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New forms of urban politics

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The City Centre is proud to be working with London Citizens, a broad based alliance of something like 80 different community-based organisations including faith groups, trade union branches, schools, student unions and community centres across London. The alliance seeks to re-engage people in political life by campaigning over common concerns. The School of Geography at Queen Mary is the first University Department to join the organisation and this is shaping both research and teaching. For more information about London Citizens, see: www.londoncitizens.org.uk.

London Citizens Assembly

1. Research into London Citizens and the Living Wage Campaign
This ESRC-funded project is called Work, identity and new forms of political mobilisation and it is part of the Identities Programme [new window] established by the ESRC. The research uses London Citizen’s living wage campaign as a case study through which to examine the ways in which low paid service work shapes an individual’s identity and, in conjunction with other axes of their identity such as ethnicity, gender, faith, age and past experience, can propel them into political action. The research also explores the ways in which the broad-based coalition behind the living wage campaign brings organisations based on very different identities (such as faith, labour and education) together to create a shared agenda for progressive change in London. More information about this work is available on the project website, see www.geog.qmul.ac.uk/livingwage/ See also Professor Jane Wills’s webpage.

2. Geographical research in practice
In the second year undergraduates studying human geography all take a course in research skills. Under the auspices of the City Centre, we are developing collaborative relationships between these students and LC member communities. The students work in teams and conduct an interview with representatives from one of the 65 LC institutions early in their second year. They then go on to conduct a small project that is useful for the institution (such as doing one-to-one interviews with young people in a church about their needs; conducting a questionnaire survey of union members about the bargaining agenda etc). They are supported in this through weekly lectures and tutorials and then present their research findings in a report at the end of semester one. They also make a short presentation about their work to the School. During this process, the LC partners will be asked about their needs for a more sustained research project that might be conducted as a dissertation by an undergraduate in the School.

3. MA Community Organising
Community organising is about bringing people together and empowering them to achieve change through political action. By using this approach communities come together to compel public authorities and businesses to respond to the needs of ordinary people. Developing from our links with London Citizens and our research on these themes, we founded the first postgraduate programme in this field in the UK. This provides an advanced understanding of the theory, history and practice of community organising in the wider context of contemporary social, political and economic change. Among the programme’s features are its distinctive combination of academic study with five months hands-on experience as a community organizer with Citizens UK (with an option for those sponsored to take the programme to conduct the placement with their employer, with additional mentoring from Citizens UK). This provides the intellectual and practical training that postgraduate students require to work as a community organiser, or in a related field. At a broader level the programme is also designed to strengthen the cadre of community organisers being developed in the UK, through an ongoing partnership with Citizens UK. For further information see the programme webpage.

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