Building community resilience in Bradford
Since the Bradford riots in 2001, research at Bradford has helped to defuse underlying tensions between deprived, multi-ethnic communities, and also between these communities and the local council and police. The aim is to strengthen community participation and engagement in building resilience throughout the city by encouraging dialogue and partnership between previously disparate social groups.
Building on earlier research into civil society and social movements in Latin America, Bradford academics founded the Programme for a Peaceful City (PPC) in 2001 to apply research findings to real community issues. The International Centre for Participation Studies (ICPC) was established in 2004 as a research hub, bringing together community and institutional partners to share knowledge, build connections to a range of community groups and enhance the community ‘voice’.
Researchers found that grassroots-based organisations are instrumental in influencing the effectiveness of policy, extending its reach and widening community participation. Widening participation is essential in building the community’s resilience when faced with external pressures. For example, in 2010, the PPC drew on learning from the 2001 Bradford riots to undertake peace-building interventions in advance of potential external provocation from an English Defence League (EDL) rally in the city. By taking part in over 20 discussions between activists, Bradford City Council and the police, the PPC created open and successful communication channels and also negotiated the use and training of ‘street mediators’ to reduce the rally’s impact on the city and its inter-community relationships.
The ICPS/PPC has helped change the culture of policing potential unrest in Bradford by securing support for grassroots peacekeeping and encouraging youth engagement with community resilience efforts. In July 2013, a community university was launched as ‘Comm-Uni-ty’, bringing local activists together to learn with academics about power and participation – a model which could be used in other cities.