Went on a cohesion conference, arranged by Southampton City Council, on Friday. The title of the conference was 'Developing cohesion in diverse communities'.
I do need to add that I wasn't that keen, having just spent two days out of the office, on Extenuating Circumstances panels, but I was glad I did go. Ted Cantle, the keynote speaker, was brilliant and informative regarding cohesion in communities as a whole, and also what was happening nationally.
I had chosen to attend the 'Understanding faith and cohesion' workshop in the morning, which was good, but I probably got more out of the afternoon session I had chosen, 'Cohesion and young people'.
The afternoon workshop was run by a group called Peacemakers, who started in Oldham, with a simple aim, "... to create opportunities for young people to meet and befriend other people from different communities and ethnicities. These youngsters used their informal networks and youth club contacts to try and promote a climate of multicultural growth in their hometown," (taken from their webpage). It helps young people to focus on commonalities, rather than differences, and encourages them to establish a common British identity ... something we don't often see nowadays, with so many people focusing on and promoting differences.
What they were doing was so simple and so refreshing and in line with what I've thought for ages: you can't force people to share personal information and hope that they will establish relationships as a result ... you need to provide people with the opportunities to establish relationships, and as a result they will share personal information, and eventually ... life. It was good to see how much of an impact they had made, and were making, and how that was being recognised and empowered.
One of the successes of their programme is that they empower the young people of the communities they get involved in to continue with the programme, and so the initiative continues to live on beyond when they leave.
Take a look at their website (although it may take a while if you don't have broadband, as a lot of it is flash with animation and video).
I did also have a brief chat with someone from the Royal South Hants hospital about their current and future building work, and offered some advice on the reordering of their chapel ... hopefully a resource we can keep in the area.
And so, all in all, although it was another day out of the office, it was useful and inspiring.