Birmingham City Council is planning to use existing networks to listen to those who rarely get a say as we consult on our community cohesion strategy green paper.
Released early in July, the strategy proposes a collaborative effort in which the council works alongside residents, local organisations and city partners to ensure the city is a place where people from different backgrounds can come together, improving things for themselves and their communities.
The strategy was developed following engagement with people from across the city – but it is important we keep the conversation alive.
Since this is a city-led approach, we must engage widely to ensure the strategy accurately reflects the views and needs of people from different backgrounds across Birmingham. As well as conducting an online consultation, we are carrying out bespoke engagement activities, mitigating the risk of only hearing from the ‘usual suspects’ and ensuring we hear from those who are often ignored.
We currently have over 400 named stakeholders, from grassroots organisations and leaders in the faith community to local businesses in the private sector. This existing network will be harnessed to create a ripple effect, allowing our contacts to disperse the strategy among their networks.
It is important that the consultation isn’t council-led. As such we will be asking some of our contacts if they can convene discussions on the strategy with their own groups or networks.
Several of our contacts have already agreed to organise sessions, including Thrive, a volunteer-led network promoting responsible business in Birmingham; Smart Women Community Training Centre, a grassroots organisation that supports local women; and a youth worker who will facilitate conversations with groups of young men and women.
We will also be attending local events, arranging focus groups, conducting face-to-face interviews, and collaborating with local digital agency Simply Kreative to create a short film that captures individual responses to the consultation.
The responses we get will shape the final white paper and, upon completion, we will ask local groups, organisations, businesses and other partners to commit to the shared vision of fairness and greater social integration in Birmingham.
And although we recognise the challenges of community cohesion, we understand the value of celebrating success. So not only will we work with partners to share the best examples of communities coming together, we will be holding an annual Birmingham Community Cohesion Summit – with the first due in November 2018.
Tristan Chatfield, cabinet member for social inclusion, community safety and equalities, Birmingham City Council