Increasing Participation in Community Activism through Co-operative Advantage: Lessons from The Emotivate Project for Big Society and Responsible Capitalism InitiativesOctober 24th, 2012 by Jonathan Bishop
J. Bishop (2012). Increasing Participation in Community Activism through Co-operative Advantage: Lessons from The Emotivate Project for Big Society and Responsible Capitalism Initiatives. In: P.M. Pumilia-Gnarini, E, Favaron, E. Pacetti, J. Bishop, L, Guerra (Eds.) Didactic Strategies and Technologies for Education Incorporating Advancements. IGI Global: Hershey, PA.
I went to two interviews to become a candidate for the Labour Party in the Westminster elections. On both occasions I wasn’t given the chance, these are the things I said:
- I joined the Labour Party because Tony Blair convinced me it had changed to become more pragmatic and willing to do what was right and necessarily and not philosophically most ‘left-wing’ and ‘anti-Tory’. I went into public life to make fairer decisions.
Asked about what I thought the issues I thought would be challenging for Labour at the next election (2010), I said:
- Labour’s rhetoric on immigration is not as strong as the Conservatives
- Not tackling consumer debt would mean Labour would lose the initiative on the economy
Asked what I thought about some issue loosely related to expenses where Labour was implicated in the press I said:
- I’m sure the Tories will be found to be hypocrites, as if one is doing it they all must be
At the end of the different interviews, I asked whether they had any reservations about me and they said:
- “We have never met anyone with as much honesty and integrity as you”, and I didn’t get on the list. I was then told in a letter I lacked “communication” and “team-working” skills.
- “You wouldn’t be very good on Question Time”
- “You can’t prioritise as you have too many ideas”
The thing is, I was only in my 20s then, and all I wanted to do was stand in an unwinnable seat for Labour – Torbay – which was where I went to private school for my secondary education. I thought telling them how I identified with Tony Blair’s New Labour project would be helpful, as the people in Torbay shall we say are not exactly ‘lefties’, but more business minded, like myself. And also, however ‘poorly’ communicated, the things I said about the economy, immigration and expenses turned out to be true!
The Labour Party should have invested in me, because all the criticisms they had of me then, only two years from when I would have stood at the 2010 general election, I have addressed them all, in a huge part thanks to my university education, supported by the Disabled Students Allowance, which in fact was increased by the Labour-led Welsh Assembly during my studies, and which I wouldn’t have even had the chance to do without Tony Blair introducing tuition fees to allow my first degree to run, which I didn’t pay much of because I was from a low income family. These are the things I have achieved since my application to the Labour Party to be on its list of potential candidates for parliamentary elections:
- I set up Glamorgan Blended Learning Ltd, and its Emotivate Project allowed me to demonstrate communication and team-working skills.
- I have received speaking and presentations coaching, and can now give speeches to conferences and live interviews with the media on TV and radio, without notes.
- I have received life skills coaching, and can now manage multiple projects at the same time and prioritise and plan effectively.
I think I would be one of the people Kier Hardie would have wanted in his Labour Party; driven to work beyond the situation I’m born into, ambitious and wanting to make the world and my community a better place, willing to work with others to achieve mutual goals, whatever our abilities, differences or weaknesses. I also think if Kier Hardie was in my shoes today, seeing the Labour Party as it is, he would do what he did in his day and what I’ve done now – found our own party.
I read with berwilderment the article in the Observer featuring an Efail Isaf resident, Michael McGartland complaining about the youth crime at the Efail Isaf Underpass and calling for action.
This appeared to be trying to grab the headlines from my point of view. Had Mr McGartland looked through his election literature earlier this month, he would have seen on my election DVD a pledge to restore the underpass with a mural, and also he would have seen a manifesto commitment from Joel James, who was re-elected, to work with my firm, Glamorgan Blended Learning Ltd to achieve that.
If Mr McGartland thinks CCTV will do anything but move on young people so they are not in his back yard, he is mistaken. A Recent Funky Dragon report by young people said they felt unsafe with CCTV – is he saying he is more worthy of human rights than young people? If so that is disgusting!
The mural project I wish to run in Efail Isaf has already reduced youth crime in the area. By giving young people of school age, and also young offenders, the change to take part in restoring the subway, they have had ownership so it is respected by other young people. To my knowledge there has been no crime there since it was opened in September 2009.
I invite residents to visit the project website at http://www.emotivate.org.uk for updates on its progress and to see the difference it has made in Treforest. The Treforest project brought in nearly £10,000 from external funds, meaning for each 15p on council tax it was match funded by 35p meaning a council tax rise of 0.01% was avoided. We expect similar savings in Efail Isaf, and also to provide paid work experience to young people on apprenticeships, working with experienced professionals, meaning the project will have even more value than 3 years ago in Treforest.
John Payne asked me my view on the Gilfach Goch Wind Farm issues.
My ultimate view is that decisions affecting communities should be made by those communities. In the case of housing developments for example, then people who seek to benefit from the development should also be involved in the decision.
Regarding which is the best solution to generate energy. In Pontypridd Kim Howells said he was a ‘Nuclear Man’ and Jane Davidson was a ‘Wind-turbine Baby’. I’m a scientist with a degree in economics. As a scientist I’m happy to admit I don’t know. As an economist I’d say let the people and the market decide. The people can decided what they want, then they can engage the private sector to deliver it. If the private sector’s tenders are too high, then the people know they have picked the wrong choice!
I was a member of the Institute for Environmental Management and Assessment and IEEE Power and Energy Society for about 2 years. I looked at a lot of the evidence and can’t make my mind up, but observe the following:
1. There are safety and outlay issue with nuclear
2. There are aesthetic and maintenance issues with wind-turbines
3. There are economic issues with gas – should we prioritise it for home heating?
4. There are advantages to carbon capture coal, but limited eco-friendly open cast mining opportunities in Wales
5. There are big outlays with hydro, but this is Wales’s biggest resource after coal
My premise in deciding local energy production is in essence that a community would be more willing to have a wind farm or other form of supply if they profited from it rather than public subsidies going to support private ownership. My father was a working man, he managed to run a construction firm bring together people who could do things he couldn’t but knew were needed. If the people don’t know how to build windfarms then we can outsource that. But it should be for us to decide what happens in our communities.
Regarding the validity of public opposition to the wind farm in Gilfach Goch. What about the children in Treforest, who when asked what they wanted the future to be like, painted a picture of a wind turbine? Should young people, many who are environmentalists, not have a say? In the Emotivate Project I ran in my ward of Treforest, there was a proposal for a wind turbine in Treforest I voted in line with the young people, as being in my thirties I was the only one who could legitimately represent them to the council.
There is more on my thoughts on a public rather than politician directed planning system in Crocels’ Response to the UK Government’s Open Public Services White Paper under the section about Neighbourhood Communities.
I received a postcard from what the writer called a “university town” in Germany recently.
And from the images on the card, the people there know the importance of art and architecture.
So why, at home, should the Old Bridge (be) the only redeeming structure of Pontypridd and the park the only relaxing space?
RCT’s match-funding of the mental sculpture opposite the Brown Lenox means that now, along with the Old Bridge and Ynysangharad Park, there is a third thing that can go on a Pontypridd postcard.
But what about the fourth?
Does Pontypridd have what it takes to come up with the net big idea?
The infantile letters of the Lib Dems each week in the Observer serve only to remind (us) of the state of local politics in the area.
The penny-pinching nature of the finance committee on the Town Council makes me ashamed to be a town councillor, and I have not sought re-appointment to it.
The answer therefore lies not with the politicians but the people.
We are not all as small-minded as the Lib Dems, who publicly bemoan the town and borough council giving the Emotivate Project £2,000, which was match-funded by money from outside the area worth over £8,000.
The project was not “art for art’s sake”, as Councillor John Bell said, but a value-for-money summer youth scheme.
Unlike his notices of motion which have produced only got air, it will have a lasting impact on the appearance of the area.
We’ve all heard of the Big Apple – a concrete jungle where dreams are made up, according to Alicia Keys.
But what about the Big Ponty?
Why should we settle for second best? Why can’t we have the big ideas, the big dreams and the big ambitions?
I find Cllr Bell‘s comments quite odd, seeing as some of the grants in question were only given due to a letter of support that he wrote for the project! To attack the project is to attack the creative efforts of all the young people involved. As a councillor for the area he should be supporting youth projects, particularly ones which make such a good contribution to the community.
What Cllr Bell fails to acknowledge is that the funding allocated to the project in Treforest would have gone elsewhere had a convincing case, which a letter from him was part of, not been put together.
When local council budgets are being cut due to Cllr Bell’s colleagues in London slashing the Assembly’s budget, he should be pleased that local community groups like Glamorgan Blended Learning Ltd are bringing in external funding to benefit the local community.
Treforest residents have joined forces to transform their community.
Work has already started to improve park facilities for children, while teenagers are using their art skills to enhance a subway in Treforest.
Town councillor Jonathan Bishop was delighted to mark the start of the landscaping work at the St Dyfrig’s underpass.
He said: “This is one of many projects the Treforest Regeneration Partnership has supported and will go some way to transforming the village into a thriving community where all residents live together with tolerance and respect for one another’s differences.“
Artistic youngsters are regenerating Treforest thanks to funding from the Co-operative Group.
Glamorgan Blended Learning, which gives young people in South Wales the opportunity to use their academic knowledge to good use in their communities, has received a £500 grant to a create mural in St Dyfrig’s pedestrian subway.
Director Jonathan Bishop said: “We aim to contribute to developing the community economically, socially and culturally.
“By involving young people, we give them the chance to consider what needs to change for the better in their own community – and the chance to make these changes.
“This is an exciting project and will bring art into the public eye as well as brighten up a shabby subway. We would like to thank the Co-operative for its support.”
The donation has come from the Co-operative Group’s Community Fund, which allows members to donate all or part of their twice-yearly pay-outs to worthy causes.
Chairman of the Co-operative’s South Wales Area Committee Gareth Lewis said: “The Community Fund can make a real and lasting contribution to local communities and we are delighted to have made this award to Glamorgan Blended Learning. Many community groups share our co-operative values and could benefit from an award, and we would certainly welcome their applications.”
A Shabby subway could be the first target of a group set up to transform a community.
Glamorgan Blended Learning aims to help regenerate Treforest, Pontypridd, and has set its sights on introducing public art into an underpass.
Its Emotivate project is a partnership of local government, funding bodies and local business.
Community councillor Jonathan Bishop said: “We aim to transform Treforest from a village dogged by divisions into a community proactive in progress.”
A Treforest-based social entrepreneur is set to take community football to new levels as he gains the Football Association of Wales’ Football Leaders Award.
Jonathan Bishop, 27, of Fothergill Street recently competed an accredited FAW training programme for delivering football coaching programmes in the community.
Mr Bishop, who is a director of the social enterprise Glamorgan Blended Learning, says that he now plans to develop learning programmes for young people.
“The Emotivate Project will introduce young people to sports and the arts through blending e-learning with practical activities” he said, “We aim to work with local football clubs to provide students on sports related courses at university the opportunity to gain practical experience in coaching youth football”
People interested in becoming part of the Emotivate Project can visit the website at http://www.emotivate.org.uk using any Internet Browser.