Since 2023, as part of our work in West Yorkshire, The Jo Cox Foundation team have been part of a partnership research project with Kirklees Council and the University of Huddersfield called ‘Living in Batley and Heckmondwike.’ The research has now concluded and the academic team involved at The University of Huddersfield are compiling the final report, which will be shared in spring 2024.
One of the aims of this research project was to:
Build on insights from existing local CLiK (Current Living in Kirklees) data to investigate perceptions and experiences within communities of the research’s key themes: local belonging; contact across lines of difference; participation and loneliness.
People live through change: they see industries rise and fall, communities grow and diversify, shops swap hands, and street landscapes alter. It makes local people best placed to identify what their areas need and inform positive transformative change in their communities. Psychogeography walks, one-to-one conversations, and small group interviews are just some of the methodologies that were used in the research to gather many different views, opinions and experiences.
At The Jo Cox Foundation, fostering belonging and understanding how belonging affects people is crucial to our work, especially in Yorkshire. It’s one of the reasons we held a ‘Community Coffee and Lunch’ event in summer 2023 to bring together local people, community groups, volunteers, and third sector organisations. We invited and hosted people from across Kirklees to hear about how they live, experience and think of the local area and areas they grew up in.
Our Community Coffee and Lunch aimed to provide a safe and inclusive space to enable a diverse group of participants to contribute to this research and make their voices heard.
HOW WAS YOUR JOURNEY TO SCHOOL?
Our Community Coffee and Lunch took place in Brimer Hall, Batley. Participants explored their views of the local area and learned about the Great Get Together and the Connection Coalition.
We started the day by facilitating conversations in small, multigenerational groups in which community members considered their experiences of living in and visiting Batley.
Participants began with a simple question: ‘how was your journey to school?’ For some, it was a recent memory, and for others, it was a long trek into the past. But, it formed an instant connection across the generations, sparking vibrant conversations about how the area had changed.
Various topics were covered, such as where participants felt they belonged, where they might recommend a visiting friend go or avoid, and their barriers to participating in their local community.
Nostalgia ran high, with the downfall of the local textile industry and town centre often mentioned. So was the recent rebirth of the town and the influx of investment it has received, powered in part by the local community.
In addition to the past and present, the future was up for debate, with conversations around what Batley could be. Participants went so far as to suggest that today’s kids would look back with sentimental longing on their favourite dessert place instead of the humming cloth mills.
WHAT DO WE HAVE IN COMMON?
Our discussions led to exploring the Great Get Together, The Jo Cox Foundation’s summer campaign. Inspired by Jo Cox MP, it brings together communities to celebrate what we have in common and our fantastically diverse country. It rejects those forces seeking to divide us and brings together the whole community.
James, our Great Get Together Campaign Manager, led activities to find what people had in common, such as a favourite movie, a love of sweet and salty popcorn, and a childhood obsession with light-up shoes.
We then went on to think about the type of Great Get Together events the group would want to do or participate in. There was an eclectic array of suggestions, from People Libraries to treasure hunts and shanty singing. Some of these suggestions even became a reality, with Batley Parish holding an Afternoon Strawberry Tea and Wildlife Watch for the Great Get Together weekend in June 2023.
GOT IT, WANT IT?
Finally, before we broke for lunch, we heard about the Connection Coalition – a UK-wide network of members working to address disconnection, loneliness and social isolation in our communities.
Initially set up by The Jo Cox Foundation to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, it now has over 600 members. They range from large national organisations to small, volunteer-led groups supporting their local neighbourhoods.
Participants learned about the work of the Connection Coalition, including the monthly Informal Get Together, which provides a space for connection and peer support.
They had the opportunity to network, connect, and discuss how they could share resources and ideas through a ‘Got it, Want it’ activity.
The idea embodies one of our core Jo Cox Foundation values of working collaboratively. For every group that has something, another group needs it. By sharing resources, we can work together to grow and support people in our communities and do more with what we have.
FACILITATING COMMUNITY-LED ACTION
At The Jo Cox Foundation, we believe in a kinder, fairer world where everyone feels like they belong. This sense of belonging is essential to our daily lives. It’s a powerful emotional need that bridges social gaps, nurturing cohesive and inclusive communities.
In our Community Coffee and Lunch, we received a wealth of views, feelings, and experiences about Living in Batley and Spen. We saw people connect with one another and Jo Cox’s timeless message that “We have more in common than that which divides us”. We found people wanting to unite their community, improve their spaces, and create a place where everyone feels like they belong.
Through our conversations, the potential people have to make positive changes in their places and spaces shone through. Their valuable contributions will go on to aid our future work, with the full findings of the research shared soon by the University of Huddersfield.
Our work in West Yorkshire has always revolved around planning and delivering community-led cohesion projects. We understand our role in working with communities to facilitate, enable, and strengthen community-led action and engagement to achieve positive change.
That’s why we’re always open to new partnerships, ideas, and feedback on our projects. Get in touch by emailing [email protected]