Blog: Supporting citizen-led activism by Stella Fasusi-Olomu

We often feel powerless in the face of injustice. We see poverty, inequality and unfairness and want to do something but feel that alone we have no avenue to change things.

History though, teaches us that when people share this feeling and come together behind a common cause, injustices can be overcome.

In Croydon, we have our own modern day examples of citizen-led activity. For instance, Croydon Citizens – a network of grassroots activists – have campaigned on a range of issues, from the indefinite detention of migrants, work experience opportunities and refugees to affordable housing. They have achieved some awesome results such as persuading big companies to give young people a “First Step” of high quality work experience.

In the process they have built a movement for change and brought the community together to share in facing up to the common challenges we face.

We’ve also seen great examples of cross-sector partnerships and activities, for example Croydon Commitment’s work to facilitate community engagement between businesses and the voluntary sector in Croydon. This gets businesses to volunteer and provide in-kind support with various causes from improving children’s literacy skills at local schools, organised activities to help target loneliness with the elderly, to donating PCs and office equipment to local charity groups.

Citizen-led campaigns are by their very nature led from the grass-roots and the bottom up. We want to do what we can to support and enable them.

We’ve come up with some ideas which could help stimulate action:

- We want to link up citizen led campaigns that promote fair pay and fair recruitment practices to our idea of a Croydon Employment Charter. The Charter is an idea we set out in our interim report which would mean that any business signing up to it would commit themselves to paying the London Living Wage and also to do more to employ local people.

- We also want to connect up citizen action with calls to free up of available, unused land in Croydon which in turn could be used to help build affordable housing. By putting communities and active citizens at the heart of this challenge, we believe progress could be made – for example, progress around the council and other public sector providers publishing information about land use as clearly and transparently as possible.

- We also see a role for citizen led campaigns in highlighting the extortionate high interest lending that can pull families into a spiral of debt.

These are some of our ideas. We now want to hear what you think of them!

Go on, get in touch and share your views. You can call 0800 612 2182, email contact@opportunitycroydon.org, or Tweet @OppCroydon

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