It's been a whirlwind first weeks setting up the the new chapter of Citizens UK. I officially started on the 10th July which coincidentally fell on the same date as the Citizens UK national training - so I decided to go along for a week to learn all about the work of Citizens and what makes them so effective. It was great to meet such a diverse group of people from across the UK and from a variety of different institutions which put into perspective the strength of Citizens and the communities they seek to represent.
After a week spent learning about how to organise I then spent a week in London at the head office and to meet my colleagues. I spent time 'running' with other organisers and even saw a small campaign win take place in Hackney. With the help of Citizens a school managed to get a fence put up outside a school gate so it was safer for children. I met with other colleagues and attended my first national team meeting Seeing the great work and testimonies from organizer across different chapters gave me even more conviction that Citizens UK is a great vehicle in to bring about that social change.
My third week was my first week official week in Manchester. The chaplaincy and Father Tim have been a great help and very kindly taken on the responsibility for setting up the office space which is situated within the Chaplaincy and prime location in Manchester opposite the University of Manchester. With the help of Father Tim we managed to get back end office operation up and running with internet, phone and computer all being set up. Being the only organiser can be a lonely but it's great that I am sharing an office with a lady called Hina who wors for the chaplaincy and I am based next door to the food bank office which has a huge operation at the Chaplaincy. I also had my fist set of meetings also known in community organising terms 1:1s with Sir Peter Fahy who is Chairing our sponsoring committee and with Tom Skinner from the Living Wage Foundation. As well as recruiting institutions there will be a lot of time spent in the first few months meeting lots of key stakeholders from across the region to let them know of the exciting initiative we are starting up.
This past week has been another busy week mapping out and putting our strategy together of how we want to start building that broad based coalition. On Sunday I spoke at the Living Islam Festival about the work of Citizens and how we can empower our communities to come together and make a positive change - reflecting on the recent loss of life of the MP Jo Cox who died in a terror and hate crime. We spent a day doing a power analysis of the city with a good friend of mine who is well connected with the community and mapped all the different areas we need to cover from businesses to education, from faith groups to community organisations and more. Without barely touching the surface the opportunities in region are massive and if we get the right buy in we can be an effective voice for the people.