Lewisham's Civic Champions


With more people from the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities giving consideration to political education, participation and representation, there was plenty of enthusiasm and motivation from those taking part in the second training day of the Lewisham Civic Leadership programme this week.

The programme is designed to nurture the next generation of leaders in Lewisham. Run in partnership with Lewisham Council to address the deficit of BME individuals in key areas of public life, the aspiring civic leaders gain an insight into how they can make an impact, influence the decision making process and become ‘warriors for social change’.

The day focused on Personal and Community Leadership training. A number of councillors, school governors, community leaders and activists were in attendance to give encouragement to the participants and whilst also giving them a realistic insight into challenges of public life. The speakers included prominent activist Lee Jasper, Alethea Dougall, Chair of Governors Conisborough College and OBV graduates Councillor Sanchia Alasia, Jenni Steele, Chair of the Bellingham Safer Neighbouhood Team and Janet Bowens, Parent Governor at a Eltham Hill Technology College.

The trainees took part in sessions designed to give an insight into the nature of working for the community and the responsibilities and challenges they will face in their chosen field. In order to instill the traits of personal and community leadership in the participants, a number of exercises were organised designed to enhance their communication and advocacy skills.

As communication is one of the most important qualities for anyone looking to represent their communities, media training led by an award winning media consultant ensured that the participants understood the ‘dos and don’ts’ of pubic speaking. Participants took part in a variety of filmed role play sessions which tasked them to play the role of community leaders such as school governors, councillors and neighbourhood watch representatives.

Kouame Kouakou, a participant on the programme has become Vice Chair of his local Tenants and Resident Association since joining the scheme. Described the day he said,

The training session was very inspirational for me. It made me realise that in public life you have to be grounded and you must never detach yourself from the community you are meant to represent.

Francine Fernandes, Head of Shadowing Schemes for Operation Black Vote said,

The negative portrayal of BME communities in the last few weeks was undoubtedly quashed at this hugely positive and uplifting event. The participants exemplify civic activism at its best. They are Lewisham residents unified in their desire to make a difference to their community and after only a few months, many, such as Kwame, are already assuming civic roles.

It is clear to see how training days such as these are helping to prepare the next generation of civic leaders who will have the confidence and the professionalism to represent their communities.

OBV Graduate, Janet Bowens who participated in the first Lewisham Civic Leadership Programme and is now a Parent Governor said,

OBV are improving year on year, delivering wonderful interactive activities and session to develop individuals for civic life and responsibility.

Kehinde Ibrahim

Picture: The panel - (from left ) Alethea Dougall, Janet Bowens, Lee Jasper, Jenni Steele and Cllr Sanchia Alasia