News from around Thames Valley May 2022
BUILDING DEMOCRACY THROUGH PUBLIC LIFE
So many civic institutions are doing all they can to find ways for us to start to return to off-line conversations, making hybrid work for those still at home, and quietly but resiliently rebuilding civil society.
Take St Mary’s Church in Littlemore, faithfully opening up each week and seeing old friends return with new friends they made online meeting for good coffee, music, and local art. Or Oxford Community Action, doing deep research into the causes of health disparity, bringing together dozens of volunteers to make sure so many people have fresh food to cook with.
Thames Valley Citizens was founded during the lockdown and we are still building Oxford Citizens and Reading Citizens. But we have found, in recent months, that the anger about injustice and the desire to do something about it hasn’t gone away – we’re still ready for action, as the stories below suggest!
Milton Keynes Primary School is on the Case!
Southwood Primary School organised a great study action (26 April 2022) to think about safety and the environment in the community surrounding their school. Southwood Primary School Council, a group of 16 students from all year groups, went on a community walk. They mapped out where they felt safe and unsafe, and what they wanted to change about the environment around the school. They identified litter, dark alleyways, frightening strangers, and a lack of lighting as the major issues.
The School Council then voted on which issue to take forward and decided that litter and broken glass was the thing they most wanted to change. They will now write letters to the local council inviting them to come for a litter pick with the group and then to hear their proposals to fix the problem permanently with more bins in better locations.
Carbon Fee and Dividend
On 25th March leaders from Citizens:MK (Catherine Butt, Rob Paton and Lauren Jeffrey) had a powerful meeting with Bishop Steven of Oxford. The goal was to get his support for Carbon Fee and Dividend policy to reduce carbon issues in a socially just way, and to plan for a future engagement with the House of Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee, of which the Bishop is a member. Lauren gave powerful testimony about the impact of climate change on herself and other young people, and all three leaders had a productive and informative discussion with the Bishop, and his team. Bishop Steven agreed to be cited as a supporter of our campaign, and to invite Citizens:MK to the House of Lords when an opportunity arises.
Taking action on welcome in Reading
Reading institutions including the University, Reading Muslim Council, Reading Chinese Christian Church, ACRE and the Diocese of Oxford have been taking action together to make Reading more welcoming to all those who call it home.
They decided to act after hearing stories from Reading’s growing newly arrived Hong Kong community who are struggling to find work that matches their expertise. The organisations carried out house meetings to listen to other communities’ experiences of welcome and have uncovered many local challenges including hate crime, lack of support in schools and struggles to find work.
Now the research action team are making a plan to take public action together and negotiate with a local power holder who can help us make Reading a more welcoming place. More details on our public action soon...
Social Care for Living Wage
On 30 March 2022 22 leaders, from Oxford, Reading, and Milton Keynes, joined 300 others from our 16 Citizens UK chapters in Parliament Square for a tea party and a chance to ask our MPs to support a real Living Wage for Care Workers. We met with 30 MPs and arrange follow up with many more after the event.
This was also the first time Thames Valley Citizens had been introduced to the rest of the Citizens UK chapters, so it was exciting for us to be welcomed by them and powerfully moving to see care workers from across Wales and England stand up in the Assembly and be applauded in person as we all stood to commit ourselves to work with them for a real Living Wage. You can find out more about the national campaign, and what you can do to support it locally, here.
A special mention to The Oxford Academy who turned out with 10 young people from their 6th form Sociology A Level and the wonderful Rozi Hussain who cheerfully took care of them on what was a very long day that even included a shopping trip!
Homes for Ukraine
Citizens UK have been working with strategic partners around the country with a commitment to find homes for 1000 Ukrainian Refugees by Easter. Oxford Diocese put out the call and the response has been amazing. You can hear Hannah Ling, Social Justice Adviser for Oxford Diocese discussing this with BBC Radio Oxford here. While hundreds of households have offered accommodation and hundreds more have offered other support, the matching process is slow but both our partners in the UK and across Europe are working hard to get those families to safety. Our first two families were matched up in the last week of April. The diocese has a page with dates and information just here. Citizens UK and the Diocese of Oxford are now working together on a program to use Community Organising tools for building local teams to support the welcome and support of refugees.
On Sunday 22nd March, five leaders from Thames Valley Citizens joined 30 others trainees for our famous national training in public leadership. The training took place at Queens Foundation in Birmingham. There were two leaders from Reading, two from Milton Keynes, and one from Oxford (Come on, Oxford!).
This was our first on-site training since the pandemic and we have strict rules in place around daily testing and mask wearing around site. It was incredibly moving to hear peoples’ evaluations at the end of the week with a leader from Manchester calling it ‘life changing’ and others determined to go back and change the way they organise their time and to build a culture that puts people before program while building the world as it should be out of the world as it is.
To find out more about all our training offers visit this page.
I was blown away by how interactive the sessions were...This training for leaders who know that we need to do more than just talk about justice but want to see real change." Hannah Ling
16 JUNE - Invitation to Commonwealth Games Accountability Assembly
In March 2021, ‘Citizens UK Birmingham’ negotiated with the Mayor of the West Midlands and the West Midlands Police & Crime Commissioner and won new commitments around 9 key pledges to make the Commonwealth Games an opportunity to have a major impact on Child Poverty. On Thursday 16th June, leaders from Thames Valley Citizens are invited to join them for a huge Accountability Assembly in the Brammall Music Building at the University of Birmingham, 6pm-8pm to find out what action has been taken and make sure that both civil society and elected decision makers deliver on the pledges. To register an interest in this event please sign up here
NOVEMBER – Living Wage Week 2022
Living Wage Week this year starts on 14th November. Please put this in your calendar and think about whether your business or organisation could hold an event. Living Wage Week is a great opportunity to celebrate new living wage employers and our living wage champions. It is also the week that the new Living Wage rate is announced, and accredited employers are given up to 6 months to implement the new rate.
To find out more about becoming a Living Wage employer or to get involved in a campaign visit our campaign page or contact your Community Organiser.
28 MAY – Citizens:MK Listening Launch
This meeting is for Members of Citizens:MK. To find out more about becoming a member organisation follow this link.
28th May 2022, 12pm-3pm at St Frideswide’s Church, Water Eaton
This event will be to launch our Summer Listening Campaign. It is a chance for Citizens:MK to connect with each other offline, set out goals for the coming year and celebrate all the great work we have been doing.
We will have tea, cake, and training on 121s and House Meetings and set targets for the number of conversations we plan to have over the next few months.
14 JUNE – Oxford Citizens Sponsoring Committee
This meeting is for leaders of Civil Society organisations in and around Oxford looking to build a dues-based alliance for the city. To find out more about becoming a member organisation follow this link.
The next Oxford Citizens Sponsoring Committee will be held on Tuesday 14th June at a City Centre Venue (tba).
Purpose of Meeting:
- To train in how to run a listening campaign and begin to plan our listening campaigns for next year.
- To hear back from leaders who have attended training or actions or been involved with campaigns.
- To build the Oxford Citizens alliance.
4:45 Arrive early for light refreshments and to have a one to one with another leader
5:30 pm Prompt Start
7:00 pm Ends
7:10 pm Evaluation of the Meeting
16 JUNE – Reading Citizens Sponsoring Committee
7 – 8.30 pm, Reading (venue tbc)
This meeting is for leaders of Civil Society organisations in and around Reading exploring building a Citizens alliance in Reading. To find out more about becoming a member organisation follow this link.
We will be hearing back from leaders who attended 6 day training and took part in national actions on migration and Living Wage campaigns.
We will also review our strategy for building the alliance and plan next steps for taking action with the research action team to make Reading more welcome for diverse communities.