ICLS 2014 Bradford Seminar

The Seminar took place at the Craiglands Hotel, Ilkley (Bradford) from 2 to 5 June 2014 and was facilitated by Selina Ullah and Guido Orlandini.  The seminar was financially supported by the European Commission and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The Seminar centred on the development of participant’s potential as community leaders and  builders of social cohesion and took place in the  framework of the ICLS’s activities in favour of Active European Citizenship.

Day 1

During the introduction, Guido Orlandini gave participants  a presentation of the ICLS, as a process of personal and mutual discovery, aiming to improve individuals’ capacity to act in favour of more cohesive societies, by making them aware of their potential, abilities and role as actors of civic diplomacy.

Mr Richard CORBETT, MEP, greeted participants, recalled that he had been among the initial supporters of the ICLS as from its inception in 2001,  and gave an overview of the current European political situation and recent electoral developments, which he felt needed to be countered by positive action in favour of the development of a sense of shared citizenship and destiny. He recalled the essential role the EU had had maintaining peace in Europe, facilitating exchanges and the interdependence between European countries, and the net benefits for the United Kingdom of remaining a part of what had certainly been the greatest political project of the 20th Century.

The focus of the first day’s discussions, which were facilitated by Ms Helena SHARPSTONE,  was on personal leadership abilities and their development, in order to put them to work for the benefit of community cohesion and the prevention of conflict.

Ms SHARPSTONE explained that it had been shown that 87% of disagreements are due to inadequate communication, and introduced the Support and Challenge model as a means of analysing people’s reactions to challenges and the support needed for them to be able to do so with confidence. She also introduced a Preferences and Colour framework, developed to focus on individual’s personalities and their interaction, and the way they result in personal Profiles (Cool Blue, Earth Green, Sunshine Yellow, Fiery Red) which can be analysed and taken into account when considering the most appropriate role for individuals, so as to make the best use of their personal inclinations.

Though a series of individual and group activities, participants were helped to identify their own personal profile, which was then presented to them in detail in an individual analysis carried out on the basis of the questionnaire each had filled in before attending the seminar. This was generally appreciated and felt to be a surprisingly accurate presentation of each person’s profile, strengths and weaknesses, which could prove of great help in reflecting on their role, capacities and inclination and areas of further personal development.

In the  evening, participants received a visit by Mr Ralph BERRY, of Bradford City Council, who highlighted the importance of dialogue exercises such as the ICLS, and the need to train and develop a “new” generation of young leaders able to confront the difficult challenges facing Bradford and its inhabitants. He hoped that joint  action between the Council and ICLS could result in just such training  in coming months.

Day 2

Guido ORLANDINI gave a presentation highlighting the difference between the concept of Culture and the practice of intercultural dialogue and cooperation, which was followed by three expert practitioners introducing  the subject of values in a Christian, Muslim, and Humanist perspective.

Bishop Tom BUTLER  gave an overview of the main  points of Christian doctrine, including the nature of the Trinity, the role of the Church in modern society and its response to some of the more controversial subjects troubling individual consciences today. He reminded participants that the focus of Christianity is on the value of each individual and that for Christians a just life is the result of the grace of God, as Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He also stressed that the objective of  Christianity is always to include rather than exclude, and that while individual choices might at times conflict with doctrine and practice, nevertheless this should not imply automatic exclusion of these persons from contact with the congregation  and the Church, which remains the Church of the whole nation.

Dr Ahsham ALI  presented the fundamental tenements of Muslim faith,  from the preservation of faith to that of justice, through freedom of religion, the preservation of life and the mind, of wealth and lineage, honour and dignity. He stressed how  they included the high value placed on human life and on the equal value of individuals, based on the Holy Quran, and  how they implied striving to lead a life which was in harmony with the basic principles of honesty, sincerity and compassion. 

Mr   Dermot BOLTON, speaking of humanist values, mentioned the non-religious nature of humanism, its focus on rationalism and the scientific method, on secularism    and the need to live a life guided by ethics and a just behaviour He showed a series of films highlighting these principles  and explained how their universal nature fundamentally applied to our common traits as human beings irrespective of our personal background.

A world café then followed, during which the lecturers held more in-depth conversations which smaller groups of participants, so as to be able to more deeply analyse specific aspects of interest to alumni.

Professor Paul ROGERS,  over the following  three hours gave participants an overview of conflict in the geopolitical sense, in a wide survey of situations ranging from 1945 to 2045, including the war in IRAQ, the Cold War and New American Century doctrine. He pointed out that by and large military intervention although implying colossal costs had failed in its objectives, and that the resources used could more usefully have been put to work in a different and more productive way through cooperation. Stressing his belief that the 1945-2045 period will prove to be one of the most intense and significant in human history, he first recalled the transition from the Revolution of rising expectations of the 1980s’ to that of Frustrated expectations of today, due to rising inequality, environmental constraints, and the will of rich countries to maintain the statu quo. He then gave an overview of the potential risks facing humanity in coming years through rising climate disruption, although he felt confident that with ingenuity and cooperation these could ultimately be overcome.

Day 3

The day was entirely devoted to the Bradford scene and situations, with participants taking part in  a SWOT analysis of the City and its multicultural population. The results of the exercise were that Bradford while facing a difficult situation nevertheless could count on a number of valuable assets, including the youth of its citizens, their diversity, and their attachment to the city and its region. A number of weaknesses were identified, and in particular the lack of innovative policies allowing to tackle the new situation and plan for a different and more prosperous future.

Mr Mark CLAYTON, of Bradford City Council strategy support service gave a presentation of the evolution of Bradford through the past 200 years, and its transformation from an economic powerhouse built around the mills into a city of diversity seeking to regain its past prosperity. He also presented the results of the 2011 census, which put the Bradford population at over 520,000, with 64% white British, 20% of Pakistani origin, 3% Indian, 2% Bangladeshi, 2% Black and many smaller groups. He stressed that public authorities are aware of the difficulties and are committed to overcoming them, with the difficulty being to choose the most effective ways of doing so, and the most appropriate means of developing the indispensable cooperation between civil society and elected officialdom.

Ms Jamie MARTIN, Cultural Attaché at the American Embassy in London, and Ms Alaine FRENCH, Secretary of the Political Section of the Embassy, took questions from participants concerning the role of the United States in the current political and economic framework, giving details of the US cultural cooperation programmes, commenting on the role of the USA in Africa and Asia,  and the need in the long run to shift the focus of development assistance from Aid to Trade.

Professor Jenny PEARCE held the afternoon sessions of the seminar, in which she analysed the root causes of conflict and violence, which stem from inequality more than poverty and from a feeling of powerlessness, in turn generated by loss of employment, loss of dignity, loss of social standing, and how this can provoke explosions of violent frustration of a new Precariat, which amounted to a growing numer of persons in a condition of being part of the discarded population.. 

In the ample debate which ensued, all participants presented their views of power, authoritarianism, freedom of expression and individual and collective rights, and the need to interconnect power, conflict and opportunities for social development.

Day 4

The fourth day of the seminar was entirely given over to an analysis of the Media, their role in shaping public opinion and how to relate with them. Ms Sue CARO, past Senior Diversity Manager at the BBC, gave participants an overview of the role of the media in today’s society, and the need for them to maintain a strict moral integrity, avoiding the buildup of stories concerning certain specific aspects of society with a view to catching the eye of public opinion, if they were to avoid manipulating it. 

She then led a series of exercises and gave detailed pointers on how to draw up a press release and getting attention from the media, focussing in particular on the need to be reactive when being interviewed, the importance of the correct choice of spokesperson for organizations, the importance of being well prepared concerning the content and foreseeable duration of an interview and whether the same would be live or pre-recorded.

All participants when then interviewed  and filmed, with the recordings being shown to evaluate individual performances and prepare for possible TV interviews in the future. All also drew up a press release on pre-agreed themes, as an exercise in effective drafting.

Summing up the Seminar, Selina ULLAH and Guido ORLANDINI thanked participants for their commitment to the Seminar, and once more thanked the Joseph Rowntree Foundation for making it possible. They gave participants pointers on:

1.Recommended reading, in particular concerning the situation in the Middle East, the role of economic development aid, and trust in human relationships

2.Developing their skills and role as active citizens in their respective communities and beyond

3.Staying in touch and working together as a network for the good of their communities and the city of Bradford,

4.The planned refresher workshops to take place in the autumn, and the possibility of obtaining an advanced diploma in Leadership Management, 

5.Other ongoing activities of the ICLS, including the ProWork initiative, participation in the Corti & Cigarettes film festival and others