Friday, 1 July 2011

Carrying the Courage of Conviction

"We do not have to take our troubles lying down – the most effective way of birthing new life as we all know is standing up!"

This begins as a report on the opening of ABL’s Carlisle Business Centre Conference Suite on Wednesday 30th June 2011- but Oh there is always more to it than that . . .

Steve Wyler OBE was the ketnote speaker.  He is a Big cheese in the new organisation Locality which is an amalgamation of the Development Trust Association with Settlements and Social Action Centres. 

Steve commended the courage of ABL to take risks to invest in the local community in the middle of a recession and talked about the commitment of ABL and other development trusts to enABLing their communities.

He then went on to talk about the bigger strategy which he and his colleagues at national level are working on, to support the courage and commitment of local communites like Manningham seeking to invest in their people.  This is what we are asking for, he said – and sometimes getting: 

  1. Asking for a pause in the ‘slash and burn’ cuts which fall most heavily on the poorest communities.  Giving time for communities to  co-design local alternatives, taking the chance to do things a different way.  They have got 3 months moratorium to do this.

  1. Community Right to Buy – this is now in the Localism bill but there is opposition from the Lords and from landowners who see that they may lose out.  In Scotland there is a stronger law which has enabled the inhabitants of many of the Western Isles to own the land they live on.

  1. Community Allowance – to enable people on benefits to do short terms sessional paid work for community organisations without effecting their benefits.

  1. Community Rights Act.  This puts a requirement on banks to be transparent about lending activities in poor communities;  where they are found to be wanting it puts a requirement on them to put remedial measures in place ( eg supporting local business, partnership/support for credit unions etc).  This law is effective in the US and communties are using it.  Steve said: “We think it is a scandal not to have this here.”

  1. To have a large team of Communtiy Organisers working within communities.  They will listen to people, find out what they want and see if they can come together to effect change – often this is about taking down the barriers those in  power have put up preventing people helping themselves – positive solutions run on our terms not yours.  The Government is up for this.

Steve said that: We are about working to do thing differently, working with local people’s hopes and dreams and helping to make them happen.

Here clearly was a can do man in a can do organisation where poor local communties are able to build and invest in their own future.  This takes courage and conviction.

Mothers and Midwives let us carry that courage and conviction to build birth care and communities on our human terms, let us start challenging the barriers to us claiming our birthrites -  and those who put them there.  Let us invest in our children and in our futures together.

In the evening it was my local church’s Church Meeting: a difficult one as the financial situation is bad – but it comes down to the same issues of courage and conviction: who we are, why we are here, what are we going to do with the resources we have to fulfil our aims and why we are here?  And in partnership with fantastic organisations like Locality we can turn around whole communities not just individual churches.

Who has the courage and the conviction? We do not have to take our troubles lying down – the most effective way of birthing new life as we all know is standing up!

No comments: