Hope not hate: Greater Manchester future leaders take the reigns

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Thirty outstanding individuals unveiled today are taking part in the first Greater Manchester Civic Leadership Programme. The ground-breaking initiative by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) in collaboration with Operation Black Vote (OBV), seeks to equip talented individuals facing racial inequalities with the tools and knowledge to take up civic leadership positions.

Participants were selected based on their proven leadership skills and will undertake learning to enhance their leadership potential. Building upon the unprecedented success of Operation Black Vote’s award-winning ShadowingSchemes, this project aims to help demystify and tackle the under representation of individuals facing racial inequalities in many areas of civic and public life.

Over six months, the participants will take part in a series of training sessions and gain an insight into different areas of public life, including education, local government, health, policing, the criminal justice system, and the voluntary sector.

In addition, Operation Black Vote will host a series of online sessions for younger people, led by high-profile speakers talking about their experiences in overcoming barriers and achieving their aspirations.

The launch event including Mayor Andy Burnham’s speech and Q&A takes place at the GMCA officesfrom 1300-1345. Media are also invited to speak to the cohort and OBV alumni (please see Notes to Editor) who are available from 1400-1600.

Mayor Andy Burnham of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority said:

“It’s a real privilege to be able to welcome this first cohort to Greater Manchester’s inaugural Operation Black Vote leadership and development programme.

Our city-region has a proud history of standing up for justice and equality. But despite the progress that’s been made, we know that too many people still experience real racial inequalities and are not properly represented in the public bodies that make decisions affecting their lives. We have to tackle the root causes of these injustices, and address imbalances in access, opportunity and representation. This pioneering civic leadership programme has an important role to play in this effort.

It’s also really encouraging to see such a broad range of life experiences reflected in this group. That, I think, is a testament to the strength of their determination to challenge those disparities wherever they exist, andultimately to help improve things for everyone in Greater Manchester.”

Diane Modahl, Chair, Greater Manchester’s Young Person’s Task Force, said:

Today's launch is a proud moment for Greater Manchester. This initiative is an integral part of our ongoing and wide-scale work to engage with, listen and support communities and young people experiencing inequalities in our city-region, and I am particularly thankful to Operation Black Vote in working with us to bring this moment to fruition.

Greater Manchester is a haven of brilliant and diverse cultures, yet for many individuals, racial inequalities still exist. The under-representation of ethnic communities in leadership positions is just one aspect of this, and through our work we will continue to strive for greater equality in order to truly represent our region at the highest levels.

I look forward to working with this cohort as they become our leaders of the future."

Ashok Viswanathan, OBV Acting Director said:

So much of our politics in the UK and abroad is about division rather than unity, despair rather than hope. It is for this reason above all that we are immensely excited with the diversity and intersectionality of our new cohort. We are particularly pleased that we have an overwhelming number of women on this cohort. The range of occupations and life experience, as well as geographical diversity, proudly represents all parts of Greater Manchester. “These are the emerging leaders to take Greater Manchester forward, to challenge and inspire the future generation.”

Merlene Carrington JP, OBV Director of Programmes said:

The enduring impact of seeing our communities participate and grow in confidence around civic leadership gives all of us hope of building a fairer, more equitable society.

We have a diverse cohort representative of Greater Manchester from most major faiths, and others with no discernible faith; we have participants with occupations ranging from education and business to community activists and youth workers.”

The aim of the programme is to connect participants with first-hand knowledge of the roles and responsibilities of civic and political life, and provide them with the insight, skills, confidence, and practical knowledge to move into these sectors.

It will also give public appointees and professionals the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the perspectives and experiences of people facing racial inequality, improving their representation and involvement within decision-making processes.

The programme builds on Operation Black Vote’s 25 years of experience delivering award-winning leadership and development schemes.


Note to editors:

The entirecohort is available throughout the day (1300-1500) to speak informally to the press with OBV notification. For assigned cohort interviews: Daood Akram; Jo Fryers; Mubarak Tairu; Raza Naqvi; Tiané Golaub and OBV’s official spokesperson Ashok Viswanathan are available at all times with prior notification.

1.The partners are more committed than ever, during this difficult time, to making sure that the Programme goes ahead, when it is safe to do so. Programmes such as this are essential to ensuring that national progress on diversity is not curtailed, especially as the pandemic has been so destructive amongst communities facing racial inequalities. Given the ongoing Covid-19 situation we are at an advanced stage of organising the initial leadership sessions remotely via Zoom. Some shadowing will follow as and when it is safe to do so.

2.Programme aims and objectives:

  • To gain invaluable experience of life as a Public Appointee
  • To give participants the opportunity to explore their chosen areas of public life
  • To obtain a variety of transferable skills and the confidence to use those skills to consider becoming a civic leader
  • To equip participants with both the knowledge and the confidence to speak to others about civic engagement, and how they may get involved
  • To improve the representation of communitiesfacing racial inequalities in areas of public life throughout Greater Manchester
  • To give Public Appointees the opportunity to gain greater understanding of different aspects of the diverse communities they seek to serve.

Equally the Programme aims to send out the message that diverse leadership is essential in politics and civil society, universities, business and wider society. Areas of focus will be:

  • Education: School Governors
  • Policing: Safer NeighbourhoodPanels& Police Crime Commissioners
  • Criminal Justice System: Magistrates
  • Health: Health Boards of Greater Manchester NHS Trusts
  • Voluntary Sector: Trustees
  • Local Government: Councillors.

3. OBV seeks to confront persistent racial inequalities by politically empowering communitiesfacing racial inequalities, particularly the disadvantaged, and young people; nurturing those individuals so that they can take up roles in our civic, political, decision-making and community spaces; and to help transform institutions to become more inclusive, modern and representative.