It is with great pride and pleasure that we congratulate Neil Jameson, our Executive Director, on receiving this well-deserved award in recognition of his services to the community and social justice. Neil has been the inspiration behind Citizens UK which has pioneered the development of Broad Based Community Organising in the UK. This development is based on the principles laid down in the USA by Saul Alinsky and Ed Chambers of the Industrial Areas Foundation and adapting their approach to the UK context.
He commenced this work in 1989 when the organisation was called the Citizens Organising Foundation. He has led the organisation through many ups and downs until we have now reached a place of stability and recognition. Neil's vision has been to see Civil Society taking its place on the national stage, alongside the two other dominant players – the State and the Market. Civil Society has a key role to play in honouring those who commit themselves to public service and the wealth creators in business, but also in challenging and holding to account those who fail to deliver the common good or exploit the ordinary citizen.
Not only has he established Community Organising in the UK, but crucially he has developed a new profession – that of Community Organiser – as an alternative to that of traditional party politics, a profession which has attracted some of the most talented young people in our society with a commitment to the politics of social justice. Citizens UK is strictly non-partisan in its work and action.
The key to developing the role of Civil Society is the emphasis Neil has placed on the training and development of leaders from our member institutions – primarily of faith, education and labour. Leaders take the initiative in deciding which issues need to be tackled, in setting priorities for action and in designing winnable targets. Many of these actions have been local neighbourhood issues – such as getting a zebra crossing outside a school. But others have been major initiatives – such as the introduction in 2001 of the Living Wage as a means of intervening in the market to tackle the scourge of low pay.
A mark of our membership is its diversity – Jews, Christians, Muslims working together for the common good with students from primary to higher education and trades union branches. It is difficult to imagine a better way of developing social cohesion in local communities.
Annually over 8,000 trained volunteers take action in their local communities, in regions or at a national level. This not only develops the skills and confidence of each volunteer but also strengthens the health of the member institutions from which they come. Getting citizens and their institutions to take part in public life is a key object of Citizens UK which states: 'action is to community organisations as oxygen is to the body'. In other words, organisations should take action regularly or they end up moribund.
The award of a CBE to Neil is a fitting recognition of the contribution he has made to this movement and to the growing engagement of Civil Society in the affairs of the country. On behalf of the Board, the staff and our members – congratulations!
Paul Regan, Chair of Trustees