The search for new civic leaders in the West Midlands

By on 29/11/2012 in Cllr Cotton, News
Cllr John Cotton

Cllr John Cotton

Operation Black Vote (OBV) are delighted to launch a unique Civic Leadership Programme to nurture Birmingham and Wolverhampton's future leaders. The aim of the project is to increase the representation of Black and minority ethnic individuals (BME) in all areas and all levels of civic and public life.

OBV will select 50 dynamic BME individuals aged 18 years upwards who live or work in Birmingham and Wolverhampton with a keen interest in positively contributing to their community. Through this project we aim to positively change people's lives, civic institutions and their communities. Individuals will participate in a mixture of observation and training sessions across four broad categories of public life: politics, education, the criminal justice system and the voluntary and community sector.

The initiative will focus on giving participants firsthand knowledge of the roles and responsibilities of school governors, board members, trustees and other public life roles and an insight into the systems and procedures of public bodies. The aim is that upon completion, this leadership programme will equip and motivate participants to engage in public life.

Participants will also be encouraged to become community ambassadors, explaining and promoting the benefits of civic engagement and encouraging others to also become involved in community affairs.

Francine Fernandes, Assistant Director of Operation Black Vote said, “We are delighted to work in Birmingham and Wolverhampton address the under-representation of BME communities in key areas of civic society. I’m convinced that from this innovative leadership programme a new generation of civic leaders, school governors and community organisers will emerge. There is a wealth of untapped talent amongst BME communities and this programme will provide a platform to nurture this talent for the benefit of all communities.”

Cllr John Cotton, Birmingham Council Cabinet Member for Social Cohesion and Equalities said, “We know that there are many talented people in the black and minority ethnic communities and we want to encourage and support them to become civic leaders. We want our civic institutions to reflect the population of Birmingham and to attract the best individuals who will help to shape the future of our city. That is why we fully support this programme.”

Cllr Roger Lawrence, Leader of Wolverhampton Council said, “This project is important in Wolverhampton to get wider participation of people from all backgrounds in political & civic life. OBV provides another way to ensure all parts of all communities can have their say.”

Currently BME individuals are woefully represented in our public and civic institutions. Not only is this damaging to a healthy democracy, but the impacts of the lack of representation have detrimental consequences to the socioeconomic conditions which BME communities experience.

Please contact OBV on 020 8983 5426 for further information or to obtain an application form.

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Notes to the editor:

  1. Operation Black Vote is a non-party political campaign.
  2. The term 'Black' is a political term. It refers to African, Asian, Caribbean and other ethnic minorities.
  3. The programme will be based in the West Midlands and comprise approximately 8-10 non-consecutive days over a six month period.
  4. Individuals will participate in a mixture of observation and training sessions across four areas of public life. Candidates may choose between 2-4 areas of public life from the following areas:
    • Education: School Governors
    • Criminal Justice System: Safer Neighbourhood Panels
    • Politics: Councillor
    • Voluntary Sector: Trustees
  5. OBV's Civic Leadership Programme is free, with expenses covered for travel and lunches.
  6. The programme is funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust and the Big Lottery Fund
  7. OBV has successfully run shadowing schemes for over 10 years covering a wide range of civic and political roles. Some graduates include political firsts such as Helen Grant MP, first woman of African Caribbean woman to become a Conservative MP and nearly 100 other graduates have become Magistrates, dispensing justice in cities across the country. The success of the programmes has resulted in twelve political accolades which include the Local Government Chronicle Award and the Channel 4 Political Award in 2008.

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