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“Nice people made the best Nazis. My mom grew up next to them. They got along, refused to make waves, looked the other way when things got ugly and focused on happier things than “politics.” They were lovely people who turned their heads as their neighbours were dragged away. You know who weren’t nice people? Resisters."

 The author Naomi Shulman.

 

 

Peace and harmony and working for the common good: CUK organiser Daniel Mackintosh gives us a brief insight into to what community organising can mean.

I work for community charity Citizens UK as the Waltham Forest and Redbridge Organiser. We are an alliance of 10 faith and education organisations, including Faizan-I-Islam, in Waltham Forest. Citizens has 400 member organisations in 11 cities UK-wide. Our mission is to revive the tradition of organising in the UK embodied by the slavery abolitionists, the suffragettes and the unionists, by strengthening our institutions to participate effectively in public life.

We live in challenging times. We have seen the normalisation of nasty politics, which has created the political environment in which terror attacks, like that on the Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park, could occur. Market culture dominance has led us to accept third rate treatment for poor people, as seen by the Grenfell fire. And our democracy is threatened by our withdrawal from participating in building the politics of a common life.

Academic Luke Bretherton says that the politics of a common life occurs when no single tradition of belief and practice sets the norms and conditions of shared speech and action, because different groups are all constantly negotiating what the ‘good life’ looks like.

 Why am I invested in this form of politics? I am a Jewish lad from South Africa. My grandmother was a Latvian refugee who fled to South Africa as a seven-year-old child in the 1930s because of antisemitism. Her grandmother, Chaisha, was then killed by the Nazis.

My community learns two diametrically opposed lessons from the Holocaust. One group of Jews says we can never trust anyone who is not Jewish because everyone is antisemitic. Therefore, we can only rely on one another.

The other group says, no, the Holocaust is what happens when democracy breaks down. This group, into which I fall, believes that we are all safer in a society that protects minorities, be they Jews, Muslims, Sikhs or gay people. Jews are safest in societies where all people are respected, because, when one minority is attacked, so too will Jews be.

So, how to effectively build the politics of a common life?

We need at least 3 things.

 

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Citizens UK and Teacher's Union NASUWT Launch Refugee Welcome School Pilot

 

Citizens UK, the national community organising charity, and NASUWT, the Teachers’ Union, have joined forces to promote Refugee Welcome Schools, an accreditation scheme to recognise schools that have made a commitment to welcome refugees in their institution and community, educate all their pupils and staff about the importance of refugee protection over the course of a year, and participate in campaigns to improve the lives of refugees in the UK. 

The first three schools have now accredited, and over the next six months more schools in London, Birmingham and Wales, where the scheme is being piloted, will complete the accreditation process.

Jonathan Cox, Deputy Director, Citizens UK, said: “Citizens UK has been calling for the UK government to play its part in resettling refugees from Syria, and welcome the most vulnerable since 2014. Our member institutions, including schools, have told us that they want to help; this scheme is a practical way to help support school communities as they prepare to welcome refugees.

“The UK’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis means that at least 20,000 refugees from that conflict will arrive here between now and 2020. Many will be resettled in communities that have never hosted refugees before. Every single resettled refugee will have a connection to a school, as only families are eligible for the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Programme. This means that schools become crucial places of welcome, orientation and integration for refugee families.” 

Schools taking part in the scheme will each develop a Refugee Welcome Plan: to make sure those seeking sanctuary in their school and wider community experience a warm and generous welcome; a Refugee Awareness Plan: to educate their pupils, staff and community on the issue of refugees and the importance of providing a welcome; and a Refugee Action Plan: to participate in community campaigns that improve the lives of refugees in the UK. 

The first three institutions to accredit are, Saint Gabriel’s College, Camberwell, South London; Leyton Sixth Form College, Waltham Forest, East London and Newman Catholic College, Brent, North London.  They were supported to complete their applications by undergraduate students from UCL Institute of Education, who undertook placements in the schools to review existing refugee provision and develop new ideas and resources.

 Stuart Tannock, Programme Leader, BA Education Studies, UCL Institute of Education said:

“Many of our students are passionate about social justice organising and education. Participating in the Refugee Welcome Schools project is an opportunity for our students to experience what social justice campaigns in the education sector can accomplish, learn first-hand about some of the excellent work that is already being done by local schools in supporting refugee children and their families, and also contribute their own ideas and energies in assisting schools develop new refugee education and organising projects in the coming year.”

Citizens UK developed the Refugee Welcome School concept with one of its member schools, Saint Gabriel’s College, a Church of England secondary school in South London in 2016, and have joined forces with the teachers’ union, the NASUWT to ensure the scheme can be rolled out effectively across the pilot areas, in advance of a national launch.

 

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First home-owners move into Community Land Trust half-price homes in Mile End.

 

Bethan and her two children have just moved into their new three bedroom Community Land Trust  home: "I thought that the only choice I had was to live in a flat that was too small for us or to give up and move out of London."

 

London's first Community Land Trust home-owners have started moving into their half-price homes on the St Clement's site in Mile End, East London.

The homes are being sold to local people by community organisation London Community Land Trust (London CLT) at prices less than half the market rate.

The prices of the homes are linked to local incomes in Tower Hamlets, meaning a one bedroom home can be bought for £130,000, two bedroom homes for £182,000 and three bedroom homes for £235,000. The private flats at St Clement’s available from Linden Homes start at £450,000 for a 1 bedroom apartment[1].

The campaign to create London’s first community land trust at St Clement’s was born out of the local community organising efforts of charity Citizens UK, who set up London CLT in 2007.

Since then it has garnered support from the respective Mayor’s of London Ken Livingstone, Boris Johnson, and more recently Sadiq Khan. The Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs and Tower Hamlets Council, have also supported the project.

The homes are brand new, built to a high specification. The CLT homes are exactly the same size and meet the vigorous standards of all new build developments. The design was created through a community-led planning process, which contributed to it passing planning with unanimous consent of the planning committee, a rare occurrence in London.

The only ‘catch’ for CLT homeowners is that if they choose to move on, the same formula linked to incomes will be applied – meaning each year, prices will rise with average incomes across the borough, rather than with the open market. This ensures the homes are permanently affordable for generations to come. It also encourages people to think of their investment as purchasing a home, not just an asset.

 

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Job Opportunity: Citizens Community Organiser for Maun Valley


Maun Valley Citizens Community Organiser Wanted

ACCOUNTABLE TO: Local (Political direction, priorities and strategy): Maun Valley Citizens Leadership Group

National (Management and development): Citizens UK Trustees à Executive Director à Deputy Director à  Lead/Senior Organiser

RESPONSIBLE FOR : Building, supporting and developing the capacity of Maun Valley Citizens, its member institutions and people.

SALARY SCALE:  £23,000- £26,400 Per annum

 Maun Valley Citizens are recruiting a Community Organiser to take on the role of supporting and building this dynamic young civil society alliance.  We are an alliance of 20 schools, churches and community groups in the Maun Valley (Mansfield and Ashfield) who have been working together for 3 years.   We are looking to grow and mature as an alliance, and want to recruit an organiser who will go on that journey with us.  We are looking for an organised, dynamic and creative individual to join our team. This role requires a combination of strengths in relationship building, campaigning and developing leaders. The successful candidate will train leaders, organise campaigns and support our leadership group to take action together for the common good on a range of issues.

The successful candidate will work initially across Mansfield and Ashfield, supported by the Nottingham Citizens Senior Organiser and will join the Nottinghamshire team of organisers. They will also join the national Guild of Citizens UK Community Organisers working around the UK, benefitting from training by leading practitioners in the UK and US.

MAIN DUTIES

  • To support the growth and development of the Leadership Group of Maun Valley Citizens
  • To work on an agreed plan of research, action and evaluation to strengthen and grow Maun Valley Citizens, and its member institutions.
  • To undertake between fifteen and twenty one-to-one meetings to identify talented individuals in institutions that want to act together for the common good
  • To work with 20 Schools, Churches and Community Groups across Mansfield and Ashfield – to identify new leaders, build teams and support them to take action on the issues that they care about
  • To provide leadership training for people in existing and new member organisations
  • To organise public assemblies and actions as and when necessary
  • To become expert in how the Citizens UK method and how participation in a Citizens UK alliance can best integrate with and add value to institutions.
  • To produce written or spoken communication to increase the capacity of organisations to participate in community organising and public actions.

 

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Unlocking British Muslim Potential Is Long Overdue !

 

 

Qari Asim, MBE, Chief Imam at the Makkah Mosque in Leeds, West Yorkshire, gives his thoughts on the CUK commissioned report, The Missing Muslims, published this week.

"The “Missing Muslims” report (pdf here) commissioned by Citizens UK, was released this week. The report follows an 18-month Commission that listened to a wide range of voices including institutions, local authorities and members of the public.  The report is a valuable addition to the literature about Muslims - recognising the huge contribution of Muslims, evaluating the challenges and avoiding the trap of conflating religion and ethnicity.

The report contains 18 recommendations divided into three categories: recommendations for government and local authorities, for civil society and the business sector and for British Muslim communities. The recommendations are practical and inexpensive to implement. 

This report is not seeking ‘special treatment’ for British Muslims, rather it is an ambitious and timely attempt to find ways of encouraging full and active participation in public life for all communities. The report argues that rather than marginalising the Muslim communities, the society needs to recognise that unlocking a fuller Muslim presence in and contribution to British public life could help to reduce perceptions of increasing polarisation within British society.

 

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Civil Society urged to act and unlock the potential of British Muslims for the benefit of all

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Today, Monday 3rd July, Citizens UK is pleased to receive the report, The Missing Muslims – Unlocking British Muslim Potential for the Benefit of All, and its recommendations, from an independent group of Commissioners, chaired by the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve MP, QC.

The Commission was set up to examine the ways in which the participation of Muslims in the public and community life of our country, outside of their own faith groups, might be improved.

Over the last 18-months the Commissioners, comprising high profile names from the world of business, academia, politics and faith travelled to hearings across the UK to listen to more than 500 hours of testimonies and evidence detailing the experiences of Muslim and non-Muslim individuals.

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Rage is a Passing Howl: Don't Just Get Angry, Get Organised

 

Matthew Bolton, Deputy Director at Citizens UK and author of How to Resist, looks at what actions might be useful following the Grenfell fire. 

 In the aftermath of the Grenfell disaster we need resistance, not rage. Please don’t misunderstand me - I’m not saying don’t be angry. Watching the videos of people stuck in the tower as it burned, seeing the posters with pictures of lost children, knowing that this tragedy happened in the middle of one of the wealthiest places on earth, this is a truly sickening tragedy that warrants our collective ongoing fury. The roots of our word ‘anger’ are in the Norse word for grief and this is avoidable catastrophe and indescribable pain on a once in a generation scale. The question is what we do with the anger.

Channelled into effective resistance, this anger could drive the residents and neighbours in North Kensington to hold those responsible to account, to recreate their community and rebuild their lives. It could see the rest of us make Grenfell become a turning point, a watershed moment where we no longer accept that people in different income brackets have different rights to a home safe from fire. By turning that anger into action, we can create a national movement to say ‘never again’. Not just in a cathartic release of rage but in persistent and dogged campaigning. Success wouldn’t bring back those who died, or cancel out the trauma that will live on in people, but it would save many more lives and might just bring some sense to the tragedy that’s taken place.

 Rage, on the other hand, is a passing howl resulting in some broken windows and placards left in the street to be cleared away. The problem with the ‘day of rage’ protest that took place last week was not just that it was ineffective, though it was. Unsurprisingly several hundred protestors did not bring the Government down and such symbolic protests and one-off mobilisations rarely achieve their grand aims. The more serious fault is that it risks repeating some of the same dynamics that got us here in the first place - that the voices of residents that were not listened to for years, are now not being listened to again. The Lancaster West Resident Association, which covers the estate around the Grenfell tower, has been in membership of Citizens UK for two and a half years. The residents that we’re working with who are connected to scores of local families are more concerned right now with the fundamentals. They want accurate information about the identities of those who lost their lives, they want to know that the air is safe to breathe and the building isn’t going to collapse, they need hot water, since the boiler that serves the whole estate was destroyed in the Grenfell tower. The people truly embedded in local communities tend not to be the voices we’ve read in the newspaper or seen on TV over this last week, myself included.  That could be due to class bias in the media, or that journalists gravitate towards those who are most controversial, or more simply that such people are too busy visiting their neighbours and supporting those in need to be spokespeople. Bigger change must come, but let’s try to listen to those that have not been listened to.

 

 

 

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Breaking the Ramadan Fast with friends in Finsbury Park

North London Citizens, break the Ramadan fast with friends from mosques around Finsbury Park this weekend.

The local  Muslim Welfare House, itself a member-organisation of Citizens UK, was the site of the terrorist attack last week. Quite near to this, is the larger Finsbury Park Mosque, which also attracts many worshippers during Ramadan. North London Citizens membership comprises synagogues, churches, schools and universities. Since the terrorist attack, Citizens have visited the area every night for Iftar.

CUK organiser, Charlotte Fischer, who was at Finsbury Park, said: “We were there offering dates and water to our Muslim friends as they broke their Ramadan fast, to show solidarity and support at this difficult time. We continued this action up to Eid this weekend.”

Citizens UK director, Neil Jameson, said: “We are proud to be with Muslim Welfare House together in London Citizens and feel moved to show our support to their members and their families.”

 

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Nottingham organiser heads south to West London

 

 Lydia Rye, Senior Organiser for West London Citizens.  

Lydia Rye is the new Senior Organiser for West London Citizens. Before this she worked as the Senior Organiser for Nottingham & Maun Valley Citizens, and worked on dozens of campaigns to see real change on issues from hate crime to homelessness and mental health.  She is particularly proud of the work which led to Nottingham becoming the first place in the country to introduce misogyny as a category of hate crime, and of supporting Nottingham Citizens to hold the largest single event in the 2015 general election, bringing together 2,300 people in the city's Royal Concert Hall.  

Before working for Citizens UK Lydia worked for a local charity, overseeing outreach services to sex workers, and is particularly passionate about supporting women to engage in public life. In her spare time she loves to test recipes she's never tried before on groups of unsuspecting friends and to binge watch really bad TV.

Contact: Lydia.Rye@citizensuk.org.uk

 

 

 

 

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Greenbelt Festival discounted tickets until June 30th

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10 days of ticket discounts left

Tier-two discounts expire at midnight on Friday 30 June. Book now to save:

£20 on adult weekend tickets

£11 on 18-25s tickets
£14 on adult concession tickets


Child, youth and first-time leader tickets are fixed at £50. Under 5s are FREE

Get your festival tickets now

 

 

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