Recently in Social Inclusion & Diversity Category

pink calculator & spectacles caseSonia Sotomayor is the lawyer and judge who has been nominated by President Barack Obama to fill the vacancy on the bench of the American Supreme Court. This week Judge Sotomayor has been grilled at a senate hearing about her suitability for the post. She is also Hispanic and a woman. This it seems gives rise to fears by interrogating Senators that her judgements may differ from those made previously.

Social Inclusion & Diversity

The hearings on whether Sonia Sotomayor should become an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court have been both predictable and in some ways depressing: her eleven inquisitors include just two women and the dialogue has reflected this.

Obama's broad church
On the other hand President Obama, in nominating Judge Sotomayor, has demonstrated again (as he has with other appointments, such as that of Hillary Rodham Clinton to the post of Secretary of State) that he intends his administration to be a broad church, inclusive of the talents of people of many sorts.

It's interesting that Sonia Sotomayor was able, in sworn evidence, to affirm that the President did not ask her personal views on matters such as abortion and gun control - issues which persistently appear in every hearing for appointments to the Supreme Court. Nor, apparently, do Sotomayor and Obama agree about the relevance or otherwise of 'empathy' in legal judgement (she says she puts it aside; he sees it as relevant).

The obstacles of gender and ethnicity - and class?
It looks increasingly likely that Judge Sotomayor's appointment will be confirmed. After the usual party political jostling, significant Republicans on the panel have indicated they will not oppose her nomination.

But why, and how, do these people think it appropriate to suggest that Sonia Sotomayor's gender and ethnicity are critical issues which might mitigate in the future against fair and transparent interpretation of the law?

Sotomayor's personal background is not unlike that of Obama; her early life, living in public housing in the Bronx, was uncompromisingly unprivileged. Perhaps social class also plays an unacknowledged part here. The Republicans amongst the Senators grilling her are not of the Grand Old Party (GOP) for nothing.

Privileged white men
But surely even they can see that the Supreme Court has thus far been an enclave of privileged white men? In its entire history it has been administered by 111 justices, only two of them so far women (the majority of the population), and none Hispanic (the fastest growing ethnic group in the USA).

Perhaps the Supreme Court has always adhered to interpretation of the law, with no fear or favour (though frightening statistics on what sorts of criminals are not excused judicial slaughter, for instance, might suggest otherwise).

But as far as I can tell, not many of these white, male, privileged nominations for the Supreme Court have been quizzed for days and days about whether their personal demographic provenance will endanger justice for all US citizens.

Politics and competencies
Assurances of propriety and competence are essential before any Supreme Court justice is appointed. Party political posturing is inescapably part of the game.

It's a ritual of Supreme Court nomination that questions have to be asked about every imaginable variable, and that Senators at the hearing go to extraordinary lengths not to set procedural precedence which they may later find uncomfortable.

Striking failures of insight
But, glaring omissions of insight about how and by what sorts of people the US law and constitution have been determined in the past.....?

Small wonder during her inquisition that Judge Sotomayor has stuck unservingly to the position simply that: "The task of a judge is not to make law. It is to apply the law."

I'm not a US citizen, but I am a citizen of a country which, like the US, seeks, in however flawed a way, to achieve fairness and equality. That fundamental - and perhaps intended? - apparent omission of insight on the part of Sonia Sotomayor's inquisitors I find downright bizarre.


Read more about Social Inclusion & Diversity and Political Process & Democracy.

09.06.04  European election Stop the BNP The 2009 European Elections on June 4 are no ordinary political exercise; this time it's about fundamental democracy, not 'just' party politics. There is a real danger the BNP will gain seats, unless everyone gets out and votes strategically - especially in the NW of England, where the BNP are focusing much attention. European Parliamentary seats are allocated proportionally, so the BNP will probably gain a NW seat unless Labour receives enough support for three candidates to be successful. Essentially that means it's Theresa Griffin (Labour) versus N. Griffin (BNP leader)...

The world (as Albert Einstein reminded us) is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.

In this case, the result of doing nothing could be very unpleasant indeed. There is a real risk, if turnout in the 4 June '09 European elections is low, that the British National Party (BNP) will gain a seat in the European Parliament.

Once a BNP member was elected, they would have the resources which are required to be allocated to each and every MEP, and the legal right to have their far-right-wing opinions heard. This frightening prospect of real power for the BNP is why they are fighting so hard to win a NW of England European Parliamentary seat.

Proportional representation
In the 2004 European elections the BNP got 6.4% of the vote in the NW of England region, but no seat. This time they could need as little as 8% to gain one*.
[* Later: this is exactly what happened; please refer to footnote below.]

It has been calculated that only a strong vote for the Labour Party candidates (see note to follow) is likely to ensure the critical 8% level is not reached.

Keep the BNP out
As well as yourself voting against the BNP, you can help to keep the them out by supporting the non-party-political HopeNotHate campaign.

09.06.04  European election Stop the BNP

How to vote: the practicals
But actually making the effort to vote yourself is fundamentally important, whatever else you do.

The mechanics of voting are easy, but not everyone has voted before, so please bear with me whilst I do a quick run-through of what happens. Unless you already have a postal vote (which comes with its own instructions), all you need do is take some ID - preferably but not essentially your voting card - to a Polling Station on election day.

You can find out where the (many, local) Polling Stations are by phoning your town council, if needs be. They are open from 7 am till 10 pm on the day of the Election, Thursday 4 June.

At the Polling Station you will be given a voting slip which you take into a private booth, where a pen will be provided. How you vote is entirely up to you alone, but in the European elections you can only vote once, with a cross - nothing else - against the political party you have chosen. For example:

09.06.04  NW of England European election Labour Party candidates

When you have made your choice, you simply fold the paper so your vote can't be seen, and take it over to post into the nearby ballot box.

That's it. Just a very few minutes of your day, and an infinitely smaller sliver of your life, to keep democracy alive.

How European Parliamentary seats are allocated
After polling closes, the votes will be counted, and the political parties with the most votes will be allocated seats in the European Parliament on a proportional basis.

The names of the individuals who will take these seats has already been decided in rank (preference) order by each of the political parties - you can see what this order of preference is when you look at the voting paper itself.

Most parties in the NW of England European elections have listed eight names, because that's how many seats are allocated to this region; but no party expects to send all eight of their candidates to the European Parliament.

The allocation of European Parliamentary seats is calculated proportional to the total vote - and since there are in fact thirteen Parties contesting just eight seats, any party with over [13 party options divided by 8 seats = about] 8% will very probably gain a seat.

09.06.04  European election voting part-list

This is why it's so crucially important to ensure the BNP gets an extremely low proportion of the vote - and this will only be achieved if a high percentage of the electorate actually get out to vote for the main political parties, and especially (in the NW of England particularly) Labour.

In other regions of the UK alternative ways to vote strategically against the BNP may apply.

NW Labour fights the BNP
The candidates whom the Labour Party 'slate' (list of candidates) emphasise are Arlene McCarthy, Brian Simpson and Theresa Griffin; the first two have already been MEPs for several years, and Theresa Griffin*, who lives in Merseyside, has also been active in local European politics for a very long time.
[*NB no relation to any other non-Labour candidate with the same surname]

You can check these candidates out, or contact them direct, through the links attached to their names as above.

Theresa Griffin, Brian Simpson, Arlene McCarthy

But whatever you do, it's crucial to realise that your vote can help keep the BNP out.

If you prefer other, non-Labour candidates that's absolutely your democratic choice; but everyone needs to know that not-voting (or indeed voting - however earnestly - for small parties which cannot realistically win a seat) may end up with just the same result as actually voting for the BNP.

For me, having decided my personal politics already, it's straightforward. I am a member of the Labour Party and will vote for its European Parliamentary candidates.

Strategic voting
This is not however a party-political blog, and I have never written a piece just supporting a party line for the sake of it, or asking anyone to vote simply along party political lines.

If you think there are other strategically feasible and decent ways of ensuring the BNP does not blight British politics through gaining a European Parliamentary seat from the NW of England, this space is yours to make the case... and to accept the political debate, as I have done here.

Democracy in action
Caring about democracy means being open about things and exercising the freedom to discuss without fear what you believe in, and why.

Never in modern times has it been more important to do so.

Whatever your mainstream political party of choice, please be sure to exercise your democratic right to vote on 4 June 2009 - and encourage other people, every way you can, to do the same.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


P.S. 8 June 2009

Exactly what we all so much hoped wouldn't happen has become a reality. The BNP NW candidate has gained a seat in the European Parliament.

The final results for the NW of England are:

Seats: 8 (previously, 9)
Turnout: 1,651,825 (31.9%)
Electorate: 5,206,474

Votes for main parties
Conservative: 423,174 (25.6%, up 1.5%) 3 seats (as before)
Labour: 336,831 (20.4%, down 6.9%) 2 seats (3 before, lost 1)
UK Independence Party: 261,740 (15.8%, up 3.7%) 1 seat (none before)
Liberal Democrats: 235,639 (14.3%, down 1.6%) 1 seat (as before)
British National Party: 132,094 (8.0%, up 1.6%) 1 seat (none before)
Green Party: 127,133 (7.7%, up 2.1%) no seats (as before)

To quote Nick Robinson, on his surgically precise BBC Newsblog:

Nick Griffin [British National Party: BNP] is now a Member of the European Parliament even though he won fewer votes than he did five years ago.

That's right, fewer.

In 2004, the BNP in the North West polled 134,959 votes. In 2009, they polled 132,194 [132,094?]. So, why did he win?

In short, because of a collapse in the Labour vote from 576,388 in 2004 to 336,831 in 2009. In Liverpool, Labour's vote dived by 15,000; in Manchester by almost 9,000; whilst in Bury, Rochdale and Stockport, its vote halved.

The switch away from postal votes for all in the last Euro election in the region also led to a fall in turnout.

Thus, the BNP could secure a higher share of the vote whilst getting fewer votes.

.... and this, sadly, is the very thing we most feared (above) might come to pass.


Read more about Political Process And Democracy.

08.11.27 BURA Equality & Diversity Forum, Lord Herman Ouseley A seminar chaired today (Thursday 27 November '08) by Lord Herman Ouseley in London drew a wide range of attendees from across the country. This was the first post-launch meeting of the BURA Equality and Diversity Forum, which will offer a programme of events around equity and effectiveness in regeneration across the business perspective, planning, site assembly, capacity building and much else.

08.11.27 BURA Equality & Diversity Forum, Coin Street, London ~ Sofia Yaqoob & Jonathan Wilson

This seminar, in Coin Street Neighbourhood Centre, London, followed the British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA) Equality and Diversity Forum Launch earlier in the year. The tasks which attendees set themselves this time around included examination of the business case for serious attention to E&D, and a look at the scope and capacity within the regeneration sector to deliver on equity.

An important element of the debate was that it included people with many different experiences and starting points, who together sought to identify a common understanding of effective approaches in regeneration to E&D in all its aspects.

Speakers during the event included Lord Herman Ouseley (conference chair), Paul Taverner of Bevan Brittan (developing E&D in a corporate context), Prof. Erik Bichard of the University of Salford (the E&D business case), John Bell and Paul Drake of ECOTEC (diversity), Sofia Yaqoob of Carnation and Jonathan Wilson of Carey Jones Architects (a case study of development in Bradford), Waqar Hussain (the Blackburn experience) and Michael Ward, Chief Executive of BURA (on ways forward). The conference convenor and rapporteur was Hilary Burrage (BURA Board member and BURA E&D Champion).

Some quotes:
There is a real business case for this issue and a refreshed enthusiasm for inclusivity in regeneration, an appetite for change and a developing sense of purpose. Everyone, from all corners of the social spectrum, can have valid and valuable contributions to make to the make-up and shape of places being created or re-created. That’s not just ensuring each and every community within a community has a proper voice, but also that the workforce that delivers change is properly representative too.

This isn’t just about ensuring regeneration signs up to the E&D agenda, it’s about shaping places that work better.
Lord Herman Ouseley

Taking forward a serious corporate commitment to E&D in my (legal) company has been a very positive experience, which has brought people together in common cause, and has been beneficial to organisational performance. It requires an open mind and perseverance, but it is definitely worth the effort, both because it is the inherently proper thing to do, and because it brings good business outcomes.
Paul Taverner, Bevan Brittan

My research around people with disabilities who wish to work demonstrates the many assumptions we should, actually, not make, about how best to support their moves in this direction. When we provide services for people from a range of backgrounds and experiences we need always to discover from them themselves what is required and how to provide support. From that baseline we can all begin to benefit more fully, economically as well as socially, from the positive outcomes and effects of including everyone in our communities.
Prof. Erik Bichard, University of Salford

The regeneration profession needs to get better at E&D because only then can it understand the main barriers that need to be overcome in order to support individuals living in areas undergoing renewal. The current lack of understanding often results in missed opportunities both in employment into regeneration and in how local services are developed and delivered. Only when you invest in understanding the needs of diverse communities can you ensure services and opportunities are truly inclusive.
John Bell, ECOTEC

The regeneration profession needs to get better at E&D because it is an issue that is rarely properly addressed or fully understood. Whilst it is possible to conduct market research, there is no substitute for real life experience and fully integrating with those who have grown up in the local community.

Though I am of Kashmiri descent, I am principally British, and would like to think that I take the very best of my natural heritage to be an intrinsic and integral part of my British culture.

Some regeneration schemes can further divide communities rather than bring them together. Thus, it is of fundamental importance to provide the correct mix of uses on site to ensure that this does not happen. The LGA reinforces this, stating the need to give communities 'a real stake in the regeneration of their neighbourhoods'. It is our aim to deliver this.
Sofia Yaqoob, Carnation

Leadership is always an issue in delivering E&D in communities. We need to be aware of the nuances of understanding in communities about who is deemed to be entitled to lead, and in what ways. Communities comprise people of all ages, men and women with different backgrounds and expectations, and this diversity must be reflected in the ways we try to work with communities to deliver their requirements.
Waqar Hussain

Regenerators are missing a trick at the moment. With the economic cycle in its current state, observing E&D could be the source of enterprise and creativity that is desperately required to keep regeneration on track. This is just one of the reasons why the BURA board is so passionately behind the E&D agenda, it’s not just about idealism, its about our core business. If you don’t believe me check the Boards of the Fortune 100 and FTSE 100. Those that represent good E&D practice are the strongest performers.

There is a small group of innovators and pioneers already signed up to this issue, but we're also keen to reach everyone else, the others who are just waking up and keen to weave good E&D practice because its good business.

If we as regeneration practitioners neglect E&D, we are simply not doing our job very well, in either the business or the social sense. Attention to E&D is a fundamental part of genuine regeneration. How can a community develop and thrive if it is not fair and inclusive?
Hilary Burrage, BURA Board Director & E&D Champion

As we move beyond the CRE 2008 Report and other recent investigations in regeneration, we must attend to the E&D outcomes of regeneration, as well as to employment practices within the sector. Fair outcomes are required in funding allocations, types of housing and choices of areas for development.

BURA can, and will, work to build good practice in all parts of the sector. We will seek a 'better way of working'. As we talk with our partners and with government we will keep true to our commitment to E&D, and find ways to take it forward.
Michael Ward, BURA Chief Executive

08.11.27 BURA Equality & Diversity Forum, Coin Street, London ~ Lord Herman Ouseley, Paul Drake & HB 08.11.27 BURA Equality & Diversity Forum, Coin Street, London ~ Lord Herman Ouseley, Paul Drake, Waqar Hussain & HB

See more on the British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA) and visit the BURA website; and read about Social Inclusion And Diversity.

For more information on the BURA E&D Forum please contact Michael Ward at BURA

Woman executive red briefcase, pink notebook + accessories The current financial chaos is producing a lot of debate about regulation. On one hand we're told that very tight scrutiny, emboldened by severe legislation, is a must; whilst others say more 'good, moral people' from the City are the answer. Both positions have merit. But urgent action to widen the pool from which Board Directors is drawn is one essential and immediate option, insisting that many more women become directors of the most influential companies.

Few would deny that, as Andrew Phillips said recently in The Guardian, a 'welter of regulation' cannot in and of itself avoid further catastrophe for the Threadneedle Street and City of London and Wall Street.

Of course 'good, moral' people are a pre-requisite of effective reformation of the financial system; and of course this must include people of 'all talents'.

Diversity improves scrutiny
What Lord Phillips might also propose, however, is that none of this is likely to deliver unless the talents involved are those of a truly diverse lot, in background, ethnicity, gender and otherwise.

The best way to secure proper scrutiny is to ensure, however well meaning they might be, that decision-making groups are not also a collection of people with much, beyond the necessary skills and expertise, in common.

Diversity improves business performance too
We already know that diversity at the top makes for successful business. Group members of different sorts, from a variety of backgrounds, aren't an optional extra when it comes to effective group working. They're essential.

And the UK workplace equality legislation to deliver this - applicable as much in the boardroom as on the shopfloor - is already in place.

Read more about Business & Enterprise and about Gender & Women.

Leading by umbrella How do people come to be leaders in their communities? Are they anointed or appointed? Do they take or earn the authority to represent their peers? What are the rationales behind their belief that they should lead? Do others agree? And what are their objectives, and why? It all depends on where you're coming from, and what sort of 'community' it is. So how should those who work in regeneration with communities and their leaders approach this complex and delicate issue?

The answer to these questions is, of course, that there is in fact No One Answer.

People come to be leaders through many different routes. For some authority and legitimacy is always a struggle. For others it just comes with who you are.

Different 'communities' for different purposes
This is a tale of different 'communities' in different places and at different times. Some communities are geographically based, some interest based, some economic, some cultural.

'Communities' can comprise locations defined by their mono-cultural base (whether Protestant, Punjabi or Presbyterian), whilst at the other end of the spectrum some exist only as loosely connected groups of people who enjoy Politics, Portsmouth City or Painting. Leadership in these different communities will obviously not be of just one kind.

Intentions and expected outcomes
The intended outcomes of the leadership role vary. Some people believe they're there to uphold tradition and (in their mind) maintain stability in an unstable world. Others seek to be leaders precisely so they can change things.

Traditional leaders and those (at the opposite end of the spectrum) who are of the 'change the world' tendency often to see their remit as wide. Others have more piece-meal and modest expectations, perhaps to improve things in a specific and direct way.

Authority to lead
The really interesting thing is that traditionalists and revolutionaries alike usually derive their authority from (what they perceive as) universal social values or mores. But those who seek more modest and specific changes tend to legitimise their positions in reasoned ways, perhaps in terms of the avoidance of harm or similar logically justifiable and rational objectives.

There is a chasm between those who exert overall authority as such - whether to maintain the status quo or radically to alter it - and those who seek to manage specific change, which they believe can be demonstrated to be for the better.

And these forms of influence are not randomly distributed. They tend to be associated with differences in community / cultural experience, age, gender and class. One person's assumption of power and influence may well become, without any such overt intention, another person's disempowerment.

Competing beliefs and challenges
Community leadership and wider social interests are sometimes hard to bring together in a world where there are competing beliefs about what legitimate authority in a community might be; and indeed about what constitutes a 'community'.

Here lies one of the biggest challenges for those of us who seek to work with people in their (and our) own localities. Delivering stability and change together is hard to handle well.

In diversity lies strength?
Where the bottom line is overt - in for instance FTSE 100 Board Rooms - the evidence is incontrovertible, that diversity of gender (e.g. The McKinsey Report: Women Matter) and culture enhances good decision-making.

But how can (or 'should') we apply that knowledge in communities where at present the bottom line is not overt (what exactly is being 'lead'?) and is certainly not up for discussion?

Read also
Social Diversity & Inclusion
and
'Workable' Regeneration: Acknowledging Difference To Achieve Social Equity ('Regeneration Rethink')

Hands on keyboard Who inhabits the cybervillage? Mostly it seems younger people, and, in the more technological parts of that so-called village, men. But there are a few self-proclaimed women 'geeks' of a certain age out there too; and some of them are claiming a cyber-space for their own ideas. I don't profess to be a geek; but maybe I match the profile in other ways.

It's interesting that, as we mark the eightieth anniversary in Britain of full female emancipation via the Equal Franchise Act (2 July 1928), the issue of 'older female geeks' seems to be coming to the fore.

In July 1928 women in the U.K. were awarded the vote on the same basis as men. And in the Summer of 2008 it looks like they are to be recognised as enfranchised also as legitimate inhabitants of the blogosphere.

Older female geeks who blog
As Natalie d'Arbeloff of Blaugustine says in her Guardian article of 13 June '08, there aren't many 'older female geeks' as yet, but this species does exist as a measurably sized group. She lists amongst their number Penelope Farmer of Rockpool in the Kitchen, Fran of Sacred Ordinary, Marja-Leena Rathje, Elizabeth Adams of The Cassandra Pages, Tamarika of Mining Nuggets and Rain of Rainy Day Thoughts.

Self-evidently sterling women, all of them; but am I correct in thinking that not one of these writer is actually British-born and still living in the UK? North America features highly in this list; though not Britain. I, being so domiciled, am pondering this....

Geeks or bloggers?
And are all bloggers geeks, I wonder? For me, the interest lies in the writing, in getting one's head around particular or puzzling 'facts', experiences and perceptions, or perhaps placing an engaging (I hope) photograph in a pleasing or interesting way. The technicals are of significance only insofar as I have to do them to achieve what I want - just like driving my car.

The skill in designing my blog has been entirely Nick Prior's, not mine. My role as we develop the website has been merely to explain or think up what features I have a feeling would help, and Nick then interprets them, to deliver something real.

Claiming a blogosphere space
But being a geek (though I'm not even sure Nick's one of those, he's skilled and knowledgeable, not just an excellent technician) isn't what matters. It's surely the ideas which count?

Today I read another Guardian piece, by Cath Elliott, in which she discusses the use older women make of their blogs to look at experiences and perceptions which might otherwise remain unremarked.

Now that I find really fascinating. And I'd like to think in part it's what I do right here.

Read more articles about Hilary's Weblog.

08.05.29a Operation Black Vote Launch Simon Woolley speaks in Liverpool Town Hall 001a.jpg Liverpool's Operation Black Vote programme was launched today in our Town Hall. This ambitious movement intends to establish an emerging generation of politicians of all 'races', cultures and faiths, who have been mentored early in their careers by existing councillors. The event this evening demonstrated that OBV's aim is shared by all our civic leaders, and that they believe they will indeed deliver.

08.05.29a Operation Black Vote  launch Liverpool Town Hall 007a

08.05.29a Operation Black Vote Cllr Anna Rothery 320x300 l 008a 08.05.29a Operation Black Vote: The next generation?   Keziah Makena 010a

08.05.29a Operation Black Vote  Cllrs Anna Rothery & Joe Anderson 011

08.05.29a Operation Black Vote Liverpool Town Hall reception 026a 08.05.29a Operation Black Vote  Janet Robinson & Francine Fernandes 365x385 027a

08.05.29a Operation Black Vote  Lord Mayor Cllr Rotheram & OBV participants 020a


Further information on Operation Black Vote.

Read more:
Social Inclusion & Diversity

Camera & Calendar

08.05.11  pink & black cotton reels  160x98  032a.jpg The Presidential potential of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is great. So how has this embarrassment of riches for Democrats in the USA seemingly become an advantage for John McCain and the Republicans, as the ‘race’ and gender agendas compete for dominance? Do progressive politics in race and gender need to collide?

The current – but perhaps soon to be resolved - contest for the Democratic Presidential nomination has revealed some aspects of the political process usually less visible to outside observers.

To understand what’s happening we probably need to look as closely at the (social) psychology of the evolving situation, as we do at the formal political process.

How did two of the most powerful and internationally visible advocates for equal rights find themselves head to head in the same contest? And what does it tell us about gender, 'race', and age in politics?

The prospect of candidature is daunting
Only the most stout-hearted would ever consider running for Presidential nomination. It’s a hiding to nothing for most contenders, it costs millions of dollars, and it requires vast amounts of personal time, energy, drive and gritty optimism.

So we’re not talking about ‘normal’ people when we consider Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

Testing the water
Sometimes, nonetheless, the time seems right.

For both Clinton and Obama the Bush administration’s record of failure offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Democrats to take the USA and the world by storm.

And for Clinton it represented the culmination – and justification - of a long period of influence on the global stage. She’d planned for several years to become the first ever female World Leader; and her experience gave her huge justification for this ambition.

Complex judgements
Obama’s situation was probably rather more complex. Did his family, worried about his safety, really want him to stand? Would his short time as a Senator be seen as inexperience or as a fresh face? Were race issues going to make things difficult?

But crucially, he will have asked himself, would there ever be a greater opportunity, a more open goal, for whoever was nominated by the Democrats? Best perhaps to put down a marker now....?

It has been said Obama promised his wife he’d only stand once. When could be better for establishing the first black President in office?

Firming the intent
There comes a time for all serious election candidates when they really believe they can win. Surrounded by supporters and campaign workers, they are, however inadvertently, at one remove from the cruel truth that there will be many losers but only one victor.

Presumably this moment came quite early on for Obama. He decided to stand and looks at present as if he will gain the Democratic nomination.

These are very delicate issues, but put bluntly, the contest appears to be developing – as surveys have largely shown – according to the usual lines.

Age, gender or race?
Both candidates have huge appeal to progressive Americans, eager to shrug off the turgid, backward-looking and deeply divisive Bush era. But there are differences not easily dismissed in who the two potential candidates ‘are’.

Clinton is an older (age 60), white woman, inevitably carrying the baggage which decades of deep political engagement bring.

Obama is younger, black and male; and his lack of baggage, because of the good fortune (at 45) of his comparative youth, compensates for his inexperience.

A hierarchy of preference
If things turn out as seems likely we shall have observed again the hierarchies which present in so many aspects of public life.

Given the opportunity to choose between two symbols of progressive - if not leftwing - politics, race is it currently appears perhaps less of an issue (overall?) for the electorate than gender.

Could it be that this consideration in some way enhanced Obama's enthusiasm for standing so relatively early in his political career? (Earlier in his career he reportedly told a male colleague, Jesse Jackson Jnr., that he, Obama, would only contest a Senate seat if the other man did not.)

Discomforting agendas
Many people across the free world - including me - would like to see Clinton and Obama together on the world stage, running side-by-side as Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates. They are as good, in the context of US realpolitik, as it gets.

For some of us there remains nonetheless an unbidden sadness in the realisation that, even now, the odds are apparently stacked against a (any?) woman. More than half the population of the USA is female (an estimated 153 million, of a total population of nearly 302 million - of whom 240 million are 'white'); but there is - unless you consider Chelsea? - no immediately obvious female presidential successor to Hillary Clinton, if or when she pulls out.

Seeing things longer-term
To many younger people it seems Obama looks the more attractive option, for the reasons we have considered above. Some of us who have been involved in the equal rights movement for decades may, however much we genuinely want to see equality in 'race' just as much as we want to see gender, go along with that judgement with a heavy heart.

Perhaps the truth is this: Gender becomes more oppressive for many women as they experience full maturity - it's when hard 'family vs career' choices have to be made that the full force of being biologically female hits one. (And how many women under, say, 35 are ever going to run for president?)

On the other hand, for people of 'minority' race, especially if they're educated men, maybe the oppression lessens a little as maturity approaches and one's destiny is more one's own? I would like to think so, anyway - and would be interested to learn more from those who can speak directly about this.

Squaring the circle
These are delicate and difficult matters to discuss.

We are all a product of our individual genetic makeup, and of our socio-economic background, age and culture. No-one is immune from these influences; but everyone is fundamentally entitled to shape and take charge of their own way in life. To enable this to happen requires a very firm commitment, embedded at every level of society, to respect for equality and diversity.

To repeat: Progressives are seemingly spoilt for choice. Both Clinton and Obama are hugely refreshing and talented alternatives to the usual presidential offerings. Either would serve the equality and diversity agenda - so very essential for our future well-being and sustainability - really well.

A step forward or a step back?
But some of us, in spite of our earnest and well-meaning selves, are a bit weary of being the majority which is always and apparently irredeemably second in the race. Especially when, as is the truth for Hillary Clinton, we were there first.

How can feminists - advocates of a progressive perspective which at its best will always seek equality for everyone, female and male, black and white, aged and youthful - cope with the evidence apparently emerging that voters still prefer not to select a woman, if other progressive choices are available? (And, probably, those other candidates have recognised, and can benefit from, this usually unexamined preference...)

As Marie Cocco of the Washington Post puts it, we are now facing the 'Not Clinton' Excuse - and that could put things back a very long time.

A challenge Obama must resolve
Somehow the putative President Obama must show this is a challenge to his progressive credentials, and to the inner feelings of many disappointed women who in other respects share his progressive position, which he understands and can accommode.

Perhaps in the current situation the best we can hope for immediately is that Hillary Clinton is acknowledged by Barack Obama in some seriously meaningful way.

The worst possibility is that an extended and exhausting Clinton-Obama contest gives John McCain the opportunity he seeks to slip through the middle and retain the Presidency for the Republicans later this year.


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Social Inclusion & Diversity
Gender & Women.

Pedestrians, inner ring road & railway 004a.jpg Regeneration is a crowded field. It’s the market place to resolve the competing demands of social equity indicators as varied as joblessness, family health, carbon footprint, religious belief and housing. But it's obvious something isn't gelling in the way regeneration 'works'. Could that something be the almost gratuitous neglect of experiential equality and diversity?
BURA, the British Urban Regeneration Association, is squaring up to this fundamental challenge.

Discuss equality and diversity issues with any group of regeneration practitioners, and just one of two responses is likely.

Some respond immediately: Yes, critical for everyone; what took you so long?

For others, the feeling seems to be more : Great idea, but not much to do with me.

So where’s the common ground?

Balancing strategy and everyday reality
How can we balance large-scale strategies for a sustainable economy with the immediate human reality that, as an example, women born in Pakistan now living in Britain have twice the U.K. average risk that their babies will die before age one?

The Board of BURA, the British Urban Regeneration Association, has during the past year thought hard about where in all this some commonality might lie, and what that means for the future. Whether as a practitioner, a client or recipient of regenerational endeavours, an agent for economic development, or a policy maker seeking sustainable futures for us all, questions of social equity matter a lot.

But the case for equality and diversity is easier for practitioners and decision-makers to see in some parts of regeneration than others.

Large-scale and micro impacts
No-one doubts, for instance, that new roads and other infrastructure can attract businesses and enhance employment opportunities for disadvantaged areas.

Some will acknowledge the physical isolation which new highways may impose on those without transport, now perhaps cut off from their families, friends and local amenities.

Almost no-one considers how regeneration might reduce the tragic personal realities behind high infant death rates in poor or ‘deprived’ communities.

Differential impacts
The point is that these impacts are differential. The elderly or disabled, mothers and young children, people of minority ethnic heritage: overall the experience of people in these groups is more community disadvantage and fewer formal resources to overcome this disadvantage.

But for each ‘group’, the tipping points are different.

The scope for examination of differential equality and diversity impacts – of infrastructural arrangements, of process, of capacity building and of everything else to do with regeneration - is enormous, and would go quite a way towards reducing unintended consequences and even greater serendipitous disadvantage for some people.

This work has hardly begun, but it is I believe a basic requirement and tool for making progress towards genuinely remediated and sustainable communities.

One size does not fit all
It is obvious that currently something isn’t gelling in the way that regeneration ‘works’. That something, to my mind, is the almost gratuitous neglect of difference. However one looks at it, one size simply does not fit all in the greater regenerational scheme of things.

But if you zoomed in from outer space, you’d be forced to the conclusion that one size does in fact fit almost all when it comes to senior decision-makers and influencers. There are amongst leaders in regeneration some women, a few non-white faces, and perhaps even smaller numbers of influencers with personal experience of, say, disability; but not many.

This self-evident fact has, of course, been a matter of deep concern to those in the regeneration sector over the past few months.

Meeting social equity requirements - or not
In the final three reports it published before its amalgamation last September into the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) demonstrated very clearly that regeneration bodies at every level, including 15 Whitehall departments, are failing to meet their race relations obligations. They also showed very compellingly that people from ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty, experience poor health, and encounter the criminal justice system.

Causal factors cited as underlying the CRE’s findings encompass most of what regeneration is supposed to do well. Failures of leadership, impact assessment, legal framework and recruitment are all lamented in the reports.

And we can add, alongside the CRE’s analysis, inequalities arising from gender, belief and other factors such as disability, as well as the wider issue of the invisibility and powerlessness of people of all kinds who are on low incomes – who, as it happens, are the main ‘recipients’ (perhaps we should call them ‘clients’?) of regeneration.

Evident disparities
There is a huge disparity here. Look round pretty well any significant regeneration-facing board room or policy think-tank, and it’s apparent that the majority of those wielding influence (on behalf, we should note, of people whose communities are to be ‘regenerated’) are comfortably-off, able bodied, white men.

In this respect, as everyone involved freely admits, the BURA Board fits the mould. Each BURA (elected) Director brings something special to the table; but few of them can offer at first hand a personal perspective divergent from the stereotype. We have therefore decided, unanimously, to address head-on this increasingly serious challenge to our capacity to deliver as leaders in regeneration.

Business benefits
But the BURA Board focus on equality and diversity, whilst driven primarily by the impetus to uphold best practice in regeneration, is not entirely altruistic. This is also good for business.

There is plenty of evidence from well-grounded research that sharing different understandings of any complex situation, right up to and including at Board level, brings benefit all round – including to the bottom line.

Our resolve to implement equality and diversity good practice throughout BURA has required that we look anew at how we function. The BURA Board recognises that we will need to be receptive to new ideas, willing to change things where needs be, and transparent in our own processes and activities.

The BURA programme for action
The BURA action plan, launched in Westminster on 20 February '08, is therefore to:
· conduct an equality and diversity audit of all aspects (including Board membership) of our organisation’s structure and business, and to publish our outline findings and plan for action on our website;
· monitor and report on our progress towards equality and diversity;
· dedicate a part of the BURA website to offering up-to-date information on equality and diversity matters, in a format freely accessible to everyone;
· develop our (also open) Regeneration Equality and Diversity Network, launched in February this year (2008), to encourage very necessary debate and the exchange of good practice;
· appoint from amongst elected Non-Executive Directors a BURA Equality and Diversity Champion (me), to ensure a continued focus on the issues.

In all these ways - developing inclusive partnerships at every level from local to governmental to international, supporting new initiatives and research of all sorts, keeping the equality and diversity agenda in the spotlight - we hope to move regeneration beyond its current boundaries, towards a place from which we can begin to establish not ‘just’ remediation of poor physical and human environments, but rather true and responsive sustainability.

Regeneration is complex
Regeneration is more than construction, development or even planning; it has to address for instance the alarming recent finding by New Start that sometimes ‘race’ concerns are focused more on fear, than on entitlement or social equity.

Delivery of our ambition to achieve genuine best practice will require the courage to move beyond current and largely unperceived hierarchies of inequality and diversity – not ‘just’ race, but gender / sexuality too; not ‘just’ faith / belief, but also disability - towards a framework which encompasses the challenging complexities of the world as people actually experience it.

No comfort zones
There can be no comfort zones in this enterprise. Acknowledging stark contemporary truths and painful past failures is essential if we are to succeed.

The purpose of regeneration is not to make practitioners feel good, it is ultimately, rather, to do ourselves out of a job; to improve, sustainably, the lives of people who are often neither powerful nor visible in the existing wider scheme of things.

Moving from piecemeal regeneration to sustainable futures makes two demands of us: that we see clearly where we all are now; and that we ascertain properly where the people of all sorts on whose behalf we are delivering regeneration would wish to be.

Multiple aspects of diversity
When we can balance constructively, say, the carbon footprint concerns of a businessman in Cheltenham, and the ambition to influence childcare arrangements of an Asian heritage woman in Bury, we shall be getting somewhere.

Diversity in its many manifestations – age, belief, (dis)ability, gender, race or whatever - is part of the human condition.

Consistent focus on the many factors underpinning that condition would be a powerful impetus towards sustainability. It would also be also a huge professional challenge.

Taking the lead as regenerators
That’s why we as regeneration leaders and practitioners must make equality and diversity a critically central theme, both within our own organisations and in the services which we deliver.

And it’s why we must start to do this right now.

We hope you will want to join us on our journey.

A version of this article was published as Regeneration re-think in Public Service Review: Transport, Local Government and the Regions, issue 12, Spring 2008.
Hilary Burrage is a Director of BURA, the British Urban Regeneration Association.

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Roadworks & people 79x85 054a.jpg If anything belongs to ‘the people’, it is surely the streets where we live and work. Streets are usually owned by the public authorities who exist to serve our interests. But where are the civic procedures to reflect this common ownership in renewing or developing the public realm? And who and where are the ‘communities’ which must be consulted?

I recently contributed to a masterclass on community engagement in development of the public realm.

The scope for discussion was wide. ‘Public realm' can be streets, highways, open spaces, parks, brownfield sites and even waterways and ponds. Where does one start? And who is entitled to have a say?

Origins and ideas
Public realm works often start from a plan by the authorities to renew or regenerate an area of deprivation or poor housing, or perhaps because a new system of roads and highways is about to be constructed.

Sometimes, however, the initiative comes from a group of interested or concerned ‘community stakeholders’ – perhaps people who live or work in the area, or people who have a concern for the environment (in whatever guise) or, for instance, conservation and heritage.

Where are the place-makers?
All these are legitimate origins, but they are different. What happens next however tends to be more monochrome, more ‘standard issue’.

The idea of place-making seems over time to have been mislaid.

Legitimacy and control
If a proposal to improve the public realm is integral to a wider regeneration programme, the way ahead is clear: community consultation is the next step.

But who is held to comprise ‘the community’ will often be determined largely by those formally 'in charge' of the overall developments, rather than by that community (or communities?) itself.

Physical ownership or social stakehold?
The temptation to take the easy route, to see the public realm as simply physical space, is great. If it's that, the relevant authorities can just get on with it, consulting along the way about how members of the public would like their pavements, bins or street lamps to look. (See e.g. an example of 'another' Liverpool, looking at another way to consider 'place making' and 'liveability'....)

But this is an dreadful waste of an opportunity for engagement between civic officials and those who pay them. How much better to work towards wide involvement of the people who live and work on those streets, even if this does take more time and effort.

'Community' voices
Communities do not comprise just one sort of person - there are many voices which must be heard - but if we want people to come together for the common good, developing a shared sense of place is an excellent starting point.

We need then to begin by recognising whilst physical location is a given, the variety of people and interests which comprise meaningful stakehold is large.

New skills for new challenges
Involving the general public as stakeholders in their localities is still an emerging art.

Those who currently have the knowledge and experience to implement improvements to the public realm are perhaps unlikely, without stepping outside their formal roles, or perhaps further training, to be the best people also to engage communities to the extent which is required.

'Translating' knowledge and skills
Here, yet again, is an instance of the need for 'translation' in delivery between professional knowledge and the skills required to reach deep into often - though not always - disadvantaged communities.

The public realm is exactly what it says it is - the place where, ideally, we all encounter each other, safely, comfortably and constructively.

Getting everyone involved
Perhaps the move towards Local / Multi Area Agreements (LAAs and MLAs) and regular Your Community Matters-style events will help to encourage meaningful engagement for the future.

Whatever, the challenge is to make the public realm everywhere a place where everyone really can feel they are a part of the action.

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