases in MK where a restorative justice approach will be used (where appropriate)
ensure all her officers and staff have input from Ann Jansen-East
meet with members of the Citizens:mk Fight Against Hate campaign team to discuss the costs and benefits of growing police use of restorative justice in MK, especially looking at what has not worked in restorative justice approaches elsewhere and what could be done differently in the MK context.
Future discussions will include examination of what does not work in restorative justice and what could be one differently in the MK context?
Area Commander Hitch said: “I felt the event was really useful in terms of highlighting how victims can be empowered by the process and how offenders gain an insight into the effect of their behaviour on others.”
A short questionnaire a few days after the session, asking about self-perception Before and After, showed the following:
33% average increase in ‘My awareness of tools for building relational power (6.0 to 8.0 out of 10)
53% average increase in ‘My confidence in my community leadership’ (5.0 to 7.7 out of 10)
26% increase in ‘My motivation to make positive change in my community’ (6.3 to 8.0 out of 10).
“I have gained so much beneficial knowledge from these sessions and it has definitely boosted me in confidence,” said Safee Khan of MK Muslim Association. “This leadership programme has motivated me towards becoming a leader and has made me have more of a positive outlook on being part of a community.”
Sofia Hassan of Middle Eastern Cultural Group sad: “In this session (my second Action Learning Set), I was more able to explain my concerns more than other sessions. This is purely down to getting more confidence. My awareness has increased tremendously.”
As a first step towards the primary goal of our new House The Homeless campaign, Citizens:mk leaders have met with the Chair of MK Homelessness Partnership (MKHP) and agreed to work together.
At a special night-time assembly on Friday 16th March, Gamiel Yafai will receive a Citizens Gold Award for MKHP’s inspiring achievement in producing a Strategic Review to shift MK ‘from managing to ending homelessness’. 98 people from 13 Citizens:mk member institutions have pledged to attend. Click here to come too.
MKHP is the Partnership through which MK Council has worked for 18 months with local homelessness organisations including Winter Night Shelter, Open Door, MK Bus Shelter and YMCA MK. Its mission is supported by all political parties on MK Council which, while managing the pressures of a greatly reduced budget, has agreed substantial funding to address the issue and end homelessness by 2021 (see recent BBC report).
Citizens:mk co-chair Kurshida Mirza said: “We are delighted to be working with MK Homeless Partnership and look forward to supporting Gamiel and his team to help end homelessness in MK. They deserve this award.”
Campaign leader Lawrence Morgan said: “We are keen to support the MKHP in communicating its strategy through our campaign goals and network. After talking with Gamiel, we recognise how the language in some of our goals needs adapting to reflect fully this supportive role.”
This month Jiten Patel of The Open University (pictured in action) has become the 19th MK leader to attend Citizens UK’s national 6-Day Training course since the Citizens:mk chapter was launched in 2010.
“It’s been a very good experience for me,” said Jiten. “It has helped me to analyse where power really lies.”
This year’s annual ‘Sleep Easy’ sleep out will take place in the Fred Roche Gardens behind the Church of Christ the Cornerstone, Central Milton Keynes.
YMCA Milton Keynes is raising funds for 2 reasons:
To furnish the bedrooms in our new building, which is due to be complete by June 2019 .
To raise funds to allow us to continue with our learning and support programme, because, as you will be aware, funding from local government has drastically been cut, it is therefore vitally important that we fundraise to continue with our work with the help of organisations such as yourself , supporters of the YMCA and the local community.
The overall impact on trainees, according to their before/after ratings, was:
34% increase in ‘My awareness of tools for building relational power’
48% increase in ‘My confidence in my community leadership’
26% increase in ‘My motivation to make positive change in my community’.
“This was a very good bite sized workshop where we were able to engage with each other and apply principles to real life community issues,” said Jiten Patel of The Open University.
“I’ve enjoyed these training sessions thoroughly,” said Safa Khan of MK Muslim Association. “They have given me positive insight regarding community matters, I have gained beneficial knowledge which has motivated me to seeking more and doing more for society to create positive change.”
“While I was aware of the tools and techniques and have used them in the past,” said Linda McComie of Truby’s Garden Tea Room, “the training provided both reinforcement of my knowledge but more importantly gave a completely different perspective in how they can be used effectively.”
“This training has the benefit of building our relationships and networks with like-minded individuals,” said Linda Kirk from St. Frideswide’s Church.
“I really do feel the twilight training sessions are very beneficial in order to meet other like minded individuals who are on the same path, alongside trying to further our own campaigns,” said Jean-Louis Button of Transition MK.
“I found it a great opportunity for learning and enhancing my skills,” said Shamsa Qureshi of MK Muslim Assoication. “I think its a very good initiative by you for MK community for developing insight towards the issues and learning practical approaches to resolve them altogether.”
At the end, participants were asked to share issues they face and actions they plan to take in preparation for presentation to Delegates Assembly on 5.2.18 and beyond.
The third and final Twilight Training session will take place on Monday 16th April 2018 @ 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm. Click here for details.
Each of the five participants took turns to present an issue blocking their leadership and take open questions from the group, then decided on one or two actions to take before next meeting.
The overall impact on trainees, according to their before/after ratings, was:
78% increase in ‘My awareness of tools for building relational power’
100% increase in ‘My confidence in my community leadership’
67% increase in ‘My motivation to make positive change in my community’.
“I found the session very helpful and interesting,” said participant Sofia Hassan. “It has helped me to have the confidence to talk about concerns that I have in the community and be able to approach some of the power holders. I’m looking forward to the next session too.”
Following the launch of the Fight Against Hate campaign poster display on the front of Church of Christ the Cornerstone last month (see news story), the banners have been moved to Jubilee Wood Primary School.
The photo above shows pupils chatting about the display a few hours after its arrival. It is expected that more than 600 people – school pupils, parents, staff, governors and visitors – will pass the display in the next few days.
The posters will be displayed here for a while, before moving to other participating primary schools across the city.
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!
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:
Male role models
Muslim female swimming facilities
In post-event evaluation, this year’s Leaders Forum scored 9/10.
11 leaders from seven member institutions took action to get the management of Thecentre:mk talking about the Living Wage.
Thecentre:mk is one of MK’s most famous institutions, defining in part at least our very culture as a community. MK’s largest building, it was opened by PM Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and today attracts 27m shoppers to MK each year from around the region. Earlier this year, it was announced that thecentre:mk will undergo a £50m revamp.
Citizens:mk’s Living Wage campaign team has been working for more than five years to drive up the number of MK employers who are accredited Real Living Wage employers, i.e. those who are committed to paying all staff and contract workers at least £8.45 per hour (the wage independently calculated to be what is needed for a decent standard of living).
And with some success…48 employers have been accredited so far (see list of MK fair employers). But the campaign’s target was 50 by the end of 2017, to celebrate MK’s 50th birthday.
Led by Debbie Wilson and Sheila Bacon of MK Quaker Meeting, with the help of Kurshida Mirza and Ayser Al Jawad of Truby’s Garden Tearoom and the Middle Eastern Cultural Group, the team finally got a face-to-face meeting with thecentre:mk’s administrator, Debbie Stevens, which led to a meeting with CEO Kevin Duffy.
Mr Duffy is concerned that accrediting thecentre:mk as a real Living Wage employer will give the public the wrong impression that all retailers in thecentre:mk are all accredited.
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 songled by teaching assistant and composer, Nikki Elgar, See video of recording on 12.10.17(pictured below).
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.”
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.”