Project Mali Report

"This is a very timely and important report which Locality is pleased to support. It represents an important first step in revealing the scale of the issues facing many BAME communities and a set of recommendations for central and local government, Locality and African Diaspora community organisations".

Tony Armstrong, CEO, Locality

Community Asset Development

Produced by Yvonne Field, Karl Murray

and Dr. Diane Chilangwa Farmer

Executive summary October 2015

Project Mali


Ubele Initiative has launched a new ground breaking project that is the first of its kind.


Individuals and organisations like yours have been and continue to be successfully contributing to the development and enrichment of the African Diaspora community in England, yet there is a risk that such contribution may be forgotten.


Your community history and the history of other like-minded, giving individuals and organisations may be lost.

In England, there has been a worrying lack of in-depth study, accurate data collection and recording of the African Diaspora community’s assets (people and buildings). This has resulted in a shortage of robust evidence about organisations and those pioneering individuals behind them.


Through our own outreach, we have identified an accurate and comprehensive picture of organisations that have contributed to the African Diaspora community. There is no up to date information on how the landscape has changed over different eras (1960’s onwards). As such, we have relatively little information about which organisations are still in use and if  not in use, why and how we can prevent this from happening in the future. Through Project Mali, the Ubele initiative wishes to change this!

Commissioned by Locality
A national organisation supporting community asset and community enterprise (
www.locality.org.uk), Project Mali (Mali meaning someone or something of importance in Swahili) aims to give   your organisation a chance to be part of our collective community story. You can do this by telling us YOUR COMMUNITY STORY.


By locating buildings and spaces which serve the African Diaspora community across England, we aim to use this data as a  starting point in collecting additional information on organisations and the pioneering individuals behind them.


We therefore ask that you tell us your community story, by simply completing our questionnaire, that you can download here, which should take no more than 10mins. If you know of other organisations that should take part, please send on our information.

What we have produced in the first phase of Project Mali:


 • A full, comprehensive report which is shared with those who contribute and help inform future regional and national strategy about our future assets (new or renovated spaces and people)


 • Some initial stories of community leadership and how resourceful individuals helped shape your local community which will be included in a more extensive heritage project and exhibition in 2015


 • A digital on-line map and database of organisations, so we can see the changes that have happened to our buildings and spaces over time (see below):

Mapping lost and existing African diaspora community assets in England.

African Diaspora Community Assets

Mapping of BAME Community Centres

London BAME Community Assets - Audio Map

Explore our map and listen to the stories we've gathered so far on BAME community assets ownership and management.  We believe it is so important to find out the reasons why so many important assets have been lost and why others are struggling or thriving.


If you would like your community assets mapped and your story heard please email us at info@ubele.org.

Lost Community Assets

Existing Community Assets

African Diaspora Community Assets in England

This map shows 135 African Diaspora community assets in England divided into three categories; lost, existing, and under threat.


The data gathered so far has been an important resource that informed "A Place to Call Home" report.


If you'd like your community assets mapped, please fill in our QUESTIONNAIRE or get in touch with us at info@ubele.org.

Both maps were made possible with the support of Just Space and UCL MSc student volunteers.

Tell Us Your Community Story

How is this study going to impact upon you and your organisation?


By collecting evidence about buildings and other spaces plus those pioneering individuals, we aim to achieve the following:


 • With the data collection, we want your story and contribution not to be lost as well as consider emerging issues and concerns, which affects your organisation and may well be wide spread in our community.


 • Ultimately the information collected from this process could inform local, regional and national ‘community rights’ strategies and plans.

Project Mali Focus Group 2014  >

What we will produce in the first phase of Project Mali:

  • A database of organisations, buildings and resourceful people. (Not in the public domain but solely for Ubele’s use)

  • Accounts of community leadership and programme of   dissemination.

In the future, we wish to create:

  •  A digital platform to collect host stories, film footage and photographs

  •  Publish a book

  •  A collection of a series of community leadership stories using intergenerational process

At Merton Council Offices, October 2014: Grace Salmon, Director, Positive Network Centre (centre), Representatives of Centre User Groups, Yvonne Field, The Ubele Initiative (behind Grace) and Saqib Deshmukh, Voice4Change (back row, 2nd left)

The Positive Network Centre
A Case Study

The Positive Network Centre www.positive-network-centre.com is a multi-cultural and inter-generational community centre in Figges Marsh, an area of high deprivation in the east area of the London Borough of Merton, Surrey, The Positive Network Centre aims to improve community cohesion, support ageing well and educate others to create a brighter future for all.


As a registered charity, and social enterprise, the centre takes pride in the diversity of talents and skills that their team of paid staff and volunteers bring to the day to day activities of the organisation. Older people can share their life experiences with those younger than themselves thereby helping to pass on cultural heritage, life experiences and specific skills. It is also a hub for local businesses.


The work of the Centre started 12 years ago and grew out of another African Caribbean led community organisation which had been in existence for 16 years. It had also been supporting the needs of the elderly, but after experiencing internal management conflict this led to its eventual closure.


The Positive Network Centre relocated, to their present building on a free basis in 2006, where there were already several other culturally diverse groups using it, including the Chinese elders, the Goan elders, the Asian elders, the West Indian Family and Friends, an Italian group, and the African Caribbean Elders Association (ACEA). However in 2011, Merton Council reduced its’ transport support for the elderly services held there and planned to shut the centre due to the running costs.


Most of the groups left the centre, with only the Positive Network Centre and the Asian elderly remaining. However, under the leadership of Grace Salmon, the Director of Positive Network Centre, they submitted a bid to run the building and planned a local campaign to stop the closure. At the eleventh hour, the Council unexpectedly gave them the keys to the building and an annual renewable lease.


The activities of the centre have expanded in terms of the number of groups which meet there and the diversity of services offered. Twelve regular groups use the centre and between they offer mental health services, a Muslim Saturday School, Tamil welfare services, Christian and Muslim faith groups, a catering service for the Polish community, Keep Fit classes, After School facilities, councillor surgeries and tenants’ association sessions plus a Recording Studio. The centre also hosts local funerals, ‘Nine Night’ ceremonies, weddings and parties.'


The Positive Network Centre currently receives a small amount of transitional funding from the local authority which will cease in October 2015. They will by then, become 100% self sustaining.

The Positive Network Centre has been in negotiation with Merton Council for over a year about the transfer of the building to the organisation or securing a much longer lease. Although Merton council have never previously supported asset transfer, the case of Positive Network Centre opened up an interesting local dialogue.

The Positive Network Centre have received support from Locality (www.locality.org.uk), Voice4Change (www.voice-4-england.org.uk) and The Ubele Initiative (www.ubele.org). Over the past 9 months, Voice4Change has worked closely with the organisation to provide on-going support and professional and technical advice, the outcome of which has been the submission of a proposal to the Social Investment Business (SIB).for feasibility study funding.


During this process, the Director has learnt a considerable amount about the Localism Act, 2011, the ‘Community Rights’ agenda and the asset transfer process in particular, speaking at a regional BAME event which Locality and the Ubele Initiative co-hosted at the beginning of this year  and contributing to wider learning.


The Positive Network Centre also hosted a skills and knowledge event in July 2014, for a group of 12 African Diaspora people from across London, who either have buildings which could benefit from asset development and/or are interested in opportunities available under Community Rights.


Positive Network recently went into final negotiations with senior council officers about the long term use of the building. They were accompanied to the meeting by a supportive group representing centre users, the local voluntary sector council, Voice4Change and The Ubele Initiative. Although the local Council did not agree to transfer the asset to the organisation, the outcome was the agreement of a new 25 year lease, major building repairs are to be completed by the Council and all outstanding rent arrears are to be made null and void.


The Director of the Positive Network Centre reflected on her learning from the process. She says she has:


  • Learnt about Locality services and the asset transfer process through The Ubele Initiative which highlighted their plans and helped facilitate some of the initial connections. The Ubele Initiative also planned and facilitated the regional skills and knowledge visit to the Centre, and as a result of their national mapping exercise, were able to advise as what is happening nationally regarding asset transfer and other Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) led organisations.
  • Working alongside Voice4Change, which represents the national BME voluntary sector voice, they were also able to bring a national BME perspective to the agenda. The Director felt that Voice4Change were able to transcend local politics and also helped to do some of the actual work regarding feasibility study submission.

Grace also says:


  • ‘Communities should not give up in their fight to secure assets, but when getting involved in the politics of it all, the actual work with communities still has to go on regardless, so as to be able to continue to demonstrate evidence of effectiveness and best practice.


  • Never give up the fight as success can be achieved and keep raising the issue of ethnic minority groups and their right to secure assets which meet the needs of diverse communities’.
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