Reason 35 A stable presence

IMG_1972The combination of another ” party leader” resigning today (following  the EU referendum) and the brilliant skyline over Birmingham inspired me to set out reason 35.

The amount of uncertainty around what the future holds feels almost unprecedented. Who will lead which political party? What will they attend to first? What will everyone have to deal with in the months ahead? Will it all calm down and mean business as usual for most people?

Whilst many spend time analysing and discussing all these things, others  will carry on living  amongst their neighbours, and day to day needs will continue to exist. Whatever happens, people will be finding ways forward “using the cards they have been dealt”.

Community groups, volunteers, and people of good will try to be beacons of hope, do practical things to address local issues, and encourage others to join them in their endeavours, regardless of any resentment, cynicism or frustration that may be around.

Nehemiah seeks to support and strengthen these endeavours and help people build resilient communities- whatever the landscape, whatever the weather. Whoever is leading the country, whatever is on the news, the weather will do its stuff and we have to respond to it – whether with umbrellas or sunglasses. It is always good to have both, for neighbourhoods to have a real sense of community  and to be prepared for whatever comes along.

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Reason 34 Politics


In the sixth form there were two schools of thought about who could best help the world be a better place. One believed politics was the way to influence hearts and minds and get things done. The other thought faith was the way forward, that it was less theatre, less back and forth, less argumentative, and despite history, purer.


It wasn’t long before the work place provided us with the opportunity to find out who was right.

The answer of course is both were wrong. Both have a massive effect on how our lives work out and what has to be navigated to get things done.

Politics does involve constant change- Governments, Councils, Politicians, Ministers, civil servants, policies.

Religious institutions have pressures which can put constraints on how free they are to do what they want , and release their full potential for the Common Good.

Both see the importance of hearts and minds- the value of people having a shared vision of the world being a better and fairer place.

Working with the political and religious establishment, and those who work within them,  involves interesting challenges. There is value in being able to understand contexts, drivers and motivations; the ability to discern why you may be of interest, why you may be a threat; the experience to know when things might change;the skill to manage expectations, watch your emotions and hold your tongue.

One of the reasons for setting up the Nehemiah Foundation was to help people and groups in an area pursue their goals and withstand a context of constant change. Our Theory of Change suggests that a neighbourhood which knows itself and has local capacity can make a huge positive difference in the lives of its local people. Acquiring that knowledge and capacity is not quick, easy or cheap BUT, it is possible and can work.

Karen’s story is an example which illustrates this.

Helping more PROD’s and Karen’s is a reason for Running and the Great Nehemiah Sponsorthon

How is the running? 

The orange trainers are missing me a tiny bit. A reunion is being arranged. The Rochdale 10K run looks like it may be the motivation needed to ensure it happens soon

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Reason 33 Hundreds & Thousands


Ever been somewhere and thought: imagine if I could live here ?

So many factors inform where we live and how easily we can move.  The norms experienced in one neighbourhood can be so different to those somewhere else. I recall two particular contrasts.

The first involved walking down a neighbourhood high street in West London where there were three ski clothing outlets. The following day I found myself reading through a project proposal to find a way of people being able to buy nappies on their estate.

The second was where an inner city church congregation reported how they had raised just under £230 at their local Jumble Sale. That same day, I heard how an equivalent in Surrey had raised £230,ooo.

Community Development work aims to reduce the sometimes embarrassingly different  life opportunities, that exist between people in different communities. Community Development work is not easy to resource and innovative ways are needed to make it possible.

Nehemiah promotes a strategy of Mixed Portfolio Funding which helps a neighbourhood kick start activity and move toward  a place where it can find resources to sustain local work plans.

Twinning is a part of that portfolio funding. Resourced Communities are often share their resources to do something good for others.

Nehemiah is developing a twinning programme, which will enable those with the 1000’s to help those with the 100’s do important community development which does things like build up local trust, respond to the consequences of financial hardship, tackle isolation or support young people in less prosperous neighbourhoods.

If your jumble sale raises 1000’s rather than 100’s and you are open to supporting the training and support of a community worker, then get in touch.

Developing this Twinning Programme was another reason to run and promote the Great Nehemiah Sponsorthon.


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Reason 32- Time out


When I was told about Ethel I knew I had to cancel all meetings for a two week period.

I had taken on a role requiring me to help local residents retrieve an opportunity that had been lost because of politics and game playing. In trying to retrieve the situation, local residents were being invited to meetings so that their views could be heard on everything from local health services to provision for young people.  When I was told that Ethel, who was in her 80’s, had been asked to attend 9 meetings in 2 weeks, I knew intuitively it was time to stop and review what was going on.

At first people were upset and confounded. People didn’t like the fact that their plans were being interrupted. A month or so later, views had changed. Cancelled meetings and a serious review of what people were trying to achieve, yielded benefits. We were able to take stock, rediscover our humanity and avoid a road crash. Not long after, we regained the full investment status  we had lost and secured 10 years of funding for community development and social regeneration activity.

There is a temptation to think with a funding opportunity that it’s now or never. A “presenting opportunity ” has to be taken whilst it’s there. That is of course true- to an extent. When we set up Nehemiah, we wanted to make sure local groups and organisations would be in a position to take an  opportunity when it came along; ready to grab it and run, rather than miss out or be swept along by others who had aims and objectives that hadn’t  been aligned with theirs.

Taking the time to gather local information, review aspirations and build relationships before making lots of promises or getting into a project, can be a very worth while thing to do.

So, one of the reasons for running and the Great Nehemiah Sponsorthon is helping buy Nehemiah time for reflection and create spaces and opportunity for communities to do the same.

How is the running ?  

It was good to complete the 100K challenge. I am still running although not every day. The distances are longer when I do.  I’m looking to do a 10 k run next and working to a half marathon in the Autumn. It is great to see others have taken on the baton and taking part in the Great Nehemiah Sponsorthon. That’s really appreciated and valued

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Day 31. Handing Over the Baton

Handing over the baton

Memories flood back on significant days.

As today was the last day of the 100k challenge I found myself reflecting on why I work for the Nehemiah Foundation and why I left being an equity  partner in a law firm, to take up an uncertain future with a charity. Two things came to mind.

The first was a tradition in the law firm I left 5 years ago. It involved the retiring Senior Partner handing on a baton to the incoming Senior Partner; a nice touch, typical of the founding partner Anthony Collins himself.  I recall it being a significant moment as he handed the baton over to Martin Knox. I watched AC let go; the man with the original vision, who had seen the practice grow through its early years and then allow others to come and build on the platform he had built with his early partners.

The second was of Martin, the second Snr. Partner at Anthony Collins. I was his apprentice. He advised me it would take 8 years to learn what I needed, to understand the processes of community development and neighbourhood regeneration. It was sad and strange that 10 years after he began training me, he passed away, making me realise that the knowledge and experience he had acquired was now held by those he had trained.

The loss of Martin was one of the reasons for establishing Nehemiah. We wanted to download the learning we had from him into an organisation that could share the learning and create a movement of people and organisations who could benefit from what had been taught. If you like, not have to learn it all again the hard way.

So, the reason to run today is, to hand help Nehemiah continually hand over the baton; to share the experiences and learning acquired by residents, partners and practitioners over decades and allow new groups and new community workers to build on that learning; to  respond to the needs of today with the benefit of learning from the past.

How was the last run? 

Strange. It was much longer than the first one on 1st March! It involved better weather and felt nostalgic. I did it at lunch time and found lots of people running. Looking ahead I think the next challenge is about pace. After the first 3k today, I found myself setting into a rhythm and wanting widen the stretch. I’ll have to pull something out of the bag at the end of the Great Nehemiah Sponsorthon.

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Day 30: Effective Communications

comms strategy
Getting to the 1, 2, 3

One of the great things about this 100k challenge and accompanying blog, is the discipline of focussing on one thing a day.

We are constantly being challenged to communicate who and what we are in one sentence, one picture, one word or one elevator ride. I so struggle with that.

I recognised the need to deal with that struggle  when someone in marketing told me point blank, that if I couldn’t engage an audience with my first point, I could wave goodbye to any hope of being understood. Even if I was passionate and full of enthusiasm.

My journey into social media and blogging has been an eye opener too.

Having someone in our organisation to maintain and develop our communications has been extremely valuable.

Today’s reason to run is so that moving forward, we can deploy someone to help us  communicate what we are doing and learning to the outside world on a consistent and regular basis. That way we can get on with what we’re best at; training and supporting people to transform neighbourhoods!

How was the run today? 

Spring and light nights are great. It means an unwind at the end of day is more pleasurable. I found myself looking forward to it. Now starting to think about places to run further afield.


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Day 29: House of Good Deeds

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A legacy for development work.
Today’s reason to run is to help us share the benefits of what we have learnt over the past 10 years.

We have developed the House of Good Deeds in collaboration with those who share the same desire to provide practical responses to issues at a local level.

Time spent fund raising and applying for grants takes away from being able to get on with the stuff that makes a difference. We wanted to find a way of being able to help neighbourhoods get on with responding and let others sort out the funding.

We want to grow the House of Good Deeds as a fund that can help resource the deployment of community workers to coordinate responses to local issues, concerns and aspirations, and access funding that will help kick start initiatives that can’t be funded by existing resources.

One unique aspect of the fund is that it is supported by people from different cultures and traditions and is itself a symbol of collaboration between communities often portrayed as being unable to work together or only interested in their own cause or community.

Another key element is that it creates a legacy of the work we have been doing with Near Neighbours rather than it being just a programme that came and went.

So today’s reasons to run is to  support the building of a legacy

How was the run today?

A solid 5k. Was a bit worried about the achilles tendon but it behaved. More worried about the suggestion that I should register for the half marathon at the end of October!


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