Introducing Citizens UK
Citizens UK organises communities to act together for the common good.
Community Organising means people working together to have the power to change their neighbourhoods, cities, and ultimately the country for the better. We do this by listening to our members, faith groups, schools and colleges, trade unions and companies, asking them about their concerns and developing strategies to improve our communities. We ensure that civil society is at the negotiating table alongside the market and state, so that our communities are included in the decisions that affect them. We develop the leadership capacity of our members so they can hold politicians and other decision-makers to account on the issues that matter to them. Community organising is democracy in action: winning victories that change lives and transform communities.
Tackling Poor Health Citizens UK has a long history of bringing communities together to affect change in the social determinants of health. Poor health in families, especially among children and the elderly, is associated with social determinants such as poverty, isolation, lack of social support, social exclusion generally and poor access to health services.
Tackling Poverty The Living Wage campaign was pioneered by Citizens UK leaders in 2001 as a way of tackling the scourge of low pay. Employers we work with have reported increases in productivity, reduced absenteeism and staff turnover alongside increased wellbeing and morale. Productivity and good pay go hand in hand.
Promoting Better Social Care North London Citizens trained volunteers to have face to face conversations with thousands of people in their communities. They heard story after story of people who were worried, frustrated and angry about poor quality care. From this work a Social Care Charter developed spelling out how to achieve standards of quality care for the recipient and dignity for the worker. For people to receive quality care, the care workers themselves need to be valued and treated well. Citizens UK is building a movement to enable recipients, care workers, providers and commissioners to work together to bring about the social care system we all want to see.
Creating Employment Opportunities Citizens UK is working to tackle two of the UK’s biggest issues: skills shortages and social mobility. Through the ‘Good Jobs Campaign’ and our unique connections with hundreds of schools, colleges, faith and cultural institutions we match diverse and talented young people with employers in engineering, creative industries, technology, digital media and health, who urgently need their skills.
Decent Affordable Housing Croydon Citizens persuaded Croydon Council to commit to building community land trust homes in the borough. CLTs are a new way to provide permanently and genuinely affordable housing. Instead of being sold at the market rate, homes are priced according to what is affordable on average incomes in the local area. If the homes are sold on, they are sold at the same formula meaning that the homes are permanently affordable.
Examples of other Campaigns Leeds Citizens are promoting ethical financial services by signing people up to credit unions; working with bus companies to improve reliability and frequency of specific bus routes; developing a pilot for providing culturally sensitive care for elderly people in Leeds; creating a ‘navigators’ service for people accessing mental health services.
What makes Citizens UK different from any other campaigning or lobbying organisation is that the political action we do is driven at every level by leaders in the institutions in our membership. From local training and listening campaigns to negotiating with Cabinet ministers and planning national actions, at the heart of all we do are people like you. Our responsibility is to build your capacity to work together for the common good – yours is to claim that power and use it.
Citizens UK is made up of a network of local alliances. A viewing of the Citizens UK website will show posts of different alliances around the country.
In January 2016 Neil Jameson and Paul Regan of Citizens UK came to UCLan. Since then a Preston based interim steering group has been working to increase contacts and invite organisations to join a Lancashire alliance.
Local alliances are made up of dues-paying member institutions representing faith institutions, universities, colleges, schools, trade unions, and community groups. Across the network there are over 300 civil society institutions in membership, all committed to working together for the common good.
The dues from member institutions are needed to support a trained community organiser who can help mould the alliance and help it to grow in strength and purpose. Training courses in community organising (of 6 days and 2 days) are regularly offered at different locations and different times of the year. Such training, when offered to institution leaders and persons delegated from their institutions, provides the alliance with a growing knowledge and experience base, which is in turn strengthened greatly by an employed community organiser.
Local Key Institutions.
Both the Preston Faith Forum and Preston City Council have been foundational in the initial steps for a local chapter of Citizens UK. The former acted as a kind of host institution, and the latter has provided funding for 6-day training, while respecting the limited financial support in can offer in the future given the importance of independence for any Citizens UK chapter. Derek Whyte and Matthew Brown of the City Council have been generous in giving their time at some of the Lancashire Citizens gatherings.
At UCLan, the inauguration of the new Vice Chancellor and Deputy Vice Chancellor on 20th January 2017, gave an opportunity for them to be briefed on the work of Preston Faith Forum (via Jeremy Dable and Peter Lumsden), and together with the Social and Community Inclusion Manager, to be introduced to Rabbi Robert Ash who represented Lancashire Citizens. lancslakesjc.blogspot.co.uk
For University of Birmingham and Citizens UK see
Involvement of the local Catholic Church.
Bishop Michael Campbell has asked the present Dean, Canon Adrian Towers, to encourage those who wish to foster the growth of Lancashire Citizens, and Paul Bunyan of Edge Hill University has addressed the deanery clergy on membership and the purpose of community organising in the light of Catholic Social Teaching, and Pope Francis’ encouragement to “go out” and engage with local communities.
The Episcopal Vicar for Dialogue in Salford Diocese, Fr Peter Hopkinson, visited Preston in December 2016, and encouraged Lancashire Citizens to seek financial and other support from his own diocese. Bishop John Arnold later sent £2,500 to support Lancashire Citizens. He has also given considerable support to Greater Manchester Citizens, and the Jesuit community and church of Holy Name in Oxford Road have been central to the growth of that chapter. Fourteen people affiliated to Lancashire Citizens went to the Greater Manchester Citizens Assembly on 1st May 2017, and half of these were from St Wilfrid’s Church. www.salforddiocese.net www.holyname.info
The Church of England.
At the Lancashire Citizens First Delegates Assembly on 28th November, 2016, Bishop Philip North of Burnley joined Tom Chogbo, the community organiser of Leeds Citizens, in sharing from his own experience on Citizens UK.
Rev Timothy Lipscomb helped to raise funds for the Safe Passage project at the Minster in Preston, at the Lancashire Evening Post Christmas Carol Services, in 2016. Fr Peter Randall spoke about this work which has been helping unaccompanied children to join relatives in this country, and advocating for children presently in Calais, Greece, and Italy. http://safepassage.org.uk/what-we-do
Greg Smith (Together Lancashire) brought much needed local knowledge and a lot of networking hours to the initial steps of Lancashire Citizens. He was released by Blackburn Diocese to commit some of his time to building up this chapter, and he remains a valued supporter.
Peter Lumsden has helped forge links with UCLan, and as a Methodist and long term member of Preston Faith Forum he has helped others to be more aware of Lancashire Citizens.
Interim membership for each institution is set at £50. This is not adequate to bear the costs of a community organiser, so full “dues” referred to earlier would mean a significantly higher financial commitment, depending on the scale of the institution involved.
If you need more information about Citizens UK contact Fr. Peter Randall SJ: firstname.lastname@example.org