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The search for tomorrow’s black civic leaders

The search for tomorrow’s black civic leaders

🕔03.Dec 2012

Black and minority ethnic individuals in Birmingham and Wolverhampton are being invited to join a training programme which promises to develop the civic leaders of tomorrow.

Operation Black Vote (OBV), a group describing itself as a non-party political campaign, says it will select 50 “dynamic” people with a keen interest in positively contributing to their community and train them over a six month period.

The project, backed by Birmingham and Wolverhampton city councils and aims to increase the representation of BME individuals in all areas and all levels of civic and public life.

Francine Fernandes, Assistant Director of OBV said BME individuals were “woefully under-represented” in public life in Birmingham and Wolverhampton.

Birmingham City council’s cabinet has one BME representative, Tahir Ali, who holds the development, jobs and skills portfolio. There are five BME chairmen of scrutiny, regulatory and other committees.

Fewer than one-third of the 120 Birmingham councilors have a BME background, in a city where ethnic minorities are expected to be in the majority within a decade.

Two of Birmingham’s 10 MPs – Khalid Mahmood (Lab Perry Barr) and Shabana Mahmood (Lab Ladywood) – are from BME communities. One of Wolverhampton’s three MPs, Paul Uppal, a Conservative, is from a BME background.

Ms Fernandes added: “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.

“I’m convinced that 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.”

She said the initiative would focus on giving participants first-hand 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,” Ms Fernandes added.

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

Coun John Cotton, Birmingham cabninet member for social cohesion and equalities, said: “We know 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.”

The programme is funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust and the Big Lottery Fund. Anyone interested in applying to join the course should contact OBV on 020 8983 5426 for further information.

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