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Newham Community Leadership Programme reaches over 100 residents

One year on and the College’s East London workshops continue to make a positive impact on participants’ learning and networking opportunities.

This is a photo of the post it notes from the discussions at the community leadership programme
Post-it notes from the Community Leadership Programme break-out sessions

A cornerstone of Birkbeck’s mission to educate working Londoners is ensuring that people are enabled and empowered to forge a successful path for themselves and their communities. The Newham Community Leadership Programme, led by the College, has achieved just that, launching one year ago and recently concluding its third programme with over 100 participants, to date, joining the workshops.

In September of last year, the Access and Engagement team established the free evening workshops, running one day a week over the course of four-five weeks to support local organisers with learning opportunities to bring about change in their local area. Hester Gartrell, Senior Access Officer, reflects on the past year and the recent milestone saying, “It’s been fantastic working with Newham residents involved in volunteering and grass roots activism over the last year. We've been fortunate to be able to work so closely with residents at the local level and to be privileged to hear about the amazing work taking place in the borough. We look forward to working with and supporting Newham residents through our community development course throughout 2021."

With support from the National Lottery Community Fund, the course is run by the Access and Engagement Department and the Community Development and Public Policy BSc in the Department of Geography and is structured around particular themes: leadership approaches, project management, community engagement and wellbeing.

Recent participant, Mavis Wenham of ANKH Services, recalls the moment she was made aware of the course and immediately signed up. She said, “I consider myself fortunate to have acquired extensive practical hands-on experience over many years in youth and community work, paid and voluntary, yet was delighted to progress through the course topics each session, with like-minded, genuine community activators and leaders across many types of projects and organisations. The areas covered were extensive and exploratory and the group supported each other through sharing knowledge, resources and ideas. It was great to be one of the 100!” 

Mavis, like many others on the course, works at the grassroots level in the East London community. Her wellness project extends support to local people, who are vulnerable and shielding, to be actively engaged at home with growing plants, herbs and flowers whilst maintaining self-care and wellbeing through positive affirmations and relaxation techniques.  She explains how the Birkbeck programme provided her with additional skills to reinforce her business: “Talking it through on the course in the break-out and large group areas sharpened my focus on volunteering, shared resources and funding opportunities, which I am beginning to pursue.”

Newham currently has one of the lowest figures for volunteering and also doesn’t have a charity umbrella organisation for helping to provide support for community projects. It is also one of London’s most deprived boroughs and has benefitted immensely from Birkbeck’s extensive community outreach work in the area since 2007.

Bonny Downs Community Association (BDCA) has served Newham residents for 22 years and has sought to fill the volunteerism gap, partnering with Newham council to support residents during the pandemic. Darragh Gray, Marketing and Communications Project Manager for the BDCA was one of the first participants on the community leadership programme and credits the course with helping him to understand the local landscape better and to be better positioned to build connections and networks. He expresses being particularly impressed with the quality of teaching and has since gone on to present his own session on fundraising.

Later this year, all participants from all three cohorts will come together to find out more about funding and to discuss what’s happening in Newham over Winter with a number of local funding organisations presenting. The Access and Engagement team are currently building a suite of videos focusing on the theme of community leadership and community action during COVID-19. The next series of community leadership programmes is scheduled for April 2021 and enquiries should be directed here.

Further Information

Read a recent blog about the Community Leadership Programme in Newham

See reflections from the first Community Leadership Programme here.

Find out more about the Access and Engagement team.

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