Today we had a round-table meeting of potential partners for establishing a chapter of Manchester Citizens. It was great to have Neil Jameson with us. The meeting was well attended and it showed a lot of interest in the development of a chapter, and also some resistance. My sense is that there have been previous attempts at Community Organising in Manchester with varying levels of success - this can have a 'graveyard effect' - 'Yeah Yeah we've tried that and it doesn't work... '. There is also a parochial suspicion of anything that comes from London .... which is deep rooted and potentially very destructive.
Why do I thing that Manchester will benefit from the Citizens brand of community organising? Certainly what I witnessed in London working as school chaplain - my first funeral as a priest was of Godwin Lawson, a 17 year old boy who I had coached in football and who had left St Ignatius after getting into Oxford Uniteds Academy. He had a troubled past but the dream of being a professional footballer had saved him. He was stabbed to death when returning to see his mum. It was then when I saw Citizens training my sixth formers to do a listening campaign which led to the City Safe Campaign (enabling shop keepers to protect people who were being chased by gangs). This initiative saved lives - and so I was impressed with Citizens way of organising, their results, just look at the Living Wage and the Olympics to start with and now their work with refugees.
The first Stage is to look for 'seed money' to get Citizens off the ground. Primarily this is to pay for a lead organiser .... The Catholic Chaplaincy here have kindly said they will provide an office space - and cover the overheads for running an officer here (which is worth around 10k). Citizens will be an umbrella for all the good community based work that is going on - and hopefully mobilise and train the students to get involved in transformative politics.