Despite cold wet weather, on 29th January three dozen people made their way to the Anthony Burgess Institute in central Manchester to forge coalitions for change. There were policy-writers, public servants, charity workers, community group leaders and peer researchers, people who’d come representing something and people who’d come to use their own voice.
The event followed months of thoughtful preparation. Many of those in the room were people who’d already engaged with some aspect of Jam and Justice’s action research. There was a buzz of anticipation as people seated themselves, ready to see, hear and do some coalition-forging. And what did we hear, see and do?
You’ve got to break your eggs to make an omelette
The opening session was partly about exchanging experiences. Groups crystallised 40 minutes’ discussion into expressions ranging from “You’ve got to break your eggs to make an omelette, and be open to adding unexpected ingredients” to “what matters is the freedom to decide and the agency to implement”. Later, participants voted with their feet, positioning themselves by prompt cards to help discern possible points of common interest. Preparing for this exercise one person called for “professional development without the professional”, another for the preservation of “parameter-free spaces”. By the end of the event, there was a sense of creative dissent, and perhaps a healthy uncertainty. Sharing power is hard. We have to step carefully to check what we’re doing and how we’re going about it. We meet again in March, and aim by July to issue a shared call for action to change our city-region for the good of all.