This post is by Emma Daniels and from the CVSF Policy Blog
The ‘We Live Here’ project has been trialling additional tools to enhance community connectedness over the last 6 months funded by NESTA. Three pilots were chosen, two were place based and one based on communities of identity or interest, BME (Black and Minority Ethnic).
Tonight, the project team met with some of the BME leaders from the city to discuss the findings so far and next steps. I have in this blog post attempted to capture the meeting honestly but clearly this is from my persepective and isn’t a minute taking exercise. Hopefully people who were there will add their comments to this post!
People were interested in outlining some general challenges for BME community groups and for BME individuals living in the city.
1. That Brighton & Hove does not have any geographical area that has a ‘majority’ BME community. This means that people can feel isolated and lack confidence in getting involved in events. There were comments that even ‘black’ events such as Black History events have more non-BME attendees which is an issue for some people in feeling in a minority constantly. – Positives raised was that potentially the online space created could provide this sense of identity and leadership in a way which is difficult to do in real civic space.
2. That BME population in Brighton and Hove has risen by 16% in 10 years which is really positive and means that people will be less isolated.
3. That ‘Eurozone’ immigrants have a completely different experience than individuals from a non European background in Brighton and Hove.
4 That people who have recently arrived might engage more online in relation to search terms to do with their country of origin, and that many people put information online for people in their country of origin about what to expect in Brighton and Hove and how to access information and services.
5. Often women living here are most isolated, having moved with a partner who is out working, lacking language skills or awareness of systems and people they can connect with: For example, a project called Anatolian Friendship Group has been set up by a Turkish woman for other Turkish women to counter this isolation.
The group wanted to know what the project team had found out about BME networks and the results were that BMECP (Black & Minority Ethnic Community Partnership) was a hub for this network but very little connectivity was happening between groups and community leaders directly. Also, many BME groups are linked into any other BME group at all. Why is this a problem? Well because the more messy and complex the connections the more resilient groups and individuals are, always important for good socio-economic and health outcomes but vital at a time of spending cuts and job shortages. Another reason it is important is because it gives a sense of voice, influence and belonging and community confidence. The group felt that the findings were a fair reflection of the situation and some felt that culturally there is a ‘divide and rule’ ethos in society in relation to BME groups and that BME groups can play into this dynamic themselves especially when competing for too scarce resources.
Our project manager felt that the demand from BME communities for social media surgeries was enormous and the appetite from early work demonstrates the potential. In addition, in interviews she had been given ideas such as creating a BME events calendar and business directory. Issues that BME communities do have common ground on is around education and attainment. We were told that 90% of admissions queries were from BME groups who were concerned that their child wasn’t being treated fairly, or achieving what they should. So potentially, this is a discussion topic that could bring different communities together to influence systems and decision making.
Its fair to say that some of the group felt very strongly that the following needed to be considered in taking this work forward:
- BME communities are diverse, will have different priorities and, will want to engage in the project at a different pace for different outcomes
- Their involvement must not be yet another project which raises aspirations of influence but doesn’t invest in the capacity of groups to lead and get involved
- There is a sense of disappointment in past experiences which has made some people quite cynical about being ‘used’ as an experiment
I really enjoyed the debate and the energy of the meeting and I look forward to the discussion on the project team about taking this work forward. Thanks to all for having me along for the We Live Here ride! The good thing is that the project team do Live Here and we are committed to the long term win. Let’s hope NESTA help us to change this dynamic so that the BME community not only ‘Live Here’ but feel that they ‘Belong Here’.