About The First Steps programme by Yvonne Field

Over the past year, the Ubele Initiative has provided more than 30 small BAME led organisations with practical advice, guidance, support and learning and development experiences about the opportunities available under the Localism Act 2011. We have tried to do this, (albeit as a team of volunteers), to try to help make the Localism agenda more accessible to diverse communities and groups and not just those who are the well networked and/or time rich.

Small BAME groups are often too busy with essential service delivery to be able to actively engage in the bigger picture and/or take up new opportunities. Also, infrastructure or ‘sector voice’ organisations have been seriously weakened through budget reductions and are often not funded to deliver on these new functions. The Ubele Initiative are trying to fill some of this ‘gap’, getting BAME groups up to speed and better engaged.

This important work of drilling down into local communities to unearth ‘unlikely suspects’ is necessarily time intensive but, in our opinion produces some of the most exciting results. We helped make the case that not only a lower level programme was needed within the system which allows BAME and other small groups to contribute to the conversation, but that formally excluded groups would engage.

The First Steps programme is managed Community Development Foundation (www.cdf.org.uk), and delivered in partnership with other organisations. It enables 115 small, often hidden groups across the UK, to create partnerships or stakeholder groups around an asset - a building, open space, park, shop, or even a major event which has local economic benefits such as a national Carnival.

Last week, some colleagues and I visited Carnaval del Pueblo’s (www.carnavaldelpueblo.com) – CdP’s new office in the Elephant and Castle - an area of South London with a large Latin community. It is also the site of major regeneration within the London Plan. I first met CdP more than 15 years ago – in 2007 they had 130,000 people attending the Carnival in Burgess Park, Southwark. After going through a period of transformational change, it now plans to revive and host the carnival in August 2016. It will also organise a Plaza Latina (www.plazalatina.co.uk) for three weekends this coming August.

I visited the CEO Nuala Riddell Morales and some of the staff - they are all volunteers working very hard  to revitalise the organisation through economic development. Small enterprises are being established from the Carnival products – food and clothes businesses, dance classes, crafts to name a few. Nuala took us on a learning journey down the Walworth Road to East Street market. Along the way we observed the multi-million pound developments taking place and how the rapid physical, economic and demographic changes are wittingly or unwittingly excluding poorer communities. Through First Steps support CdP build a robust partnership and show case its work to a much wider audience as it gets ready for carnival 2016. The Ubele Initiative looks forward to working alongside them and supporting other small groups through First Steps!

Roy Edgeworth