Thursday, 15 September 2011

Crisis equals opportunity! Operation Hope & Recovery update.

“When written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters-one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity” John F Kennedy.
As the whole country sought to recovery from the pain, tragedy and anger of the recent riots a few good people came together to examine the critical questions of how to tackle the underlying causes that have resulted in too many communities suffering unacceptable levels of injustice, alienation, poverty and unemployment.

The tragic shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham by the Metropolitan Police Service acted as a catalyst for many with a deep sense of injustice and social exclusion. That resulted in the widespread disorder we witnessed that night. For others alienated, angry and unemployed with little hope or vision for the future the disturbances provided an opportunity to hit back at a society they believe has both discarded and marginalized them.

They were swept up in the general chaos and hysteria of the night. Finally there were those who were sole intent and motivation was arson and criminal looting. What was common to all was that many lived in some of the most deprived areas of Britain. What is common to all those who took part is their capacity to change their lives and to achieve their own distinct human potential .

At a series of hastily convened meetings leading black church figure Bishop Wayne Malcolm and several key community based activists such as Simon Woolley of Operation Black Vote, Viv Ahmun of Black Men in the Community, David Weaver Chair of the 1990 Trust and Lee Jasper co Chair of BARAC to consider what is now to be done to respond to the challenges faced by many communities across the country.

It was clear that these issues were too critically important to the future hopes and aspirations of our community to be left in the hands of politicians alone. We understood that this was a seminal moment in our history and that it required a total paradigm shift in our thinking and approach in seeking to respond to the situation we now faced,

The overwhelming view was that many communities perceived themselves as being located outside of mainstream society, unable to access justice, disconnected from local democracy and without hope of finding a job or accessing education.

The emerging consensus was that in the light of the riots and the avalanche of negative media reporting that followed, constructive community leadership was now critical.

All agreed that black churches given their huge influence, geography and constituency have a leading role to play in working in partnership with others in urgently responding to the acute challenges faced by communities and the need for a solution focused movement.

All agreed that there was no need to create yet another constituted organisation. What we needed was a loose coalition of organisations formed into a national social movement for social and economic justice that supported the coordination of faith groups, volunteers and community based organisations into a single training and community development movement that could both inspire and empower communities.

Within four days of intense discussion Operation & Recovery was born and within that short period of time a meeting was arranged to take place at Friends meeting House Euston London. Our primary objective was to restore hope and demonstrate that recovery was possible to communities whose optimistic vision of the future had been eroded through a sense of economic and social injustice.  Our single vision was very clear we concluded that it was time for communities to take personal responsibility and come together to take collective social, economic and political action.

Our proposition was that we invited all to help us launch the largest self funded voter registration, voter education and entrepreneurial training programme ever seen in British history. In addition we would support the call for a public inquiry into all suspicious deaths in custody.

Our message focused on four distinct areas and our invitation was to all communities, faith groups, organisations and individuals to work with us in designing and delivering this ambitious programme.
What happened next was quite simply amazing. With four days notice using social media and our existing networks we sent out thousands of emails.  On the night of the meeting 700 people turned up to hear the vision. The endorsement of our mandate was overwhelming with organisations and individuals committing to working alongside us to deliver this unique community empowerment programme.

Speakers such as Neil Jameson form TELCO and Diane Abbot, ( Tory Lord forgot his name), Gwenton Slowley inspirational young man and reformed gangster, Zita Holbourne  of BARAC, poet and activist, Merlin Emmanuel for the Justice for Smiley Culture Campaign and  many many more spoke and welcomed and endorsed the aims of this new and exciting movement for social change.

Operation Hope and Recovery is a loose coalition of organisations such as Black Men In the Community, SACRYD*, East London Citizens, Operation Black Vote among others that seeks work in partnership with individuals and organisations in the co-ordination and delivery of a dynamic political and business community empowerment programme.

And so a unique coalition of community and faith based organisations came together to launch a social justice initiative that intends to deliver political and economic empowerment programmes through the country.

Our aim is to encourage, support and promote a coming together of people and organisations committed to tackling growing level of alienation, democratic disengagement and unemployment.

The empowerment programme will be delivered through a tried and tested cascade training model. We will train trainers to go out and deliver that training in their communities. This training will inspire a new generation of community social activists and entrepreneurs into the largest social, economic action and political empowerment training network ever seen in the UK.  That’s the ambition that’s the goal that the mission. Our inaugural training days and initial rallies will be announced at our next meeting.

We intend to both launch and roll out this training initially in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Nottingham.

Our next meeting will take place on the 16th September  6.30pm at Marsham Street Westminster, London . This meeting will focus on recruiting into membership both organisations and committed individuals. You can find out further information and register your free place by visiting our website:

Out of ever crisis comes an opportunity. This is our time to shine and we ask that you join us.

Lee Jasper