As we welcome in the new year, it also offers an opportunity to reflect on the past. As the adage reminds us…’if you don’t know where you have come from, you won’t know where you are going!’
2022 saw another busy and gratifying year for our growing skilled and creative team here at Ubele; we were able to harness new opportunities and key learning to be taken forward into 2023.
We continued to build ‘The Ubele Way’ at the heart of which is a racial and social justice approach located within a framework of policy, research, community-based practice and learning. We feel fortunate to be able to design and deliver a unique portfolio of work which is innovative, imaginative, and yet challenging to us as facilitators, to policy makers, those involved in leading other organisations and programmes and to the communities we seek to serve.
Our research agenda has been strengthened through conducting several projects focusing on community assets, support for racial justice activists as well as supporting research undertaken by teams of young researchers. We are continuing our ‘A Place to Call Home’ agenda through conducing a new piece of research which allows us to build on this original research conducted seven years ago, and which supported us to launch our community asset agenda. Watch this space for some unique research outputs during the first quarter of 2023.
Our community wealth building agenda was further bolstered after more than 6 years of highly focused work. We secured our own home at the Wolves Lane Centre in Haringey which we share with Organiclea, Black Rootz and others through signing a 25-year lease; securing planning permission for the site and significant additional investment to support the development of three new buildings. Site demolition commenced late last year, and the redevelopment of our site will continue in earnest throughout this year. We have also been able to progress the development of Gida Housing Co-op and look forward to making a significant contribution to the London housing sector in 2023.
We have extended our local, regional, national, and international strategic partnerships and as a result, our sphere of influence. This has led to collaborating on several new and exciting initiatives in grant-making and enterprise development amongst other areas. The development of London Funders PROPEL programme, Impact on Urban Health, Safety Fund, Children in Need, We Move Fund and The Phoenix Way - an evolution of The Phoenix Fund. We stepped into the area of social investment with the Flexible Finance programme which helps us expand our package of support and investment to community organisations which should assist them become more sustainable.
We have been creating social labs and have designed and facilitated creative spaces to support multi-stakeholder dialogue, leading to innovation and systems change in relation to older people and young unemployed people from Black and racially minoritised communities. Our mental health and bereavement work continues to be strengthened. This includes Bayo (Yoruba for Joy), which is increasingly becoming recognised as the national platform for information, support and services available to support the mental health and well-being of Black communities across the UK.
All in all, these programmes and projects which aim to shift power to communities previously excluded from decision making and /or access to resources have started to have an impact. Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter, allowed us to begin to change the conversation and our hope is that these changes will be deep and become long-lasting, causing waves across the UK and internationally throughout 2023 and beyond.
Some people remind us that, ‘charity begins at home’, and we finally secured five-year core funding from Oak Foundation, The National Lottery Community Fund and Paul Hamlyn Foundation. As we worked towards this position (which was no easy feat!), some of our interim core costs were supported by Lankelly Chase and Clothworkers Foundation over the past year: thank you. This now allows us to focus on the internal as well as the external this year and we look forward to the challenging and often complex task of developing an organisation.
We recognise the profound challenges that millions of people across our country face: the immeasurable sacrifices being made due to the deepening cost of living crisis and support workers exercising their right to strike for better pay and conditions so that they can support their families and loved ones. We are also aware that many groups and organisations across our sector continue to suffer from a lack of funding and access to other opportunities. Our sights will be firmly on them through The Phoenix Way and other grant and support programmes we will be involved in during 2023.
Despite Ubele’s relative success during 2022, we demonstrated a real willingness to walk away ‘from the money’ on several occasions when our core values were being stretched to untenable positions, for what is the purpose of our work if integrity is not at the core? We will not compromise our pursuit of racial and social justice for ourselves and for our communities even if it means saying ‘No thank you’ politely and not so politely on occasion to what might appear to be interesting and/or potentially lucrative opportunities.
I am deeply appreciative of the relationships that are evolving though the planting of all the seeds. I look forward to seeing them emerge and grow even stronger during 2023.
Furthermore, I am deeply indebted to all the people who continue to join and support us in realising our vision despite some of the annoying growing pains of our still relatively young organisation. This includes our fantastic staff team, our Associates, our funders, and strategic partners.
Thank you all and I wish you peace, joy and much success in 2023!