The successive rounds of UK austerity measures implemented by local authorities dating back to the 2008 banking crisis (Local authorities in England lost 27 per cent of their spending power between 2010/11 and 2015/16 in real terms. JFT 2016) is now alarmingly impacting on more lives, having created the effect of a psychological fear around increasing uncertainty as to what the UK economy will look like in the short medium, and long term for poorer communities within which BME communities are over represented.
Add Brexit into the mix and a realisation that the task is akin to going mountain climbing on the steepest of ascents, without the right equipment or hill walking practice in preparation for what lies ahead. After all the media and public debate after the 2016 referendum, deep down, most know this and can already sense that that future is already here. In fact, for many of the underclass, whether or not they think they are in this category, they have been negotiating this picture of an uphill struggle as reality for most of their lives.
If we think rolling up our sleeves and getting on with it is where its at, we need to be reminded that since 2008 connected to the banking crisis, there has been a trending productivity slow down in the UK. Almost 9 years later there has been no improvement and the clear gap growing in terms of living standards between the poorest and richest in society seems that it will forever expand. Foreign investment into the UK property market, specifically in London has reshaped the demography of wealth in the country. Leaving communities to fall behind and suffer in a time which is rich in technology where access to knowledge, skills and education has never been better. But the point is there are many that come from the communities that are not plugged in.
So what are the solutions?
There is a need for social innovation and a call for a more incisive intervention to be made. We have to be be unapologetic about finding enterprising solutions to age old challenges. The term dynamic leadership is often banded about, but are leaders in BME communities both commercial and the non-profit sector closer to their grassroots communities allowed to be dynamic leaders.
Where are the strategic players that have an understanding of building capacity and social capital in communities that need it. There is a lack of evidence in the UK of truly ground breaking initiatives that change the modus operandi of how services to BME communities are delivered; especially when we think about economic development and stimulating the communities that have consistently remained at the lower end of the deprivation league tables.
Too rarely, has there been a detailed analysis of what the local assets and long standing networks there are. Or the attempt to strategically place together those who may have the knowledge, skills and experience to facilitate the green shoots of recovery that will be needed as public purse diminishes as the attribution of all things foul will laid at the door of urban communities. The detailed analyses always seems to takes place at the national political level resulting in the launch of a report which references more engagement; providing us with the daily media soap opera around the power base of the tokened political BME representative.
Meanwhile the turnover of local community groups serving their own communities and the continual restructuring of local services does nothing to build upon the foundations developed from one decade to another. Working within the Black community sector specifically and wider BME groups for more than a generation, notably the poor relations of the third sector in UK society, there is a realisation that structural investment in succeeding generations of migrant communities in the main is always been on a short term basis. Not much has been built to last for this tier of society, whose demographic is now subject to being priced out of the quality of life market via regeneration and gentrification, macro global economics; now less able to board the train of social mobility.
BME Housing Organisations as drivers of change
However there are and always have been exceptions to the rule right here in the UK. They are known as BME registered social landlords. There are some 70 BME housing organisations in UK that are well placed to pivot and break new ground. Each of these organisations have a narrative of community action transitioning into effective asset management, and delivery of social value stretching back 30 years that hitherto has invisibly underpinned some of the cracks and gaps in provision that holds families and communities suffering from social exclusion together. Out of the this sector are the classic cases of technique against all the odds by those who continue to seek to contribute in a context of bureaucratic malaise to make the difference that is necessary to make the societal project work despite external hostility and the given personal and organisational challenges that come with the territory.
The BME National Organisation for Registered Social Landlords and The BME London Landlords collaboration project have been gearing up and gathering momentum in leveraging this collective knowledge, experience and particular organisational skill set into a USP that is becoming more apparent as the UK government itself attempts to reconcile its own constitutional challenges as it faces up to the complex xenophobia of its electorate. The stars maybe yet aligning for established BME housing organisations who have the template of implementing social cohesion and by default working with the societal challenges around accepting diverse communities.
Exploring evidence based models
Exploring evidence based models from the US, that would be well worth looking at how they could be applied within a UK context. Geoff Canada’s Harlem Children Zone in the US has a demonstrable model which now being emulated in different cities in the US by the rolling out of the Promised City Networks. Another example from the US of dynamic work by those taking responsibility (see Tim King Founder and CEO Urban Prep talk on Changing the Narrative for Black Boys) to serve their communities where the stakes are high is the Urban Prep Charter School in Chicago that has established an unbelievable record of 100% success of enabling young black men to achieve access to University education.
Data for action and Impact
Access to technology today can enable the small organisation to make an analysis of the data and take a position; by demonstrating a track record and a coherent vision support can always be found to address economic challenges communities face. We are the proponents of a new business transformation or business innovation model that empowers those with the proven track record in delivery at the frontiers of working with poorer communities. We are currently seeking of opportunities to make a compelling case to receive more investment on the basis of a new model that leverages what is already in these communities with a more advanced and creative plan is at hand.
Many communities already have local assets and human resources that could be utilised more effectively, but unfortunately the cultural of fear around the loss of funding, has not supported innovative or joint up thinking. As such most community eco-systems revolve around the same personalities, the same organisations and offer the same responses to doing more for less. Increasingly the traditional funding models are demanding more enterprising social products.
New formulas for Investment
If you don’t have the investment, it is not likely that anything is going to change. With new opportunities such as crowdfunding, online fundraising , communities that are more open towards collaboration, and communities looking towards networking The growth of social investment agencies, business incubators, venture capital funding and a rise in philanthropy, new thinking must rise to the top.
What will our society look like if those that have, do not use integrity whilst seeking towards contributing to improving the societal project. What will our society look like if our society becomes even more divisive and more polarised on racial and ethnic grounds.
Society and all of its issues are moving at a breakneck speed to dovetail into potential multi-faceted crises, whilst our lack of a structured societal response are not in real time and our existent groupings are not necessary allowing for a cross fertilisation of ideas to move the envelope forward.