Shaping debate on religion in public life.

Tag Archive: religion and politics

Staying with the Trouble 3.0: One Bishop, One City, One Hope

Leave a Comment

The William Temple Foundation, in partnership with Leeds Church Institute, is delighted to launch the latest series in our ground-breaking podcast Staying with the Trouble. The series will run for the next six weeks, starting 7th June, 2022.

Entitled Perspectives on Poverty and Exclusion in Leeds and produced by Rosie Dawson, the series is anchored by Bishop James Jones, Bishop Emeritus of Liverpool. Via six interviews with key actors across the city, Bishop Jones traces the impact of the current cost of living crisis on the lives of ordinary citizens, and the relationships and practices of solidarity, care, compassion and justice that emerge to provide resilience and hope to so many facing hardship and despair.

As Bishop Jones summarises, these relationships and networks reflect ‘an organic regeneration’ that cuts deeply across religious, secular, ideological, cultural and ethnic divides.

Director of Research for the Foundation, Professor Chris Baker reflects, ‘In this Platinum Jubilee Year, with its emphasis on theme of service as exemplified by Queen Elizabeth, this series really resonates as it shows how daily acts of service and sacrificial leadership build resilience and hope across our communities in the darkest of times.’

Dr Helen Reid, Director, Leeds Church Institute says, ‘I commend the podcast series to all who love Leeds and are troubled by inequality here. The podcasts combine personal experience and local perspectives with insight, hope and action for building a fairer city.’

For further information contact Dr Ryan Haecker: ryan@williamtemplefoundation.org.uk

Share this page:

Curating Spaces of Hope: Coproducing Local Leadership for a Post-Pandemic Society

Leave a Comment

This blog is the third of three produced by Research Fellow Dr Matthew Barber-Rowell, as part of our Fellows Fund Programme. In this series, Dr Barber-Rowell sets out the potential role for intra-communities dialogue and local leadership for Curating Spaces of Hope in a post-pandemic society.  

In this final blog, I set out local leadership based on characteristics drawn from stories and contributions from over 900 people who have shaped Spaces of Hope. My contention is that these characteristics can provide us with a map of our local leadership potential, which we can make real and concrete by ‘curating’ them, using five principles: freedom, relationship, service, affect, and authenticity.

My argument in this blog is that if we can map our different and creative potential, we can then use these principles as the compass to guide us through uncertainty, using the characteristics as way marks on the map. I will turn to this now and then conclude this series by issuing a call to action to sojourn and then journey on together.

Local Leadership:

Spaces of Hope has been coproduced by a wide variety of people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse experiences, ranging from refugees and homeless communities, to senior religious leaders, to differently abled volunteers, to chief executives, from community workers to academics, from local authority officers, to foodbank users. Examples of local leadership have emerged from anyone and anywhere.  We all possess that potential.

Spaces of Hope research has found that local leadership can be characterised as:

These characteristics of local leadership are best understood in relationship with things that offer context to that leadership. Relationships with the place we live and work, the service that we offer and the potential that relationships themselves bring for transformation to take place in our lives. What motivates us, the beliefs, values and worldviews that emerge from the context we are in, the foundations we build our lives upon, and the values that we form together. The things we do when we interface with others, the way we communicate with others, offer welcome and care, and how what we do relates to voluntary work and professional services and systems, alike.

Local leadership is also steeped in the prophetic and authentic stories which set out how we have dealt with things in our lives and how they might inform a vision for the future. Local leadership is also at its most effective when it finds the flow of what is happening in the world around us, working with others in networks and partnership to create movements that can both count the cost of change and embrace it, together.  

These characteristics and relationships are both underpinning the way local leadership can be understood and are formational for the Spaces of Hope approach that I am offering here. The most pertinent of these for you will emerge from intra-communities dialogues, but they will all have their part to play in the urgent task of mobilising local leadership for post-pandemic society.

I have addressed how we might map our uncertain terrain and the characteristics of local leadership. Now I turn to our compass to guide the way.

Principles for Local Leadership

Spaces of Hope has drawn on a wide variety of inspirations and influences since it emerged in 2016. These sources include: the leadership by experience of people in the north west of England; the work of public intellectuals e.g. William Temple, who offered guiding principles for people to participate in society; interdisciplinary scholarly work from theology to philosophy to sociology, to social policy to urban geography. With these in mind, the five principles that have emerged are:

Intra-communities dialogue, set out in blog two, helps us to map the characteristics and relationships that flow through the spaces we are in. Applying these principles to them offers us a compass for guiding local leadership. What I am proposing is that we now explore together. Journeying on to discover how we might better talk to one another about what has happened to us, identifying the things that we care about and taking them forward. I am proposing that we engage in intra-communities dialogue and curate the different and creative potential characteristics and relationships that make up the spaces we inhabit to form concrete and hope filled local leadership for post-pandemic society.

I am seeking spaces to explore this further. This process will leave you with the outcomes to take forward yourself and also feed into the understanding of what it means to Curate Spaces of Hope. This is an invitation to join a journey that can take us forward for years to come.

For more information contact Matthew at matthew@spacesofhope.co.uk

Biography: Dr Matthew Barber-Rowell has been working in activism and academia in the north west of England for the past 10 years during which time he developed Spaces of Hope. Matthew is a Research Fellow with the William Temple Foundation and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. During the pandemic Matthew supported local food provision; packing and delivering food parcels in his local community, acted as a trustee of his local church and was a team member delivering UK wide COVID research. Matthew has led work scoping responses to Net Zero in the north west, and is continuing this work through ecological change projects within churches in the north west.  Matthew completed his PhD at Goldsmiths University of London, which discerned and defined Spaces of Hope, offering the basis for new work developing intra – communities dialogue and local leadership. 

Share this page:

Curating Spaces of Hope: Intra-Communities Dialogue and Post-Pandemic Society

Leave a Comment

This blog is the second of three produced by Research Fellow Dr Matthew Barber-Rowell, as part of our Fellows Fund Programme. In this series, Dr Barber-Rowell sets out the potential role for intra-communities dialogue and local leadership for Curating Spaces of Hope in a post-pandemic society. This will be followed by blogs published on the 10th of May. 

In my first blog, I set out the uncertain context we are living in, prompted by the pandemic, climate emergency, Brexit, the war in Ukraine and the cost of living crisis. I posed the question of how we might respond to this uncertainty. I introduced Curating Spaces of Hope and proposed that this is an overarching approach I believe offers potential for the development of intra-communities dialogue and local leadership, in a post-pandemic society.

Spaces of Hope Dialogues

In this blog, I turn to intra-communities dialogue (ICD) and its significance to this new proposed agenda.  Dialogue has been formational for Spaces of Hope.  In 2017 I was commissioned by a local authority in northwest England to develop networked gatherings across the borough. I used dialogue to support the faith, community and voluntary sector to respond to the impacts of austerity, divisions exposed by Brexit campaigning, unprecedented changes to public services and a growing epidemic in mental health largely caused by social isolation and loneliness. This commission followed on from Vanguard work exploring Health as a Social Movement, led by the Royal Society of Arts, of which Spaces of Hope played a small part.  The issues faced struck right at the heart of civil society, impacting personal resilience and the community resources change to public services relied on.

The Spaces of Hope dialogues took place at different community hubs across the borough, engaging nearly 170 people across 9 gatherings from 70+ community organisations, who brought nearly 300 perspectives on what Spaces of Hope meant to them and their perceived barriers to realising those Spaces of Hope in their lives. A case study for the Inquiry into the Future of Civil Society in England summarised these dialogues as

“bringing together innovative mixes of civil society actors – from professional community practitioners through to individual community activists – to ‘meaning-make’ as a response to experiences of pointlessness and emptiness in personal, community and professional life.”

 A Local Authority Officer said whilst reflecting on the dialogues

“In the past we have had a situation where the policy team has been the policy team … and [use] this kind of council speak … talking in the language of hope or hearts [feelings] over the last relatively short period of time [has exhibited] a shift.”

65% of respondents associated Spaces of Hope with personal vulnerability, personal freedom and social connection and 40% understood people’s suspicions and perceptions around different cultures and worldviews to be barriers to Spaces of Hope. This intervention opened up scope for values based dialogues within this locality.  In terms of impact, a senior advisor within Public Health in Greater Manchester said

“[Spaces of Hope] delivers both added value in existing work and produces new projects and networks across neighbourhoods and localities.”

1/3 of respondents said that the Spaces of Hope dialogues had catalysed something new within their own work. Further, 90% of respondents said that they valued the Spaces of Hope dialogues and would participate in them in the future. Spaces of Hope gatherings continued. All told, 35 dialogues took place in 36 months from October 2016-2019.

The Spaces of Hope dialogues were not without interruptions. For example the Beast from the East cancelled one gathering at short notice. Inconvenient yes, but nothing compared to how we experience things now.  The pandemic struck in March 2020 and lockdown ensued. UK wide research was conducted into the response, including the role of faith groups during the pandemic. This work found that whilst conditions of uncertainty have been accelerated, there was an affinity between local authorities and groups with different beliefs values and worldviews, who had stepped up during the pandemic. Local authorities wanted to capture and preserve this for the future. The report noted,

“Almost every local authority in the study endorses a commitment to build on this and to deepen relationships supporting long-term policy interventions and partnerships in ways that are different to the current practice and norms.”

This was followed up with parliamentary debate in Feb 2021, which suggests a need for networked and values based dialogues is only growing in response to the uncertainties we are facing.

Intra-communities Dialogue

The uncertainty of the last 2 years has forced us to reconsider where we find hope. Face masks have become a symbol of hope. Baking bread between Zoom calls brought hope to our work day, whilst we reconciled ourselves to the stress of the nowhere office. Our morning walk became both acts of obedience; adhering to laws prescribing one piece of exercise per day, and an act of defiance against the virus, glimpsing forgotten freedom, before returning to our COVID induced confines. New frontlines emerged through pop up hubs packing and delivering parcels of hope. Street level organising and WhatsApp groups nurtured new networked responses to the chaos of COVID and opened up spaces of connection within a changed and uncertain landscape, catalysing alliances and empowering local communities, making the case for a new modus operandi.

With this in mind, the question becomes, how are we going to do it? How do we hold together these diverse experiences and discern the leadership we need? Last year the Journal of Dialogue Studies published an article where I set out intra-communities dialogue as mapping and listening to shared matters of concern, of those with different beliefs values and worldviews, sharing and shaping public spaces together. I have given examples of how listening and mapping of this kind can take place.  Intra-communities dialogues is a development and a deepening of the Spaces of Hope approach that succeeded pre-pandemic. I have shown how we might proceed, through networked gatherings and dialogues. With this in mind, I am proposing that we use intra-communities dialogues within new learning communities made up of those who responded to the pandemic in their local community, to reflect on and discern how we Curate Spaces of Hope within post-pandemic society.

In my final blog I will set out what I mean by ‘Curating’ and its implications for local leadership for post pandemic society.

For more information contact Matthew at matthew@spacesofhope.co.uk

Biography: Dr Matthew Barber-Rowell has been working in activism and academia in the north west of England for the past 10 years during which time he developed Spaces of Hope. Matthew is a Research Fellow with the William Temple Foundation and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. During the pandemic Matthew supported local food provision; packing and delivering food parcels in his local community, acted as a trustee of his local church and was a team member delivering UK wide COVID research. Matthew has led work scoping responses to Net Zero in the north west, and is continuing this work through ecological change projects within churches in the north west.  Matthew completed his PhD at Goldsmiths University of London, which discerned and defined Spaces of Hope, offering the basis for new work developing intra – communities dialogue and local leadership. 

Share this page: