Equality & Diversity Officer
REPORT OF ACTIVITIES,
1 oCTOBER 2010 – 30 SEPTEMBER 2011
Since submitting my last annual report (to end September 2010), I've been able to consolidate many important areas of my work for Leicester Council of Faiths, as well as entering into some significant new territory. This report presents highlights of the period, 1 Oct 2010 – 30 Sep 2011.
Given our limited resources in terms of funding, material, staff and volunteer time, it makes sense that much of what is described below has been achieved through partnership working. We are unable to go it alone in most activities – and if even if we could, partnership working is more often desirable and efficacious in its outcome than not. For the same reason, I have been much involved in promoting Leicester Council of Faiths through social media, in order to amplify our reach and influence. Details of my day-to-day activities may be found on my blog: www.equalitydiversityofficer.blogspot.com. The blog is updated frequently and has the facility for readers to ask questions or leave comments.
In all the circumstances, settings and situations in which I've been involved, my priority has been to ensure that religion or belief (described as a “Protected Characteristic” in the Equality Act 2010) remains in the public eye and that Leicester Council of Faiths is recognised and respected for promoting equality of opportunity, opposing unlawful discrimination and fostering good relations between people of different communities in Leicester and – wherever and whenever opportunity arises – farther afield.
It is important to recognise that all funding for this post comes solely from what I am able to raise through selling my services. All the money that goes to sustain this work comes in through my efforts alone. Currently there are no other sources of funding. Having said that, it should also be noted that much of my work on behalf of Leicester Council of Faiths is not funded. This is made possible by my working in the margins, on activities which are effectively subsidised by funding received from a small number of projects.
Having supported this (DMU-sponsored) project since its inception in 2008, I was asked to convene a panel and present an evening on the theme, “Amplified Communities of Faith and Belief”. This took place at the end of March 2010 at Phoenix Square, featuring contributors from the Islamic Society of Britain, Leicester Secular Society and Samworth Enterprise Academy. The panel was recorded on video and posted online.
An Indian Summer
I was given an hour-long slot in this popular and successful weekend event at Phoenix Square to present a workshop entitled, “How Diverse is Leicester?” As well as the workshop itself, this gave the Council of Faiths a boost in terms of the publicity for the event – including a strong presence in the promotional materials.
I was asked to coordinate meetings of a subcommittee on burial, cremation and other issues to do with bereavement, in association with City Council officers.
Centre of Excellence in Community Cohesion
This project was run out of the office of former City Council CEO, Sheila Locke, looking at ways to market the secret of Leicester’s success as a Centre of Excellence in Community Cohesion. Much interesting and useful work was done and material crated which, hopefully, won’t be allowed to go to waste.
I supported this group, one of the most positive contributors to positive inter faith knowledge and understanding in the city. I was able to attend virtually all their Monday evening sessions at Christchurch, Clarendon Park and write them up for posterity on the blog. I was invited to the planning of their 2011-12 programme.
De Montfort University
Members of DMU Islamic Society were filmed during Discover Islam Week (Feb 2011) and the interviews posted on our YouTube channel. This helped establish a positive link with DMU Students Union. I worked closely with DMU Student Employment Services in the summer over the appointment and management of our summer intern, Rahat Ahmed. I also organised the Council of Faiths display at the Student Union Community Fair (29 Sep 2010).
English Defence League protest
I proposed the inter faith contribution and organised appropriate speakers / readers for the vigil at Leicester Cathedral the night before the protest by the English Defence League (8 Oct 2010). I took part in briefings before and after the protest on behalf of Leicester Council of Faiths and was asked by the Police to act as one of the “points of contact” on the day. On the day after the protest (Sun 10 Oct 2010), I organised our stall (and volunteers) at the “Celebrate One Leicester” event in Humberstone Gate.
Equality & Diversity Partnership (EDP)
This partnership of city-based organisations had been advising Leicester City Council on relevant aspects of its papers, policies, practices etc for several years. This work had been funded through the Area Based Grant, abolished by the Coalition this year. Leicester City Council decided to end its relationship with EDP on 31 Mar 2011. Relevant work continued till this date. Termination of this arrangement represents a considerable decrease in funding for my post in 2011-12.
Global Education Leicester-Shire (GELS)
Active involvement with GELS, based at Southfields Library, allowed exposure of our presence, services and work to the widest possible networks of teachers, students, pupils and practitioners in relevant fields throughout city and county.
Host Organisation for Leicester Partnership
The contract (and funding) for the our role as Leicester Partnership’s “Host Organisation” for the community of interest related to religion and belief came to an end on 31 March 2011. This work had been funded through the Area Based Grant, which was abolished by the Coalition this year. All the organisations working in this capacity for their respective communities of interest (Age UK; Leicester LGBT Centre; Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living; LeicestHERday Trust; The Race Equality Centre) had their contracts terminated at the same time, for the same reason. Relevant work continued till this date. Termination of this contract represents a considerable decrease in funding for my post in 2011-12.
Inter Faith Week 2010
For the second year, Leicester Council of Faiths was invited to mount an exhibition in Highcross Inter Faith Week (21-27 November 2010). The exhibition was a showcase for our role in promoting good relations between faith communities in Leicester – at the same time presenting accurate information about the beliefs and practices of the communities represented on Leicester Council of Faiths and their contribution to life in the city. More than 65 people from different faith communities (including some people of no particular affiliation) volunteered to fill 95 two-hour slots fronting the display across the week. The intention was to have mixed groups there to talk with enquirers. Highcross management said we had up to 400,000 "footfalls" past our exhibition. A highlight of the week was the visit by Sir Peter Soulsby, in his capacity (at that time) as an MP. Planning is well underway for Inter Faith Week 2011 (20-26 Nov), for which Highcross have again invited us to present our exhibition– in a new and improved location. Much of my time and energy this year has been devoted to preparations for Inter Faith Week 2011 – not only the exhibition in Highcross, but also additional ways to celebrate the week, including a Favourite Faiths Photo exhibition at the recently-opened Leicester People’s Photographic Gallery and Leicester’s first Faiths Film Festival at Phoenix Square.
Leicester Speaks 2010 (aka Local Democracy Week)
Local Democracy Week is an initiative of Speaker’s Corner Trust (a national educational charity) which came to Leicester for the first time in October 2010. Here it was rebranded “Leicester Speaks” and taken under the wing of Leicester Adult Skills and Learning Service (LASALS). I was asked to represent Leicester Council of Faiths on the steering group and was then asked (by the steering group) to be Joint Chair of the week-long event (along with John Coster of Citizens’ Eye Community News Agency). Leicester Council of Faiths obtained a high profile in this event, our main contribution being a series of small-scale, informal dialogue meetings, involving faith community group who aren’t often seen speaking together in public (Jain/Sikh at the Adult Education College; Baha’i/Christian at the Welcome Centre; Buddhist/Muslim at the Welcome Centre; Hindu/Jewish at Phoenix Square. The last of these was recorded on video and an extract posted on YouTube, where it received a gratifying number of views). The Steering Group which plans the programme has met several times this year – and has asked John and I to be Joint Chairs for the second Leicester Speaks (17-24 October 2011).
Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust / NHS Leicester City
Due to internal restructuring, the Service Level Agreement between Leicester Council of Faiths and NHS Leicester City Primary Care Trust passed to Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust. This contract is currently in its final year and will end May 2012. Within the parameters of this contract, I have been performing a variety of funded tasks: Involvement in consultation exercises to help Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust identify its priorities in terms of equality and diversity; Working on a Multi-Faith Staff Resource, suitable for use on wards as well as being available on the staff intranet (I am also involved in arranging training sessions for induction of staff in use of this resource); Establishment and maintenance of an Interfaith Staff Support Group; A tentative start has been made on the Faith Communities Health Champions initiative, with samples of video diary recordings from a variety of individuals, but this needs considerably more work before going live.
Muslim Burial Council of Leicestershire book
The Muslim Burial Council of Leicestershire (MBCoL) launched its well-received book, Discovering Through Death: Beliefs & Practices with a function at Oadby Parklands (27 May 2011). The introductory sections on the beliefs and practices of the eight member communities on Leicester Council of Faiths were taken directly from the texts I wrote for our current leaflet series.
I've been able to maintain and develop contact and involvement with a variety of other networks (formal and informal) operating in/around the city, including Amplified Leicester; Cathedral AM; Citizens’ Eye Community News Agency; CreativeCoffee Club (I'm now on the management committee for this popular networking activity at Phoenix Square); East Midlands Network on Spirituality and Mental Health; Philosophers in the Pub; To Be Creative (at LCB Depot).
Our Leicester Day
We exhibited at this showcase for city and county Voluntary and Community Sector organisations in Leicester market alongside almost 100 other groups (11 Sep 2011).
Regional Equality & Diversity Partnership (REDP)
The largest part of my funded work this year on behalf of Leicester Council of Faiths has been within the setting of the Regional Equality and Diversity Partnership. This project (carried out in alliance with the three other “Core Partners”: Leicester LGBT Centre; Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living; The Race Equality Centre) is now well into its third year. Considerable efforts are being made to find ways and means of making REDP sustainable beyond the end of its initial funding period, in Jun 2012. Leicester Council of Faiths has been the specialist voice in this project on issues related to religion or belief. Our involvement has helped mainstream what is a relative newcomer to the world of equalities and has helped lend credibility both to this Protected Characteristic and to Leicester Council of Faiths itself as a serious contributor to the work of bringing about a fairer society. I've benefitted from free specialist training in equality, diversity and human rights made available through involvement in this project; a number of the Council of Faiths Board members have been able to benefit from this training too.
Schools & colleges
I've been able to assist a number of schools and colleges in the city and county in several ways, including: Assembling a group of speakers for a Philosophy Panel at St Paul’s Catholic School (Oct 2010); Exhibiting at the Together inter-faith event, Beauchamp College, Oadby (Nov 2010); Contributing to a “Faith and Planet: Viewpoint day” at New College (Feb 2011); Helping Leicester College Department of Caring Professions find placements for students (Sep 2011).
I've continued to develop the Council of Faiths virtual presence and exploitation of social media.. Facebook (189 people have signed up indicating they “like” it to date); Twitter (more than 420 followers to date); Equality & Diversity Officer blog (more than 53,000 pageviews to date). Based on experience with Leicester Speaks, I set up a YouTube channel for Leicester Council of Faiths.
Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE)
Our strong working relationship with Leicester SACRE continued to develop this year. While there is officially no place on SACRE for an organisation like Leicester Council of Faiths, we enjoyed observer status at its meetings and lent practical assistance in a variety of ways: Assisting in SACRE’s programme of “Sacred Spaces Training” for volunteers in local places of worship who receive school parties and other visitor groups (2 half-days in Oct 2010); Exhibiting at “Faith for the Future” conference for gifted and talented pupils in RE at Holy Trinity Church (29 Oct 2010); Contribued exhibition to “Inside out: Sacred Spaces” confer3ence at Jain Centre (16 June 2011); Contributing to online booklet series, “Engaging with Leicester’s Faith Communities”, available to all school staff in Leicester on the City Council intranet (to date, ones on Christians, Muslims and Sikhs have been completed, one on Hindus is in progress); Providing a training session for Youth SACRE on social media.
Stronger Communities Partnership
To avoid potential conflict of interest, Councillor Manjula Sood, our Chair, asked me to represent the Council of Faiths on Leicester City Council’s Stronger Communities partnership.
After some deliberation by the Board of directors, I was given responsibility for convening a subcommittee to work on appropriate celebrations for the 25th anniversary of Leicester Council of Faiths. An intern was taken on for six weeks over the summer to work exclusively on this project. It has not proved possible to get this this subcommittee together to meet – but (with the approval of my Personnel Management Group) I've proceeded with “double badging” Inter Faith Week in Nov to celebrate (at least the start of) the 25th anniversary.
University of Leicester
I was able to help at the university in several ways: by providing (and staffing) our pop-up banners at the International Chaplaincy stall during the welcome programme for overseas students in the O2 Academy (28 Sep 2010); by accepting an invitation from the International Chaplaincy’s World Faiths Advisory Group to help make their consultations and activities more “inter faith”; by assisting the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History in its “Faith and Place” project.
Voluntary Action LeicesterShire (VAL)
I've worked with VAL as a member of working parties and steering groups on the following projects: developing a volunteering strategy for city and county; working toward the eventual successful establishment of a Voluntary and Community Sector Assembly for city and county; creating and promoting a training programme for infrastructure providers; working up a bid for funding of a range of partners in the new Transforming Local Infrastructure programme.