London is one of the most diverse cities on earth, in terms of ethnicity and of religion. That’s one reason community organising is such a valuable practice – as David Barclay has argued, if we are going to build relationships across deep difference, we need to first build “political friendships” on issues of common concern.
Community Organising in so many different cultures and communities creates some exciting international opportunities. When people from various diaspora communities encounter the practice, a question often asked is: “what might this have to offer in our home country?”
Over the last few years, Citizens UK and CTC have been exploring the potential of these international relationships. It is a two-way piece of learning. The experience of organising in the UK may indeed have something to offer in other contexts, but organising in those contexts can also inform and change the way organising is done (especially, but not only, in diaspora communities) here in London.
Back in 2014, I wrote about one attempt to do this: the work Joy and Daniel Lam have been doing in Hong Kong, after several years of organising in the Chinese community in London. CTC has been involved in supporting this exploration. In particular, we have been training youth workers – first at the Christian Family Centre in 2014, and then in 2015 at the Hong Kong Council of Social Service (with workers from a wide range of institutions).
I spent much of January back in Hong Kong, and it has been really encouraging to hear how this training is taking root. An action learning community has been established, and three teams of youth workers are applying the practices of organising to their work in different neighbourhoods in Hong Kong – alongside the work of Daniel and Joy Lam to set up “HK Citizens” as the city’s broad-based organising alliance.
As well as continuing to support and pray for this exciting work in Hong Kong, CTC will be thinking about ways in which this developing alliance can help us to organise more effectively in the Chinese community in London, and across the UK.