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Tackling hate crime and building stronger communities in the East Midlands

Guest blog by Shamsher Chohan, Director, Communities Inc

Communities Inc was established in 2011 as a dynamic social enterprise to bring innovation and creativity to address the needs of communities, organisations and businesses. Our social purpose is to build stronger communities by tackling the inequalities faced by the most disadvantaged groups in society.

Funded by the Big Lottery Fund Reaching Communities programme for three years, Building Stronger Communities builds on several smaller pilot projects that trailed different approaches and worked with specific communities to raise awareness and improve access to hate crime reporting. The intended outcomes of the project are:

1.To build relationships and improve interactions between diverse communities through increased participation and engagement in community initiatives

2.To build the capacity of community groups to respond to victims of hate crime and develop cohesion activities

3.To improve the knowledge and confidence of victims of hate crime in hate crime reporting and accessing support services

These are being delivered through a series of activities which include exchange visits and community dialogues which bring together different people to promote increased understanding or to tackle common problems.

.Our project is responsive to local issues and needs. Consequently during the first year a significant part of our work was centred around the aftermath of the EU referendum result, which saw an increase in hostility and hate crime, not just in Nottingham, but also nationally. Our local community research showed that in the most diverse area of Nottingham (Hyson Green), 67% of people we talked to felt ‘less safe’ than before the result. This led us to develop initiatives to raise the awareness around hate crime in the wider community, with a focus on public transport. Our partnership with Nottingham Trams Ltd made our hate crime awareness leaflets available on all 37 trams across the city,  which have an annual ridership of over 11 million. We are also in the process of training over 20 trainers at Nottingham City Transport, who will cascade our hate crime awareness information to over 800 staff working on the buses across the city.

Furthermore, our Love not Hate event was an opportunity to bring together public and voluntary/community sector stakeholders to discuss Brexit, hate crime and cohesion, as we approached the invocation of article 50.

Attended by over 120 delegates, the event provided a valuable space for people to share their thoughts, experiences and suggestions for future action, which are likely to dominate our second and third years activities.

Community dialogues are a central part of the Building Communities Project and have become a vehicle for new social change initiatives, where support or provision is weak for minority communities. For example, our Over 50’s LGBT+ dialogue identified loneliness as a major issue preventing people feeling like they belong in the community. Following this, a larger event has looked at this in more detail and a new group is emerging to tackle the issues raised and address the concerns people have.

Going forward we are looking at more initiatives aimed at addressing negative stereotypes that are fuelling hostility  and creating divisions in communities. We are also keen to look at how bystanders can be empowered to take action and support victims of hate and hostility.

Communities Inc has fast become the leading provider of community cohesion and hate crime awareness work in the East Midlands receiving the award for Upstanding Organisation in the first National Hate Crime Awards in 2016.   For more information please contact me on shamsher@communitiesinc.org.uk or visit our website on www.communitesinc.org.uk   

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