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#PowerToChange partners network meet Asst Mayor Mustafa Malik

20 Jan 2023

Our #PowerToChange partners network was delighted to welcome Asst Mayor Mustafa Malik, who is the city council cabinet member with responsibility for communities and equalities. The network has grown out of our community development work and brings partners together, to share, learn and voice their issues of concern to local decision makers. It is very much rooted in a “nothing about us, without us” philosophy, where the groups want to “Create rather than just Consume” local policy.

Mustafa shared that the city council , greatly appreciated , the work of the community and voluntary sector and, he himself had been active in it for many years. He realised, that there were things the city council could do better, when it comes to working with the community sector and he thought the key was to identify ways of enabling meaningful engagement. He also apologised for the delays in getting the new VCS strategy signed off, but shared he hoped it would be signed off and shared with the sector in the next couple of months.

Key for me is really unpacking the phrase meaningful engagement and finding practical ways the city council can partners with the community sector

Asst Mayor Mustafa Malik.

In a lively question and answers sections, many present shared that they were keen to work with city council, but often had experiences of feeling excluded, emails not replied to or starting work on projects that were then dropped. All, present also felt a draft of the VCS strategy should be shared with stakeholders who participated in meetings, for comments before being signed off.

We know the city council is well intended, but sadly, all too often we are chasing you up and responses and opportunities to engage can be erratic. What we want is proactive, systemic partnership, where we work together on key issues pooling our skills and knowledge

It’s great there will be a VCS strategy but the development of it and the delays has meant it has felt top down and we think the strategy would have been stronger and better if we had worked in a more proactive partnership way to develop it

We know there are huge pressures on the council that are made worse by successive cuts and soaring inflation but would be good to see it city council could learn from other councils like Camden, who are pioneering new approaches to partnership work with the community sector

Younger members present, felt the city council had to do more to seek to engage young people and felt the local politicians should be doing more to attract younger people to get involved.

Young people see a lot of older people, talking in jargon and do not feel a connection. This is a young city, and we need to find ways of getting young people involved in decision making , not in a tokenistic way but as real decision makers. It would be good to see there being councillors aged 18 to 30 , in line with their numbers in the population

Mustafa felt all these points were relevant and , when the VCS strategy is signed off, he is keen to set up proactive systems where the community sector can work with him and key staff to identify and carry out action on these points.

The group also shared that language was a big issue with many of the poorer people in Leicester city , not being able to communicate effectively in English, but also not being able to read the language they speak.

As well as having accessible ESOL support, we also need frontline community groups who can support people in their neighbourhoods in the languages they communicate in

The group also felt that work culture and values often trumped systems and policies ,although could obviously see how each feed into each other.

What we would like to see across the city council and reflected in people’s job descriptions and reviewed and supported through ongoing, supervision and training, is a work culture, where all staff and Councillors from top to bottom, are seeking to work in creative and agile partnership with the community and business sector, that they see and understand the benefits and added value of this and own this approach rather than seeing it as required tick box exercise, that can make their work more difficult

In his final response Mustafa shared he had really enjoyed the meeting, had found it really positive and wanted to come back and meet the group when VCS strategy signed off to discuss how we can partner together .

I see the community sector as having boots on the ground, and grounded local knowledge and I am committed to working with you in a meaningful way so your skills, knowledge and expertise can shape the way the city council identifies and tackles issues

Asst Mayor Mustafa Malik

The group thanked Mustafa for attending and were looking forward to working with him in the year ahead.

It has been great to see Mustafa really listening to the group and we really believe that by working together in creative and agile partnerships without ego, silo or logo we can achieve great things

Neetu Squire, Head of Community Development, Leicestershire Cares