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Reflections on my school experience, Black Lives Matter and the future

Jun 24, 2020

This guest blog is by a young black woman living in London

In the space of a few weeks, many of us had to adjust to a new way of living, working and interacting. Lockdown meant that my final A Level exams were cancelled (and that did admittedly feel like a silver lining), but what really surprised me was how capable we all are of making changes to our lifestyles.  

As lockdown begins to ease; the question of what the new norm will look like is obviously one of practicality - but I am optimistic that it will also reflect the spirit of the Black Lives Matter movement and the treatment of black people in our society. We’ve all seen the videos, the posts and the protests, but on a day-to-day level what does this mean? And how can we ensure the momentum of the BLM movement creates a lasting change to the way black students are seen in places of education? 

Throughout secondary school, I experienced a dismissive attitude towards race. I went to a fairly diverse girl’s school, so in a way it was difficult to pinpoint why we black girls felt at a disadvantage; we rarely ever had to deal with overt racism and on a personal level, teachers didn’t seem to treat us any worse because we were black. However, looking back I am able to see why many of us felt that way and why it’s important that other black students are equipped with this insight. 

Secondary school is naturally a lot more competitive than primary school; you’re ranked based on academic ability almost as soon as you step through the doors and systems such as class sets (usually started in the upper school) and programmes for ‘Gifted and Talented’ students are introduced. I was well behaved and by Year 9 I was placed in most ‘top set’ classes, but I noticed the absence of black girls in those spaces, chosen for special opportunities and in positions of responsibility.  

The ‘Gifted and Talented’ programmes excluded many black students because they were dependent on teacher opinions towards students and subsequently their biases. When the few black students were chosen to be on those programmes, it was because they were literally the best at their subject, whereas other students were also judged on their perceived potential. In some cases, grades weren’t even a factor for white girls getting opportunities, it was clear that likeability was good enough. The problem with academic programmes like that was the way they allowed teachers to categorise and profile high achieving black students as if they were somehow different to the rest of the black community, like we were just an exception to the rule. Once these categories had been established, there was no flexibility in the system to allow other black students to move up and there were countless times when the efforts of the academic black students were ignored while other students were publicly praised and rewarded.  

By Year 11 I had decided to organise the annual Black History Month assembly but it was made clear to me that it was a tradition teachers wished to stop. They let us know we were also being judged on the perceived ‘disorganisation’ of the previous Year 11s. I was keen to base the assembly on positive black British history, educating people on inspirational figures they may not have heard of with a film I had made myself and I was excited to involve other people in my year group, retaining the ‘fun’ celebratory aspect of the annual event with African drumming and singing.  

I distinctly remember the Deputy Headteacher trying to convince me that it wasn’t a good idea, but to insure I didn’t think she was racist, she told me she ‘didn't see colour’, and that in her family they didn’t mention race when referring to people. Though she’d meant to reassure me with that statement, in my opinion mindsets like that contributed to the disadvantages we faced throughout our time there. In that particular instance, the teacher was not able to comprehend why the assembly was important and she could not see that for the black students, it gave a sense of community and recognition. In the long term, through pretending they had no biases and no awareness of race, teachers could overlook the recurring lack of opportunity for black students. 

It was the one hour in the year that we could tell people that we were different, that we don’t all have an equal starting point in life but that we did have a history beyond slavery. I realise that it had become ‘disorganised’ and centred on entertainment in the past because of the pressure of trying to fit thousands of years of information into one event without proper support and to an audience that was reluctant to learn about black history. Had the curriculum been more diverse, we wouldn’t have felt the need to educate teachers and students ourselves - it shouldn’t have felt like our responsibility.  

I believe the BLM movement will help students because acknowledgement of race is the first step for schools. Furthermore, reminding people that the movement does not take away from the experience of other ethnicities and shutting down counterproductive statements like ‘all lives matter’ has been a great turning point. This is because schools often boast a one-rule-for-all system with punishment and opportunities but it is a similar extension of practising ill-informed equality over equity which often ends up with a disproportionate number of black students being punished and a disproportionate number of white students being rewarded. 

Many people have understood that it is not enough for individuals and institutions to pretend we are all on an even playing field and schools are no exception. It isn’t enough for white teachers to ignore their privilege and the privilege of white students when they label us ‘intimidating’, deny us opportunities and underestimate our grades and trajectories. This also means acknowledging that even if they don't understand our experiences - there is a wider problem, and that there is a myriad of ways they can help to correct it. 

We need teachers to recognise our blackness, to understand that our experiences are different and question why so many of us continuously end up at a disadvantage. We also need to see a more diverse range of role models in the curriculum and in the classroom.  I was lucky enough to have had two excellent black female maths teachers who inspired me to study Maths A-Level, but I know more role models like that would have encouraged others and may have prevented staff undervaluing black students as well.

When schools reopen for all students, I hope the conversations and ideas we’ve had in lockdown are brought back into the classroom and given that many young people are on social media, I think open discussions about the impact of what we’ve witnessed over the last few months would be invaluable.  

I dedicate this piece to readers who have lost loved ones to Covid-19.

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These BTEG publications may be useful to parents and pupils (click on image to download the file)

     

      

Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

Black Lives Matter in Britain too

Jun 17, 2020

George Floyd’s death in Minnesota has led to the four policemen involved being dismissed from the Minneapolis Police Department, with one being charged with murder and the other three being charged with aiding and abetting.

The incident has sparked global street protests.

Unfortunately, while expressing their regrets over Floyd’s death, some MPs and members of the UK media have suggested that the issue of police violence against black people is a particularly American problem - one from which Britain is free.

On 7th June Health Secretary Matt Hancock claimed, in an interview on Sky News, that the demonstrations seen in cities like London and Birmingham were "based in response to events in America rather than here". Some politicians queued up to suggest that while such racism was a problem in other countries, the UK was an oasis of fairness and equality.

Sadly, this assertion is not supported by the facts. Anyone who suggest this is either ignorant of those facts or being deliberately dishonest.

There is a history of racial tension in this country that dates back to when Caribbean immigrants first started to come to the UK en masse in the 1950s.  And the history of relations between black people and the police in this country is littered with tragic deaths like the one which befell George Floyd. Tragedies like:

Joy Gardner, a 40-year-old black woman from Jamaica who had overstayed her six-month visa. In 1993 an immigration officer and police officers arrived at her home to serve a deportation notice. When she refused to comply, the police entered her home and struggled and fought with her. As a result of their restraints of her, Gardner suffocated and subsequently fell into a coma, later dying in hospital.

Wayne Douglas, a 26 year-old who, on 5th December 1995, died whilst being held at Brixton Police Station on suspicion of burglary. On four occasions, Wayne had been held face down with his hands cuffed behind his back by officers. A jury found that he died of `left ventricular failure due to stress and exhaustion and positional asphyxia following a chase and a series of restraints, in prone position, face down”.

Christopher Alder, a 37-year-old trainee computer programmer and former British Army paratrooper. In 1998 he was assaulted outside a night club in Hull and taken to a local hospital, where he was then arrested for an alleged breach of the peace. While fit enough to get into a police van by himself, CCTV footage showed that upon arrival at the police station, Alder was unconscious and was dragged from the van and placed on the floor of the custody suite. He died lying face down, handcuffed, with his trousers around his ankles on the floor of the police station.

Roger Sylvester, in 1999 police arrived outside’s house as a result of a 999 call. Eight officers put Sylvester to the ground where he was handcuffed. He was detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act. HIs body was already limp when it was placed in the police van. He was taken to St Ann’s hospital, and put on the floor by six police officers where he lay for nearly 20 minutes before being seen by a doctor. He had sustained numerous injuries and remained in a coma until his life support machine was switched off seven days later.

Frank Ogburo was involved in a domestic altercation in 2006.  The police were called by a neighbour. A struggle between the officers and Frank resulted in his being sprayed with CS gas, being handcuffed and brought to the floor. Frank’s wrists were in handcuffs behind his back. His death according to the jury at the inquest was as a “consequence of restraint”. 

Seni Lewis was 23 years old in 2010, when he died three days after he was subjected to two periods of restraint by police, lasting more than 30 minutes. He had been taken to Bethlehem Royal Hospital by his parents after an episode of mental ill-health.

Kingsley Burrell died in hospital from a cardiac arrest, days after being detained and physically restrained by West Midlands Police in March 2011.

Sheku Bayoh was 31 years old in May 2015 when he died after being restrained by up to five police officers, in Kirkcaldy, Scotland

In the last 25 years 19 black people have died while in police custody.  Of that number, eight died as a result of police restraint.

During that period, many more white people have also died, but there is a clear disproportion. Black people are more than twice as likely to die in police custody. An independent review of deaths in police custody found that between 1990 and 2009, 16 per cent of those who died after the use of force were black – more than twice the proportion arrested.

The most recent statistics from the Home Office and Ministry of Justice show that in 2018-19, black people were: 

This disproportionality also shows up in our prisons and especially for under 18s in custody. In youth offending institutions young black people make up a staggering 28% of the cohort but less than 10% of the general 10-18 general population. In the year ending March 2019 black young people were over four times more likely to be arrested than white young people.

What makes such statistics even more galling for the relatives of the deceased, is that those police officers who may have been responsible for the deaths are never brought to justice.

According to the Report of the Independent Review of Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody of eight prosecutions of police officers in connection with a death in custody in the last 15 years, all have ended with acquittals. These include prosecutions for murder and manslaughter. In fact, there has never been a successful prosecution for manslaughter in such cases, despite unlawful killing verdicts in Coroner’s inquests.

Far from being a peculiarly American problem, deaths at the hands of the police is a problem suffered by black people around the world, as the worldwide Black Lives Matter demonstrations have illuminated. 

Rather than deny the problem or sweep it under the carpet, our government should face it, own up to it and put regulations in place to control the police’s use of force and restraint, and curb the number of deaths.  Only then can the UK become the oasis of fairness and equality that the current government claims.

Photo by ksh2000 from Pexels

Time to Track, Trace and Remove Racism in the UK and USA

Jun 02, 2020

George Floyd’s killing by police in the USA took me back to the death of Clinton McCurbin in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, in February 1987. I was a final year student at the Polytechnic at the time and walking through Wolverhampton town centre I saw a commotion outside the Next shop but didn’t realise that Clinton McCurbin had lost his life.

Clinton was arrested for alleged shoplifting and the use of a stolen credit card at the shop. He died of asphyxia in a struggle with police after being held in a neck-hold for several minutes. Onlookers were shocked at the level of force and brutality used by the arresting officers.

His death outraged the black community but, to the dismay of the family, at the subsequent inquest the jury returned a verdict of misadventure.

There have been too many deaths of other black men in police custody since then in this country and the USA.

In response to George Floyd’s death there have been, once again, calls for; police training to be improved, swift justice and the police responsible not just charged but found guilty, and for structural racism to be tackled.

In the UK we don’t seem to care that black men are far more likely to have force used against them, more likely be stopped and searched, more likely to be tasered, and more likely to have incapacitant spray used against them – in the community and in prison.

Why are black men perceived to be a greater risk than other men? We have to ask - does a black man’s life carry the same value as white man’s life in America and the UK?

For me there is a lingering, underlying problem in America and UK (and other European countries involved in the colonisation/oppression of African people) and it stems from the brutality and extreme force used against African men, women and children during and after slavery.

The legacy of slavery is not just a problem for black people. It is a shared problem that we all need to face. People of African heritage are still fighting for race equality here and across the Americas.

The lack of fair employment opportunities for black men, poverty and the availability of illegal drugs has created the conditions where black men, especially young black men involved in drugs and protecting their ‘territory’, are prepared to use extreme violence.

Unjustified racist extreme State violence and extreme street violence both need to be eradicated.

BTEG wants to see black people represented across the criminal justice system, from the police to judges. But better representation is part of a solution but it will not solve the problem.

The Minneapolis police chief is African-American and the force itself is 50% white, 25% Hispanic and 25% African-American. In the Met Police Service, 85% of Police Officers are white and only 15% BAME.

It’s clear from Minneapolis that having a black police chief and 50% of officers from black and minority ethnic backgrounds does not end overt racism within the force. Anti-racism and dealing with [un]conscious bias does not end racism. They are important but not sufficient.

Labelling an organisation institutionally racist often results in defensive rebuttals and the line it’s ‘just a few bad apples.’ This doesn’t wash with anyone, especially with the social media generation that film and mobilise communities in minutes.

The global Covid-19 pandemic has shown that the most effective control measures are those which are systematic and robust. We have thus far found no cures for the racist pandemic so we need to adopt control measures.

We need the state to ‘track, trace and remove’ racism in the police, in the wider justice system and in all public bodies. This requires thorough racial monitoring across all aspects of an organisation so we can pinpoint perpetrators of racism and unfair policies and practices and remove them.

This isn’t just about frontline police and prison officers, it also about those making operational decisions. Leaders must be accountable for their actions as well. We need a different approach to tackling structural racism. We need better race equality laws and better enforcement of the duties. We need race equality legislation that requires public bodies, especially in the justice system to take systemic action to remove race disparities.

Organisational ethnic biases will only be removed when there is a duty to track, trace and remove racism and racial disparities, matched by a body that has the power and the resources to enforce the law.

Jeremy Crook OBE, Chief Executive of BTEG, voluntary member of the Metropolitan Police Service STRIDE Board and member of Black Men for Change

After the Lockdown - a new way of working?

May 06, 2020

"Technology now allows people to connect anytime, anywhere, to anyone in the world, from almost any device. This is dramatically changing the way people work, facilitating 24/7 collaboration with colleagues who are dispersed across time zones, countries, and continents. "Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Technologies

With suggestions that there may be an ease in the lockdown in the next couple of months people are asking if it will be a return to business as usual or will there be “a new normal”.

Although being able to work remotely has been around for a while the government asking people to work from home (WFH) has forced organisations, that may have been reluctant to embrace the technologies that enable this, to do so.

Will WFH be “the new normal” for office-based organisations?

According to the Buffer’s 2019 report on the State of Remote Work  - “Remote work is not a trend - it’s here to stay”. This was, of course, produced before the pandemic so it is probably more apposite now.

Organisations that want to continue with remote working - whenever the Coronavirus becomes history - need to take some factors into consideration, including:

  • The legal and contractual considerations

  • Ensuring employer-provided tools are in place, such as IT equipment, mobile phones and Broadband. You might think this might increase costs but remember that staff working from home will reduce office costs

  • Managing remote teams, both the individuals and as team - ensuring a group dynamic continues

  • Finding the right balance between WFH and office-based work 

  • Health and safety obligations

  • Recruitment and integrating new workers into the company culture

  • In particular, smaller groups need to consider the additional costs associated with more home working for their employees/volunteers, and providing their services digitally, when putting in bids to get emergency funds in the current crisis

Staff also need to keep some considerations in mind:

  • Keeping a work/life balance - because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you’re “on” all the time. Be able to switch off.

  • Ensure you keep focussed by having a to-do list and focussed task management

  • There won’t be the casual chit-chat you have in the office so find ways to engage more casually with your colleagues. David Rabin, VP of Global Commercial Marketing at Lenovo suggests "Keep a team chatroom open. There is nothing more important in a group remote project than casual communication. Not just official emails and work updates, but the ability to sit back and chat."

Here are some tools that could assist both the company and staff with remote working. They are a selection of tools in different categories. Some of the tools are free, some are freemium.

To do apps:

Microsoft To-Do - Free - A simple software solution for organizing business stuff, collaborating with your business team, and is quite fast to implement and use. 

Todoist - Free version/paid version - Can be used for small teams, individuals and professionals to manage anything from a shopping list to major projects at work.

Any.do - Free version/paid version - Allows users to manage both personal goals and team projects in a single interface. Projects can be broken down into tasks, and subtasks delegated to individual team members for completion.

Project management apps:

Trello - Free version/paid version - An easy, flexible and visual way to manage your projects and organize anything

Asana - Free version/paid version - Designed to improve team collaboration and work management. It helps teams manage projects and tasks in one tool.

MeisterTask - Free version/paid version - An online task management tool for teams.

Note taking/saving articles apps:

OneNote - Free -  a program for free-form information gathering and multi-user collaboration. It gathers users' notes, drawings, screen clippings, and audio commentaries. Notes can be shared with other OneNote users.

Google Keep - Free -  Quickly capture what’s on your mind and get a reminder later at the right place or time. Speak a voice memo on the go and have it automatically transcribed. Grab a photo of a poster, receipt or document and easily organize or find it later in search.

Zoho Notebook - Free -  allows you to create unlimited notes and notebooks in the cloud.            

Communication apps:

Slack - Free version/paid version - Organize your work by team or project using channels. Collaborate with colleagues using your existing workplace tools like Google Drive.

Chanty - Free version/paid version - A simple team chat tool for small and medium-sized teams that doesn’t limit its searchable message history. Similar to Slack, you can communicate in public and private channels and through one-to-one conversations.

Flock - Free version/paid version - A workplace chat software that claims to run faster than Slack. In addition to regular communication features like instant chat, audio, and video calls, it also offers built-in polls, reminders and notes.

If you want to explore more integrated solutions you could look at:

MicroSoft Office 365 Business

Google G Suite

These are not the only apps available but they should give you an idea of the possibilities that technology offers.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

BAME communities and the impact of Covid-19 - Petition

Apr 15, 2020
Social distancing

Social distancing

A petition has been launched to establish an independent public inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities across the UK.

BTEG has signed this petition and urges you to do so as well.

Read the petition and sign it here

Help spread the word about the campaign by sharing it with your friends and family.

GCSE and A level exams are cancelled. Will predicted grades have an adverse effect on black students?

Apr 01, 2020
School

School

Following the government’s decision to close schools and cancel examinations due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Department for Education confirmed that students of GCSEs and A-levels would instead be graded using the predictions of their teachers.

You can check the government’s own website here to see how they will be calculated.

These grades can have massive repercussions for a child’s future life chances – GCSE grades influence whether pupils can go on to further education and which subjects they can study, while A level results determine which university students will get accepted by.

Predicted grades are problematic for a number of reasons.  Firstly, students of all races may apply themselves more and improve their final grade after getting disappointing marks in their mock exams. Also, predicted grades are based not on a students’ abilities, but rather on the teacher’s subjective opinion of the pupil’s aptitude, which may be influenced by factors other than their ability.

There is no doubt that the concern expressed by many black parents and pupils is shared by some educationalists.

2016 study carried out by University College London’s Institute of Education found that just 16% of predicted A-level results are correct; only one in six university applicants will achieve the grades they were predicted.

For black students the problem of the negative perceptions of teachers is exacerbated.

2011 research by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills found black applicants had the lowest predicted grade accuracy, with only 39.1 per cent of predicted grades accurate.

EQUAL’s own Head of Policy, Shadae Cazeau, had a pertinent experience when she was at school:

“My history teacher predicted that I would get a D in my GCSE. And that was just because he didn’t particularly like me.  I went on to get an A grade. If I was relying on my predicted grades, I may have lost out on the opportunity to go to the college of my choice, which could have hindered my future prospects.”

Academics and those working in education have long been aware of this racial bias when looking at the issue of school exclusions.

As revealed some years ago by the Department for Education, black Caribbean children, are three and a half times more likely to be excluded than all other children at primary, secondary and special schools. These are disparities that exist not necessarily because of any underlying propensity to cause trouble, but because educators perceive black children as fundamentally disruptive and academically inferior.

Dr Zubaida Haque, Deputy Director of The Runnymede Trust told HuffPost UK:

“While schools are operating in exceptional circumstances during the Covid-19 pandemic, we still need to ensure that cross-checking and quality assurance processes are put in place for grade assessments – both at school-level and externally – to minimise the effects of individual teacher bias. We’re also concerned that using predicted grades alone for university admissions will further increase existing race and class inequalities in Britain’s universities.”

BAME students tend to be concentrated in less prestigious institutions. The Sunday Times's Good University Guide notes that nearly three quarters of the student intake at universities like Aston and Bradford are from ethnic minorities. Contrast this with universities that rank highest like Oxford, Cambridge, and St Andrews which languish at the bottom in terms of social inclusion.

Studies show that ethnic minority applicants to the most selective universities are less likely to receive offers, even when they may have the same grades as their white counterparts. 

If black A level students are to rely on the predicted grades from their teachers to gain admission, these disparity issues are likely to increase.

In the DoE guidance, the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson had advice for parents who feel that their children have been hard done by:

“We recognise that some students may feel disappointed that they haven’t been able to sit their exams. If they do not believe the correct process has been followed in their case they will be able to appeal on that basis. In addition, if they do not feel their calculated grade reflects their performance, they will have the opportunity to sit an exam at the earliest reasonable opportunity, once schools are open again. Students will also have the option to sit their exams in summer 2021.”

Unfortunately that is of little comfort to A level students currently in the midst of this confusion, as one who wishes to remain anonymous explains.

“What worries me and many other A Level students is whether we will have enough time to appeal to get onto the university courses we’ve been offered. The new system has also meant that our teachers and support networks in college have been cut off because we can’t discuss our predictions with them and we’re left guessing by ourselves. But it’s a very worrying thought now, that our futures depend on such a potentially biased system and that we aren’t able to discuss it with our teachers before the grades are made final.”

In a statement, the Racial Justice Network said:

“Like the closure of schools, the cancellation of examinations is an entirely necessary and proportionate response to the coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, it is vitally important that any solutions to the cancellation of exams do not exacerbate already existing race and class inequalities.” 

BTEG’s Chief Executive Jeremy Crook OBE shared his concerns:
 

 “The cancellation of GCSE/A-level examinations is understandable but frustrating for young people that have worked extremely hard. Their life chances depend on these predictions. At the end of the process a race equality analysis should be conducted showing there were no race disparities, especially for black students.”

COVID 19 and Police powers

Mar 27, 2020
How will the enhancement of police powers in light of Covid-19 impact on BAME communities?

The worldwide Corona pandemic and the UK government’s response to it has impacted every aspect of our lives, from the way we work (from home), to the way we shake hands (the Corona elbow bump) to the way we socialise (we don’t).

Back in January of 2020 it was a health crisis taking place in China.  Then the virus came to Europe but was concentrated in Italy. It wasn’t until March that the UK government forced us to take the issue more seriously by issuing instructions for certain businesses to close and limiting the degree that the general public could interact, recommending working from home, social distancing, and even self- isolation for the more vulnerable.  

But for those of us who work in the area of civil liberties and the criminal justice system, alarm bells started ringing towards the end of the month when the government announced new enhanced powers for the law enforcement officers

The proposed powers were outlined in a 329-page emergency bill.

Under new laws public health officers, police and immigration officers will be able to direct people suspected of being infected to places where they can be screened for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). If necessary, these officials will have the power to hold suspected patients for screening rather than simply directing them there.

In explanatory notes provided with the bill, the government says “public health officers, constables and (in some circumstances) immigration officers” will be granted the means to enforce “sensible public health restrictions...where necessary and proportionate.” This includes returning people to places they have been required to stay.

In one of his daily address to the nation, a new feature of life with COVID19, the Prime Minister pleaded with people to stay at home, and indicated that the Police would have power to force people to do so, if they didn’t comply.

We have already seen news footage of Chinese and Italian cities in complete lock-down with the police stopping people wandering the streets and demanding proof of their need to travel. Images of the police stopping black men on the streets and demanding to see their documents brings back horrible memories of apartheid-era South Africa.

While EQUAL recognises the need to use police powers to ensure compliance with social distancing policies and to control the spread of the virus, we are concerned about the impact this may have on disproportionality in policing. 

It is unclear how these encounters will be recorded or whether they will be recorded at all. Historically statistics show that black people are nine times more likely to be stopped and searched than their white counterparts. With a lack of clear guidance on these proposed enhanced powers there is a concern that this disproportionality will only increase. 

The police statistics April 2018/19 show that black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups made up 22% of police use of force incidents despite only making up 5.5% of the population.  An increase in power, no requirement of suspicion and a lack of trust in the police from BAME communities is potentially a recipe for disaster. 

Commenting on The Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020, given royal assent this week, Shadae Cazeau, Head of Policy at EQUAL said,

“Without knowing how officers will record these encounters with members of the public it will be difficult to assess how this may impact upon disproportionality. There is already a lack of data more generally in policing and we are concerned that this may further affect trust between BAME communities and the police.

There is also a huge risk in using officers to assess potential coronavirus carriers; this is again vulnerable to abuse particularly given the grave consequences, including detention in custody and/or a fine of up to £1000. 

It is concerning that there will be little way of knowing whether those detained failed to self-isolate or just didn’t realise they were carrying the virus if they are at all. The risks to already over policed BAME communities are ominous and the power to disperse, stop and engage with communities without the safeguards of the usual protocols has the potential to lead to further abuses of power.”

 

Transform your organisation through stories

Dec 16, 2019

“Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick;

and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works”

Matthew 5:15–16

A not-for-profit or a charity is set up with an objective, be it to:

  • raise awareness of social issues that might otherwise go unnoticed

  • provide assistance to those in need who can’t get it from government or private sector sources

  • give a voice to communities

  • change lives and enrich them

Whatever your purpose, you may be meeting all you performance milestones, achieving your objectives and satisfying your funders.

But, outside of your stakeholders, who cares? Does anyone else know you exist and, if they do, are they interested? Will the bean counting data you put into your report to your funders be of interest to the wider world?

To get people interested in your organisation you need to tell them stories - stories that demonstrate why your organisation exists – stories about problems that have been resolved, communities that have been enriched and lives that have been changed.

You need to explain your purpose and achievements but need to do so in a way that engages your listeners and the way to do that is through stories. People respond to stories in a way that they don’t respond to cold facts and raw data. Stories have an additional element that helps people connect with you. That additional element is emotion.

Each of the people you work with is a story waiting to be told. They can humanise the purpose of your organisation by describing situations with which listeners can relate and that can help them understand the impact of your work and why it is needed.

Tell your stories through all the media available to you: your website, meetings, blogs, social media, newsletters. Invite your beneficiaries to tell their own stories in their own words. This will make your stories more engaging and authentic and help listeners to connect with your organisation.

“Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” Native American proverb

How Connectivity has helped me

Nov 12, 2019
This is a guest blog from a participant on the BAME Connectivity Programme
 
We all like to make New Year’s resolutions, right?
 

Mine for 2019: Enhance leadership skills and effectiveness in my organisation.

At first glance, this commitment to self is no show stopper and has the sound of: “Really? Really? Is that what you are going to concentrate your efforts on this whole year? You don’t need a new gym membership? Pay rise? How about going vegan, or trading your car for an electric model as an environmentally friendly pledge to the planet?”

Well, six months before, I had promised myself, as well as the Director of my charity, that this academic year would be my final one as a full-time secondary school teacher. I was ready to take on the challenge of growing our charity - Centre of Change: Counselling, Mentoring and Tutoring Service - to a place where it became financially robust and self-sustaining: building capacity, as the jargon would have it.

When I took on this challenge in the summer of 2018, I soon recognised that Collaboration was the buzzword bouncing around among service providers, local government and others in the community network. In many meetings and conferences I attended in those months, ‘collaboration’ was dutifully chanted by those in the know.

Up to this point, collaboration had not been a strong point of our charity. On two occasions in our 11-year existence, we had tried collaboration. We had tried to join forces to work with others and the result was ideas were snapped up by larger, better-established organisations and touted as their own, whilst we had to sit by, unable to do anything about it. From then on, our motto was: ‘Twice bitten, forever shy’. So, when I joined the BTEG introductory meeting, led by Simone Williams, in January to find out what ‘Connectivity’ could mean for my charity, it is a real understatement to say that I was extremely wary.

Fortunately, I went into the programme with an open, though somewhat cautious, mind. Early on I understood that collaboration could be successful, if managed well. There was the recognition that some people in life would lack integrity and therefore naivety could be disastrous, so a degree of shrewdness was needed. Simone’s facilitation of discussions around responsibilities and boundaries were particularly resonant with me during this stage.

Delegates all had something in common: a desire to enhance the lived experience and life chances of disadvantaged or marginalised people. It soon became clear that holding a common interest or goal is enough to find ground to form partnerships. But it is imperative to know and understand each individual’s contribution to the project and how each part would fit together. Communication was another component that needed to be water-tight if projects were to float. Trust was essential and something that has to grow and develop over time within the agreement of a piece of work. I didn’t actually form a collaboration within this forum but the principles were clear.

In practice, over the past ten months the concept of connectivity has helped me, in my capacity of Assistant Director of my charity, to build and work within a number of collaborative relationships. A few months ago, four educators (including myself), representing four organisations were able to come together with our respective experience and skills and put on an educational event for parents and carers of BAME children. It helped them better understand the education system and provided insight into how to help their young people navigate the system successfully. It was well attended by parents, interested individuals and organisations, and educators.

On a side note, in the week of actually putting this blog post together, a very attractive prospect has arisen off the back of the education collaborative event. It requires four education specialists to be trained to deliver in-school training. The opportunity was immediately attractive to all four parties involved in the previous piece of work. Although we each have our distinct organisations, we have seen the success of working together, the power of pooling our resources and how we complement and support each other, and realised that the whole is actually greater than each of us as individual parts.

Connectivity has not only given me the confidence to work with others who are in similar and complementary organisations but also the knowledge and capabilities of defining, agreeing and understanding roles and boundaries within these relationships. The concept allows for a high level of accountability which in itself helps to drive productivity and thus success.

I am currently planning a large community event; I have never attempted to lead anything anywhere near this scale before. The concept of connectivity has been fundamental in helping me to develop this project, as it has allowed me to approach and engage other organisations in an open and honest way whilst still maintaining ownership of this piece of work. Our Christmas event will be a whole community affair, involving commitments from at least three groups other than Centre of Change. It brings us into collaboration with local government, a faith group, a small but extremely influential community group, as well as a range of groups and individuals with lesser involvement. This collaboration has generated ideas and resources beyond what I could imagine when I first put the idea forward to my board of trustees.

We’ve almost come full circle from that resolution made last December and committed to in January with the start of the BTEG Connectivity Programme. It’s fitting, I think, that the year should culminate with a display of what collaboration can look like in real terms.

I know the event will not be perfect. I know I will take away a handful of ‘even better ifs’. But, more to the point, I know it will be fun, well-attended and a great success.

Diane Rouillon
 

Strengthening voices in the BAME community

Nov 04, 2019

My earlier blog post on ‘collective impact’ highlighted that having a shared vision was a vital component in making a real and meaningful positive difference to complex societal issues.

To create that vision a strengthened and aligned shared voice has to be developed and shaped.

What is a strengthened voice? Imagine a choir.A soloist’s voice can sound lovely and strong, reaching all notes. But what happens when that voice is joined by the others? The sound can still be lovely; it is most definitely more powerful and can carry a note for even longer and reach even higher. This does not take away from the soloist’s ability, skills or passion, but it adds layers - the different voices creating harmony and giving a differing perspective to the same words.

Now think of community groups. Each project may be attempting to solve similar problems and be facing the same barriers within their community and in the relationships with those that support their sustainability and impact. However, most of the time they work and speak individually; sending the same message in a slightly different way or lots of messages at once with no clear focus on any specific priority.

Now imagine these community groups as a “choir”, discussing the issues that they share and creating a clearer, stronger joint voice that could have a more powerful impact on social change. Strengthening the voice of your community will allow for issues to be identified, challenged and overcome in a clear and action focused way

This joint voice can be developed by:

  • Creating conversations, through regular roundtables, forums, webinars.
  • Regular collective blog posts or letters - where one idea is highlighted and co-signed by the group
  • Posting an article in the local paper about the great work that has come from collaboration in tackling issues or overcoming barriers but also sharing moments of success for the communities served

Over the next few weeks Connectivity partners will be guest blogging their journey to strengthened voice and collaboration through their participation in the programme for Year 1, as well as providing useful tips and tools to assist you in strengthening your community leadership voice.

Find out more about the Connectivity Programme or email Simone Williams, Simone@bteg.co.uk

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