OBV Civic Leadership graduate Atif Ali is appointed School Governor

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Involvement in community affairs is a priority for Atif Ali. At only 26 he is a trustee at the Veolia Environmental Trust, a group that collects waste and redistributes surplus treasury funds toward local projects and is a board member for Bournville Trust, a housing provider in the Bournville and Telford areas.

His ties to the community have now deepened after being confirmed as the School Governor for Fox Hollies Special School. For Atif, the opportunity to take the role at a school like Fox Hollies was especially significant.

I’m someone who’s grown up trying to make sure younger siblings get the best education. I’ve got 2 disabled brothers, so I’ve got that perspective of being a young carer. I just felt I could bring something to the table that other people weren’t expecting to.”

Though he welcomed the news with pride, the process of becoming a School Governor had been frustrating. Atif had applied for the role last February, but as with many other formalities, the outbreak of the virus slowed down the procedure. This led to a prolonged wait to see whether they had accepted him. During that period, he was selected onto OBV’s Birmingham Civic Leadership Programme, an experience he credits for helping to offer some much-needed perspective at a crucial juncture.

For me, the big thing about the OBV scheme was giving me confidence. I knew it was something I wanted to do. I’d already put in an application, but I’m a learner that learns from listening to people. Hearing about people’s experiences, specifically on the School Governor’s programme, was a real eye-opener. This is what’s involved, this is why you should do it, this is how you should do it, this is why we need more representation. It puts things into perspective - this is achievable.”

This viewpoint again appears to be going to good use. Within a week of his appointment at Fox Hollies Special School, two young Pakistani girls had reached out to him asking how they could be involved in similar work. One of whom had even enquired about work at the same school. He has since put them in touch with the chair of governors, and in bridging the gap between curiosity and action, he’s already begun to influence the avenues available for people within his community.

The importance of representation in leadership roles helped to inspire the Civic Leadership programmes that OBV run, and it’s a matter that Atif appreciates on a personal level.

Some of the things I’m involved in, I’ve noticed that just by being in the room, the conversation turns. You can make a conversation switch. It’s about winning hearts and minds, really.”

Atif’s desire to win hearts and minds points toward a more active brand of leadership. With the 2022 Commonwealth games in Birmingham on the horizon, he views this as being a matter of importance even now. He believes part of this formula includes involving more young people in the work of the council, which given Birmingham’s status as the youngest City in Europe is certainly understandable.

This is also reflected in his role models, who include Imran Khan and of course his father - individuals who he believes to have broken the status quo along their professional journey.

Underpinning all of this is his drive to leave a positive mark and contribute to areas of social significance. His faith as a Muslim informs this to a large degree, but the result is that of an individual unwilling to sit on the sidelines and hoping to tackle the big issues, now as a School Governor.

Mayowa Ayodele

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A call to action...

For 24 years OBV have fought to ensure black and minority ethnic participation and representation in civic society. Efforts in continuing to do so though, relies on your help. That way we can continue this fight for greater race equality. What would give us a tremendous boost is if today, you made that small donation yourselves, but even more importantly if you encouraged others to do likewise.

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