Fostering Belonging across West Yorkshire: Our Yorkshire Programme
“I am Batley and Spen born and bred and I could not be prouder of that.”
- Jo Cox
As a humanitarian and a politician, Jo Cox’s career took her around the world, yet her sense of belonging and her identity were always firmly rooted in Yorkshire. Many of the issues Jo fought for as a politician were informed by her experiences at home; it was while canvassing in Batley and Spen that Jo came to understand the extent of the UK’s loneliness problem, and by becoming so involved in the community that she came to appreciate how much common ground the people here share.
For the past five years, our Yorkshire team have been building a legacy for Jo that carries forward the passion and care she held for the people of Batley and Spen, and wider West Yorkshire. We’ve created spaces for people to connect across lines of difference, supported vulnerable people throughout the pandemic, and grown an incredible network of partners and supporters who share our vision for less isolated, better connected northern communities.
As we look to the next five years, our Yorkshire programme will be at the very heart of the Foundation’s work to build stronger communities where everyone has a sense of belonging.
The focus of this work is across three areas: Batley and Spen, Kirklees and wider West Yorkshire. In Batley and Spen, we will work with the community from beginning to end on projects that foster cohesion, and bring people together to improve their local area. This builds on the success of our previous programmes, including last year’s National Lottery funded Community Makes Us project.
Across Kirklees, we’ll continue to grow an alliance of organisations from all sectors who are committed to fostering social connectedness. This builds on our work through the Tackling Loneliness in Kirklees conference and Loneliness Steering Group. We’ll continue to work with partners on innovative new research and ensure that our national influencing work is informed by the local picture.
Throughout West Yorkshire, we’ll work to increase the positive impact of our Great Get Together campaigns. Over the past five years, we’ve seen some of the most creative and ambitious Great Get Together events take place across the county, from Ilkley to Huddersfield, not to mention those across Batley and Spen, spearheaded by the local More in Common group. We’ll work with organisers across West Yorkshire to increase the impact of their events, and support them to join the More in Common Network.
To guide us on the way, we’ve developed a set of principles that put Jo’s spirit at the heart of everything we do in Yorkshire.
We act as enablers and facilitators
We will make sure our own work supports and enhances the wonderful community initiatives already taking place across the region, and genuinely enables local people to take action.
We’re always in dialogue with the community
Jo was well-known across her diverse constituency, with a broad network of supporters and ‘critical friends.’ We want our approach to match this so that, by always being in dialogue with the community, our projects reflect its evolving needs.
We maximise impact by bringing local and national together
We will make the most of our local and national platforms to make sure northern voices are heard on the issues we’re campaigning for, and that, when it comes to belonging, the experiences of people in Batley and Spen are fully understood where it counts.
We strategise for the long-term
Building cohesion and overcoming loneliness are ambitious goals that require long-term effort. In many areas of her work, Jo demonstrated her long-sightedness and head for strategy. We’re taking inspiration from Jo to work strategically towards an ambitious vision.
We’re courageous in taking the first step
There’s plenty of room for new ideas and brave new ways of working to tackle some of the barriers to belonging that we know exist in our communities. We’re keeping a sense of excitement and an open mind about what might be possible if we dare to be the first to try a new approach.
These principles are to help keep ourselves in check, but we also want them to be a basis for conversation. We’d love to hear your thoughts and experience of living by similar principles in your own work!
So what next? Our next steps are to develop a new project that will build on our work in Batley and Spen to foster belonging. We’re reaching out to partners, supporters and new friends across the area to help us to shape new ideas. We’re holding a community workshop on Thursday 9th December in Batley. Please do get in touch if you’d like to get involved!
In the meantime, we’d love to hear your thoughts, questions and reflections on how we can work together to build communities across West Yorkshire where everyone has a sense of belonging and where we recognise, like Jo did, that we have more in common than that which divides us.
- Emily Danby, Head of Yorkshire Programmes