Lewisham's new leaders revealed


The desire to make a difference filled the air at the recent training day for the Lewisham Civic Leadership Programme. The forty programme members on the 2011 scheme were eager to learn how to ensure that Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) voices are heard. The energy and enthusiasm amongst the group was visible as they began their journey to become 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 programme members heard from Councillors Damien Egan, Christine Allison and Julia Fletcher about how they could make an impact, influence the decision making process and become ‘warriors for social change’. The Councillors informed the participants of the various ways in which they could engage with the Council on matters which may affect them as local residents – ranging from anti-social behaviour to school exclusions.

Commenting on the day, Cllr Damien Egan, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Equalities said:

"OBV makes me wonder just how many talented BME men and women Councils up and down this country are missing out on by not being proactive and innovative in their recruitment. I was really impressed by the calibre of the programme participants and of their ambition for Lewisham, there is a real sense that politics need to change and that all communities expect their voices to be heard"

The day concluded with a challenging role-play scenario, enabling the participants to use the skills that they had gained throughout the day, to act as a Board and come to a decision on how best to allocate an amount of money.

Programme Member Jason Thompson said:

"The day left me feeling challenged, inspired and filled with a sense of purpose of what our group could achieve - I'm already looking forward to the next one!"

The Civic Leadership Programme was established in 2010, and was a huge success with more than half of the graduates assuming public life roles. The continuing effect of the programme is clear, and only this week Janet Bowens, a graduate of last year’s programme was appointed as a School Governor.

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

“These individuals are a shining beacon of civic activism at it best – the participants are the unsung heroes of our communities – using their skills, experience and time, to make a positive contribution to their community, now and in the future.”

Archived Comments

We've changed to a new commenting system - comments below are preserved for archive purposes

I wish them all the best!

This is a fantastic opportunity to have for people who want to make a real difference in Lewisham. I wish the participants all the best as a graduate and Ambassador for the first group.This is just the tip of the ice burg of your challenging journey to becoming a community leader.Enjoy the experience as it will change your life for the better..
Well done Janet on your school governor position fantastic news!


These would be some of the same Lewisham Councillors eagerly implementing the government's cuts without an attempt at resistance I think? The cuts that will affect the poorest and most vulnerable in the borough first. Great example of leadership!


Hang on Jake!
You clearly haven't even begun to find out about what this scheme is about. We are trying to nurture a new generation of elected and appointed representatives, who will not just care about their own career development but also about serving well the community. Before knocking find out a little more, and perhaps give them your support. Now, that would be good leadership.



Many of us in Lewisham are a bit sore at the way the Council has handled the cuts to be made in the borough. It certainly wasn't a bastion of leadership, believe me. That does not distract from the quality or integrity of the programme though. In some way, perhaps this generation of future leaders will learn from their mistakes?

What is concerning is if these leaders abandon Lewisham once they have acquired these skills. Simon, it is to OBV's credit that you "are trying to nurture a new generation of elected and appointed representatives, who will not just care about their own career development but also about serving well the community".

My question is how do you ensure this is the case? It is not OBV's responsibility but perhaps it might be possible by building in an agreement for a number of hours to serving Lewisham's community, or by pledges from local parties to do some form of shadowing or recruitment?

I say this because I am Lewisham resident and want to see similar changes locally. I am involved in a small local charity that has raised thousands of pounds for local organisations that have been hit by the cuts (a special needs school in Sydenham and a group in New Cross that helps survivors of domestic violence). I see that the programme's alumni are also committed to addressing problems in the borough, Jenni Steele being an example.

[Please note this comment has been moderated by OBV]


David, it's a good question you raise. How do we engender greater integrity within our political/community leaders?

We'll the answer lies in you idea of reciprocity: Through OBV the community lifts you to, hopefully a position of power, but during that training we try to give some history and philosophy, that in effect states, ' this is not about you, but about what you can do for communities'.

I have seen first hand those BME 'leaders/politicians' who owe their success to patronage politics', literally do our communities down. Only when we start nurturing our own elected representatives will have politicians who really care about the challenges we face and not about their puffed up borrowed status.

With this group from Lewisham I feel very confident we are on the right track.


Future leaders not only want to build their community, but the country and the world a better place. It depends on the capacity in which one serve on the political platform and the impact they make. David, try and see the alumni in a more meaningful light, we would like to see them serving on national and international party executives and boards impacting the very community from which they belong. David, let support our leaders where ever they are as they seek to do good to all mankind. This programme certainly highlights the talented, ambitious, and hardworking BME in the UK, but still none serve in the current government. We need an OBV TV channel and radio station to address these issues on a daily basis.

Local to global

With regards to seeing the alumni in a more meaningful light and supporting our leaders, you can't say fairer than supporting Jenni Steele and voting for her / encouraging others in our ward to do the same.

I'm not at odds with the programme, or it's alumni. I am concerned however, that Lewisham might be investing in the future of people who may not put back in Lewisham, and take their skills and talents to areas and parties that would not make a similar investment for their own communities. To be fair, you could argue that is a good thing, as those areas need such leaders too.

However, I don't think it is too much ask to expect that alumni put a minimum number of hours back in Lewisham. Many programmes who sponsor the personal and professional development of their participants have such agreements in place. They are not being unsupportive or not looking at their alumni in a less meaningful light. They want those who have invested in their participants to benefit from the investment they have made.