CITIZENS UK Blog the national home of community organising

4Aug/110

The Chinese community in Deptford BREAKING silence to STOP crime

On 26th July, the Chinese community in Deptford came out in force. An unexpected turnout of over 80 people including young children and mothers with pushchairs who live and work in the area from a modest 50 estimation. They chanted one voice, one community, stop crime, no more, for our family, for our neighbourhood, protect neighbourhood, united in action; IN a UNIFIED voice which created a very positive 1st step in working together to tackle the issue of persistent crime. 

Surrounding shopkeeper came out with curiosity and people in the area peeked through their windows to see what the chanting was all about. The action was public and noted. The message was clear that the Chinese community have had enough, BREAKING their silence to STOP crime.  This has brought people together who share same experience being targets of crime. The march included pit stops at several sites which the community mapped out where persistent robbery at knife and gun point occur before the final destination at Deptford police station where the delegation was received by Chief Inspector Shaun Willshire and his neighbourhood team. The Chinese leader in ms xiao qin she presented case and asked him to work with the chinese community to ensure 100% crime is reported and to start working with them to erase crime in all its form to make the neighbourhood safer for all. The chief inspector acknowledge the problems of language barrier and trust; through negotiations, he had offerred a meeting to meet with the Chinese leaders in Deptford to discuss next steps and what mechanisms can be put into place so the community can report crime safely without fear. The action ended with a little 7 year old boy who presented an amulet to the chief inspector and said "I carry this with me all the time to keep me safe, you can have it. I do not need this anymore because now I have hope that you will PROTECT us".

1Jul/100

The Big Lunch with Citizens UK

On Sunday 18th July communities across the UK will be celebrating neighbourliness by eating lunch together, in the middle of their streets, around tower blocks and on patches of common ground.

Last year, up to a million people, in every kind of community all across the UK, took part in over 8,000 lunches. It was the biggest set of street parties since the Golden Jubilee and 80% said they felt closer to their neighbours as a result.

The Big Lunch aims to help strengthen neighbourhoods and promote social cohesion.  It began life as a wild seed at The Eden Project.  We believe that the world can get better and become safer through communities working together, with nature, optimism and common sense, to tackle local issues.  So, we’re very happy to be working with Citizens UK - the national home of community organising.

We’re calling upon all community leaders to get involved and plan a Big Lunch in your area.  The Big Lunch is a chance for different generations and backgrounds to listen to each other and share stories, skills and interests. It can be the start of a journey into rebuilding our communities, or a celebration of what has been achieved already.  Tie it in with existing projects and campaigns, or use food as the excuse to bring people together and show them how they can get more involved in their community.

Plan your Big Lunch

The Big Lunch website is packed full of information to help you to plan your Big Lunch step by step.  It’s got the inspiration and resources to make it as simple and fun as possible.  Pop in your postcode to add your Big Lunch to our special map and join thousands of people across the UK, all celebrating their community on the same day.

Spread the word

Tell your friends, family and colleagues about The Big Lunch and encourage them to get involved.  We have leaflets and posters to download from our website to help and you can join us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and be inspired by Big Lunch stories on our blog.

For more information call 0845 850 8181, email info@thebiglunch.com or visit www.thebiglunch.com

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21Jun/101

TONIGHT:-‘West London Citizens’ Greener Planet Action Team – Plan Zheroes Event June 21st

There are many people in London who are so poor they cannot afford to buy enough food for themselves and their families.  In the same city, supermarkets, restaurants, and caterers are throwing away food every day which is perfectly safe to eat.
Plan Zheroes, the latest project from the Greener Planet Action Team, is addressing this issue, by researching ways to divert food which would otherwise go to landfill and give it to people who really need it.
Come along to our next event at The Hub 7.00pm on June 21st where you can find out more about Plan Zheroes then see the film Food Inc, followed by a Q&A session with Patrick Holden of the Soil Association.  It will be a fun and interesting evening.  Admission is free but space is limited so to book a place contact Chris Wilkie on 07985 306 832 or at chris.wilkie@tiscali.co.uk.
For more information about Plan Zheroes have a look at this interview - http://ecoexperttv.blogspot.com/2010/03/zero-heroes-londons-zero-food-waste.html

“You can follow the events on the day live on Twitter - Zeroheroes”

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17Jun/100

Interview with Neil Jameson

in Regeneration and Renewal here.

Snip:

"In Britain, we teach people that they are powerless. This is evident in the regeneration sector, where professionals still identify groups of people as a problem and do things to them rather than with them. There is a clear distinction between having power over people and power with people, and a lot of the work we do seeks to reprogramme people to recognise that they have power and it can be put to good use. We are building an alliance of people who are fascinated by making change happen on their own. This is not a new, radical approach: up until the Second World War this was how people did politics."

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17Jun/100

Citizens UK cited in Lords debate

by the Bishop of Leicester, at the beginning of a debate about the Big Society.

A further example might be the citizen organising movement, of which London Citizens is the best known example. Much of the rhetoric of the big society refers to the need to train thousands more community organisers: as the Prime Minister put it recently:

"To teach potential community organisers how to identify the doers and the go-getters in each neighbourhood and recruit them to their cause".

We shall see how that works out. I speak as a trustee of the Citizen Organising Foundation. The fact is that active citizens, the doers and go-getters, are people with strong convictions, beliefs and principles that cannot and will not be recruited to government priorities and programmes. Indeed, the United States' experience would suggest that they will often empower communities to become truculent and unbiddable.

Full speech here.

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15Jun/100

Immigration minister to Citizens UK: no more detaining children ‘within weeks’

Describing Citizens UK as "one of the most effective lobbying organisations ever", the immigration minister, Damian Green, last night pledged that there would be no more children of families seeking sanctuary in immigration centres by the end of the summer, and certainly by Christmas.

He said that "weeks, rather than months" after a government review of detention ends on 1 June "we will be able to announce the solution and then we will have got to the point where children are not detained for immigration purposes in the UK".

Speaking at Westminster Abbey at an event organised by the Citizens UK campaign Citizens for Sanctuary, he said it was not just a duty but a pleasure to end the practice.

"This will be a better country when we don't detain children for immigration purposes", he said, adding: "There is no getting away from the fact that if you are a civilised decent human being the sight of young children locked up behind bars should make you feel profoundly uneasy."

Citizens for Sanctuary is campaigning for the implementation of 180 reforms to the asylum system recommended by the Independent Asylum Commission, which was appointed by Citizens UK. Ending child detention has been key to the campaign's efforts to secure a more humane and just system of receiving people seeking sanctuary.

The coalition government's commitment to ending the detention of children for immigration purposes was the result of intense lobbying by the Citizens for Sanctuary "Sanctuary Pledge" campaign, which was backed byb 18 national organisations representing 7 million people. They include the major Christian Churches, as well as the Muslim Council of Britain, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and others.

In January community leaders  were trained by Citizens for Sanctuary in 15 areas across the UK, while 500 champions of community organising organised teams of people in 162 key constituencies. Visits were organised to the main detention centre in Bedfordshire at Yarl's Wood. The campaign was an unprecedented attempt to change minds and hearts on the issue.

Leaders and organisers of the Citizens for Sanctuary campaign met key ministers, shadow ministers and representatives from the UK Borders Agency in the run-up to the general election to explore options for ending child detention.

The breakthrough came at the 3 May Citizens UK General Election assembly, when the future prime minister and deputy prime ministers pledged to end the practice and to include Citizens UK in the working party to find alternatives.

Citizens UK is having a major input into the Government's review over the next six weeks.

Mr Green also congratulated Citizens for Sanctuary campaigners for securing a more humane reception centre at the immigration processing centre at Lunar House in Croydon."I'm pleased to say that when I went there last week it now looks like an entry point for human beings rather than cattle. So that's one significant thing you chalked up even before the issue of children in detention," he told the gathering at Westminster Abbey.

He said it was important to separate the issue of sanctuary from that of immigration, to prevent extremist parties claiming that they represent the mass of British people. He said the Government were also carrying out "a general review of the asylum system ... to ensure that decisions are right first time, because much of the misery in the current system, as many people here will know, is caused by the sheer length of time it takes time to come to a decision. It's not good for the individual asylum seeker, but it's also not good for the taxpayer, and it's not good for the general confidence in the system."

He praised Citizens for Sanctuary for representing what he called a "sensible and humane" view of asylum policy.

"The mass of the British people are perfectly sensible and humane on this subject and their views need representing", he said, adding: "Citizens for Sanctuary reflects many of those views  and as I said at the start, represents them very, very successfully. I think you're a tremendously successful lobbying group and you should all congratulate yourselves and pat yourselves on the back this evening."

Referring to widespread press coverage at Christmas last year over the refusal by Yarl's Wood to allow Citizens for Sanctuary leaders to give Christmas presents to the children locked inside, Neil Jameson, Citizens UK executive director (left in picture below), asked Mr Green if he could confirm there would be no children there by next Christmas.

"There should be no need for anyone to dress up as Father Christmas this Christmas at Yarl's Wood this year," the minister joked. "If anyone has to, I will."

15Jun/100

PM thanks Citizens UK

A letter yesterday from the prime minister, David Cameron, to Neil Jameson, chief executive of Citizens UK, thanking him for the 3 May General Election assembly.

Dear Neil,

Thank you very much for welcoming me to speak at the Citizens UK / London Citizens general election event during the recent campaign. This was a great opportunity and an incredible event. Please pass on my thanks to your team for their hard work in organising the day. I wish you every success in the future.

On the pledge to end the detention of children for asylum purposes, we have delivered as we promised.

Best wishes

David Cameron

9Jun/100

Boris announces new living wage rate

London's mayor, Boris Johnson, today announced the new London Living Wage (LLW), adding 25p to the basic wage the capital's citizens need to live a human existence.

The LLW rate has been announced each year by London's mayor since London Citizens, who created the LLW in 2001, persuaded Ken Livingstone to create a Living Wage Unit at City Hall. The unit studies the cost of living and each summer announces the new level -- now set at £7.85, a rise of 3.3%.

The Unit now finds that someone paid less than about £6.80 an hour in the capital will be living in poverty, even after benefits and tax credits are taken into account.

According to the Guardian, "The rate has seen an overall increase of 17% since it was first introduced by Johnson's predecessor, Ken Livingstone, in 2005 at £6.70 per hour, following lobbying from the London Citizens charity."

Five new employers have said they are paying no one less than the LLW: Clifford Chance, Deloitte, Nomura, Prudential and Standard Chartered.

The mayor said: "The success of the London living wage depends on the extent of its acceptance by employers. There are huge benefits to employers and society of implementing the London living wage and today I urge all employers in the capital to follow the GLA's lead and pay a fairer wage."

London Citizens converted Boris Johnson to the idea of the living wage prior to the 2008 London Citizens Mayoral Assembly (watch his speech here). Commentators such as Dave Hill described it at the time as a "damascene conversion". Today Hill writes:

His public embrace of the LLW first occurred at a memorable "accountability assembly" held by London Citizens at Westminster's Methodist Hall during the 2008 election campaign. At the time I wondered if he was simply crumbling before the fervour of the crowd, but in office he's proved true to his commitment.

Boris told a London Citizens assembly at the Barbican last November that companies which paid the LLW are "supporting a measure that makes practical business sense: it not only heps to knit the loyalty of your staff and thereby to save on your employment costs, it is, of course, the compassionate thing to do."

Rev. Paul Regan, a London Citizens trustee, welcomed the mayor's announcement today.

"In these tough economic times, the living wage is even more important to keep hardworking Londoners out of poverty. The fact we have more and more companies becoming living wage employers goes to show that the living wage is becoming the real minimum for London's responsible businesses."

28May/100

Ed Miliband calls for national living wage

Speaking at a London Citizens action at the London School of Economics this morning, Ed Miliband said the Living Wage (nationally set at £7.14 an hour, compared to the national minimum wage of £5.80 an hour) should be the national (but voluntary) standard.

He said:

Some people will tell you that you can't achieve anything in opposition. Of course we want to get to back to power, but the role of opposition is not just to oppose but also to create.

To create a movement that can change things in opposition and government. To create the conditions in which you can win power. And to create a mandate for things you want to win for.

And I say to our party: we cannot win the next election unless we become a genuine popular movement.

He said Labour could become "the most effective grassroots campaigning organisation in Britain" and that he wanted the living wage campaign "to become the hallmark of a Labour party engaged in local communities, campaigning for change".

(H/t Andrew Sparrow's 'Politics live blog'.)

The FT reports the speech here; Press Association here.

 

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28May/100

‘The strange cross-party allure of Citizens UK’

Matthew Little writing at the 'Third Sector' blog:

In recent months one of the lesser known charities in the nation has exerted a remarkable influence over politicians across the partisan divide. During the election campaign, aside from the BBC, ITV and Sky, only one organisation could persuade the three party leaders to come together and debate with each other – the civic activism charity Citizens UK.

In this or any of its other guises – London Citizens and the Citizen Organising Foundation – the group is far from a household name. But the Con-Lib coalition government wants to replicate its model of working by training 5,000 community organisers across the country as the part of the 'big society' programme.

Labour is equally enamoured. Its manifesto promised a clampdown on interest rates charged by payday lenders, mirroring one of London Citizens’ campaigns. James Purnell resigned as work and pension secretary last year to train as a community organiser, while leadership contender Ed Miliband has said he wants the Labour party to become “more like London Citizens”.

In part, the interest in Citizens UK stems from the parties’ need to find some intellectual ballast in an age of political vacuity. The charity has a well-developed philosophy of community organising, based on the thinking of American activist Saul Alinsky, which seeks to bring together faith groups, schools and trade unions to unify civil society and make demands on government and the private sector.

But its strange allure across the political spectrum – it must be the only organisation in Britain to boast Iain Duncan Smith and socialist film director Ken Loach as supporters – merits explanation. For the parties, the source of the attraction is different. For Labour, London Citizens’ underdog campaigns for underpaid cleaners and immigrants represents a way of reconnecting with its roots as well as involving a more democratic, grassroots way of doing politics than New Labour “command and control”.

For the Conservatives, London Citizens and Citizens UK’s campaigns – for the living wage or to grant citizenship to illegal immigrants – don’t appear to make a natural fit. But aside from its political campaigns, the group also seeks to make communities more self-reliant, to solve their own problems rather than looking to the state for help, or, as its own mission statement puts it, “re-weaving the fabric of civil society”. According to London Citizens’ lead organiser Neil Jameson, one of its responsibilities is to make the streets safer. This is quite compatible with the Tories’ "small state, big society" rhetoric.

This is why the government is so interested in training the “neighbourhood army” of community organisers. It also indicates, as far as the big society is concerned, that the Tories' eyes are probably more directed to the local, community level than they are to the large, service providing charities.

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