I am an ambitious and proud woman. I work in a Sector which has never rested on its laurels and is full of proud ambitious people. Proud of what we have achieved, and ambitious for change and further improvement.
My first encounter with real change driven by communities was at the ripe old age of 20, when I lived and worked in Leith. The local community were not content with the standard of the housing or the wider environment. With help from local community workers (funded for 4 years – with no prospect of extending it), a Residents Association grew into a Housing Association – helping to improve houses & build new ones, as well as improve the back greens; all done by the people themselves. This further tackled the issues of older people’s isolation and young people who felt they didn’t belong or have anything to do. You know when something just isn’t right; you know when you need to do something to make the changes; you know when you are unstoppable. It’s a heady experience.
When we look around today at our City, we know what isn’t right; we know what isn’t working; we know what needs to change. So what are we going to do about it? Seriously, are we going to say “a big boy did it and ran away”? Are we going to say “too much, too many, can’t cope”? Are we going to say “it’s not my responsibility”?
As I see it, we have two options – scream about all the things that are wrong but don’t actually do anything about it – or work together to make a difference and show that injustice can and will be addressed in our City. In my view, the easy option is to do the screaming – but what that also does is make it someone else’s problem. The Sector I know, love and am immensely proud of has never taken the easy option.
So, finally, I get round to it – Chasing Unicorns. It takes courage to change how things have always been. The stark reality facing us is either be part of the solution, or part of the problem. We need to stop defining ourselves in the terms of other people and organisation’s priorities. It is our responsibility to look to our communities and our people, and start to make those changes.
If you go away from our conference on Tuesday and the only thing you talk about is the bread in the sandwiches – shame on us and shame on you! We have deliberately constructed a programme that examines the big ticket issues, but this can’t be the end of the conversation. Over the next couple of months there will be further opportunities to take real control of the agenda and drive through changes that will make the difference.
So, one step at a time, we will catch that Unicorn.