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East London

TELCO (The East London Citizens Organisation) is the founding Chapter of Citizens UK. We are a powerful alliance of over 80 civil society institutions comprised of trade unions, faith groups, charities, schools and universities, all working together to make East London a better place to live.

We organise communities to act together for social justice and the common good, developing the leadership capacity of our members so they can hold our cities' decision-makers to account on the issues that matter to them. TELCO has a proud 20-year history. We pioneered the Living Wage campaign; Community Land Trust Housing; Ethical Olympics; and Good Jobs for young people. In addition to these successful campaigns, we are currently working on new campaigns on hate crime; mental health; and energy poverty. If your institution is not yet in membership, we'd love to have a conversation with you. Involvement in a Citizens UK alliance is one of the best ways for you and your organisation to make a tangible difference in your borough and London wide, whilst developing the leadership skills and capacity of your membership.

To arrange a sit down with one of our organisers, contact: emmanuel.gotora@citizensuk.org

Sign up for updates from this chapter here.


Muslim women: untapped community leaders

Afsana Salik, is a community organiser for Tower Hamlets Citizens and the Women100 programme who deliver community organising training for women in London. Here, she writes about why we need Muslim women at the table and how Women100 is giving opportunities to create change for women in their local communities.

In this blog, I will share with you how broad-based community organising is a radical and more authentic way of identifying and developing the leadership of women in our communities. Here, I will specifically focus on Muslim women and their leadership in the Women100 programme in East London. I will make the argument we should be agitated about how we build the power of Muslim women to take charge, lead and affect decision making on what they think is important, as opposed to just inviting them to be regular cohesion project participants. 

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Newham Citizens leader Caroline Verdant on the 3 things that inspire her to be brave and fight injustice

Caroline Verdant is a Citizens UK leader in Newham, East London (TELCO chapter). Here she tells us how she found her passion for community organising and the three things that inspire her to be brave and fight injustice. 

I  first got involved in community organising through St Antony’s Catholic Primary School, where I work as a Higher Level Teaching Assistant and Performing Arts Shadow Lead. For the last 20 years, St Antony’s have worked with Citizens East London chapter, TELCO, to campaign for local justice and issues like a real Living Wage. I was invited to get involved with Citizens a number of years ago and started attending rallies where I’d see hundreds of people with banners, making noise outside Westminster.

In those earlier years, I wondered what it was all for. Why was I going to these rallies? Who were the people I voted for and what was I really voting on? Asking myself these questions often left me feeling hopeless and wondering what role I could play in helping my community.

Fast forward to today, I'm a completely different person to when my organising journey first started. My confidence has grown so much, where I can now share my own experiences with bigger audiences, set agendas, chair meetings and speak with politicians, while believing that I can lead and change the lives of my community.

These are just three of the things that have inspired my journey to be empowered and brave enough to speak out and help my community.

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How churches can provide community support in lockdown

While new lockdown rules have been put in place, there are still many people anxious and concerned about leaving their homes. Father Angus Richie, the Director of the Centre of Theology and TELCO Citizens leader, writes a step-by-step guide on how churches can keep the spirit of community organising alive during lockdown by practising attentive listening and action in their communities. 

Community organising has had to adapt very quickly to the lockdown, and conversations in our churches indicate its continuing importance – particularly in:

  • Rooting action in attentive listening to the different situations people are in
  • Ensuring the inclusion of people who are not online – or who have less access too, and confidence with, the internet
  • Reaching beyond the confines of those already in our congregations to engage with their practical, social and spiritual needs and gifts
  • Rooting everything churches do in prayer and in their wider mission

The foundation for all organising is listening, and in this blog I want to explore how this can happen during lockdown - in churches and in other local institutions.

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Please Mr Williamson, Don’t Freeze Iceland Out

A local community alliance in Shadwell, have released a video petition addressed to the Rt Hon Gavin Williamson MP, the Secretary of State for Education, to ask the UK Government to include the supermarket chain Iceland in the Government’s Free School Meal voucher scheme, which supports low-income families during the pandemic whilst schools are closed.

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Covid-19 Health Resources

TELCO leaders are working closely with Barts NHS Trust and CCGs colleagues covering several boroughs in east London. The following resources contain important information in regards to covid-19


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TELCO Awards 2020

Over the last 12 months, TELCO members have built power and won some amazing campaigns. Thousands of leaders have been involved in action across East London, and our focus this year has been on Breadth, Depth and Impact. Below, we celebrate some of our members. For more highlights see our Annual Meeting Brochure.

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My Community Organising Journey: Kulsuma Begum - Women 100

Kulsuma Begum, a Women 100 leader, was refused entry into her children's schools because she wore the niqab. This is a powerful reflection on her Community Organising journey and how the method she learned was accordant with her faith and helped her to make a change in her local community.

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School pupils celebrate parents securing real Living Wage

Children from Newham Citizens member school, St Antony's RC Primary, have celebrated the fact that several of their parents are now getting a fair day's pay for a fair day's work by performing a song to the mayor of London at a Living Wage Week launch.

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How local campaigns reweave bonds of trust between communities

TELCO Co-Chair Fr Angus Ritchie of St George in the East and the Centre for Theology and Community has written for the Guardian about his experiences organising in Tower Hamlets to secure safe, affordable homes for local residents of all backgrounds - and how the tools and principles of Community Organising can offer a powerful antidote to the politics of division which pit us against one another. 

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Priced out of the Olympic Park

Yesterday, the housing element of the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) Local Plan was subject to examination in public. Members of The East London Citizens Organisation (TELCO), who campaigned for genuinely affordable homes as part of the original Olympics Bid, say that the LLDC need to raise the bar in their aspirations for affordable housing on the Park in order to ensure that that original commitment of ‘regenerating the area for the entire benefit of everyone that lives there’ becomes a reality. 

Fr Sean Connolly, a local priest with a large congregation of people experiencing housing challenges, said: “It is devastating to see so many of my parishioners living in over-crowded conditions or being forced out of the borough while new houses are being built all around them. While I welcome new housing being built on the Olympic Park, it needs to be affordable and this is a real problem.” The housing crisis in the legacy boroughs is felt across the spectrum ranging from young children living in temporary and overcrowded accommodation, to nurses sharing bedrooms. Local Authority homelessness research from 2018 indicates that whilst the Legacy boroughs constitute only an eighth of London boroughs, they account for a quarter of all households, (5,414 households) placed out of borough. The London Borough of Newham has the highest figures for families placed out of borough, away from their social networks, with local authorities struggling to meet the costs of keeping these families in insecure and overpriced temporary accommodation.

Last year many TELCO Citizens members visited LLDC to hear about plans for the site, but so far the affordable housing commitments have not met the communities expectations.

In response, local community representatives from TELCO are asking the LLDC to introduce a requirement that 50% of all housing in the Legacy area is genuinely affordable by being linked to median household incomes - currently £27,000 across the Legacy boroughs. Community Land Trust housing was a key commitment in the 2005 Olympic Charter and needs to be recognised as part of the intermediate housing offer. Community Land Trust housing remains affordable in perpetuity and is mapped against average local incomes, thus also meeting the Legacy promise of benefitting local communities. Additionally, research has demonstrated that there is a huge gulf between policy and practice.

Dr Penny Bernstock, from the University of West London, and co-chair of the TELCO Olympic strategy team, found that between October 2012 and July 2017, only 19.6% of the housing approved by the LLDC was affordable, falling substantially short of the 35% requirement. Therefore, TELCO are calling on the LLDC to adhere to the requirements of their plan, she said “The evidence is clear, we need to do much more on the former Olympic site to meet London’s affordable housing challenge. Let’s get the legacy back on track and ensure that families are not priced out of the Olympic Park.”


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