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Helping the black community help itself

TAKING THE LEAD: The leaders of nine groups that took part in the Council of Leaders in June. Dr Dwain Neil (far right), Karl Murray (fourth from left), Rudi Page (fifth from left) and Professor Trevor Williams (sixth from left)

A GROUP of professionals who form an entity called the Council of Leaders (COL) has launched a new index to measure the level of responsibility being taken by Britain’s black community.

The COLL Index, published by the COL Leaders Consultancy (CLC), brings together vital components of government data with the voices of ‘authentic’ African and African Caribbean individuals.

It covers nine areas: Community and Cultural Esteem, Leadership Contribution, Education, Financial, Housing, Social Skills (of young people), Criminal Justice (CJS) & Social Care, Health and Well Being and Political Representation.

The report shows the distance travelled by the black British community over almost seven decades and describes the journey which lies ahead in the coming decades.

The Council of Leaders within the British Black Community – the groups’ full title – was formed in 2014.

“The COLL Index is ultimately about kick-starting a conversation within the British Black Community designed to help it take more responsibility for itself,” said Dr Dwain Neil, one of the report’s three authors, alongside Karl Murray and Rudi Page.

Neil is also chairman of the Reach Society, a charity that aims to guide young black people from education to professional careers.


The two-page report identified primary areas of high achievement within the black community, as home ownership and health and wellbeing.

Social skills, disproportionately high numbers within the criminal justice system (CJS) and political representation were singled out as areas of poor performance.

However, Dr Robin Walker, an author and teacher with the Croydon Supplementary Education Project (CSEP), argued that finance and housing were the biggest problems facing the black community today.

Despite the difference in opinion both men agree with the essential need to spread the message of ‘taking responsibility’.

“The biggest problem that the black community has is that it doesn’t have any money,” said Walker. “Adults have to take responsibility for the economic development in the black community, it doesn’t start from the youth.”

He continued: “You need to teach people about black culture and to pay for it that has to come from black people's entrepreneurship. We have to spread the knowledge of entrepreneurship instead of relying on people outside the community for income which puts the [Black British community] in a weak position.”
Breaking down the difference between self-esteem and cultural esteem, Walker describes the two as being dissimilar concepts.
Defining culture as “what the average person thinks of their race” and self-esteem as “what the average person thinks of themselves” he argues that the people's idea of the black race is ultimately what they’ve been taught to think about it.
“Only if someone has a full grounding in black history and therefore know just what it is that they should be proud of as black people can they then have a basis of having high cultural esteem,” he concluded.
Sharing the importance of materialising the notions of cultural esteem over self-esteem and taking a holistic approach focusing on all areas in the index, both Neil and Walker place emphasis on the importance of embracing education, entrepreneurship, self-control, community consciousness and above all taking responsibility for ‘our affairs’.
“Any community that does not generate his own funds is not in control of its affairs,” said Neil.
Geared towards groups serving the Black British community, the Council of Leaders aims to promote strategic thinking and inspire pro-activity, recognising the importance of self-help in overcoming obstacles and helping its community in becoming more robust and resilient.
Organisations such as Reach Society, RAFFA and CASP (Camberwell After School Project) are now actively developing hubs for the community – one of the report’s key recommendations for success.
RAFFA and CASP have a desire to tackle family and children, housing, education and employment issues for mothers who are getting back into work while the Reach Society focuses on the business and employment hub.
Highlighting the rationale behind the hub projects as being that of creating solutions for areas of need, Neil said: “They are much more than just helping and endorsing entrepreneurship they are about making it easy to connect the experts in the community to the many areas of need and helping to discover and develop solutions.”
Community development is routinely invoked as a practical solution to tackle a myriad of social problems and the proposed use of hubs is a mechanism for doing this.
The introduction of COLL index has enabled this by way of tracking the movement in the level of responsibility being taken by the community to handle its affairs.
Eighty per cent of the participants who took part in the COLL research were professionals and business owners and a small percentage were students over the age of 18.
The CLC research team aims to publish the COLL index annually mid-year and are currently collecting data in preparation for 2016.

The executive summary report of the 2015 COLL index can be found on the Reach Society’s website

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