Looking back at 2020 Breaking Boundaries programme in Slough with Billy Cousins

 Breaking Boundaries is a three-year programme (2018 –2021) funded by Spirit of 2012, supported by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and The Institute of Community Cohesion (Icoco).

We sat down with our Birmingham City Coordinator Chandni Paul to reflect on her experiences of Breaking Boundaries in 2020!

  1. How did your journey with Breaking Boundaries begin and what attracted you to get involved with this role?

I was in post for the Active Communities Officer, reducing physical inactivity across a town that is quite inactive. The Breaking Boundaries role came up within the team, I applied and now I have been in post for over a year. I like a challenge, as this project is bespoke, I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to get more experience in improving Community Cohesion which is a contemporary issue in society today.  I also believe in the power of sport to foster new relationships and also to address tensions, so it is a challenge I wanted to take.

 

  1. What have been your highlights for this year on the Breaking Boundaries programme?

Fernando making friends with Paving the Way boys. During the Feb half-term, we hosted a cricket activator course that was attended by over 25 young people from a range of organisations and backgrounds. Fernando was the only representative from the Roma community group Chalvey360, and he ended up pairing up with the boys from Paving the Way, a predominately Pakistani community group. I thought it was great to see as it was a social mixing opportunity and showed me that you can facilitate social mixing and it will provide good outcomes.

  1. With the Covid-19 pandemic what kind of new challenges did you face in your role as part of the Breaking Boundaries programme?

Juggling other council work and Breaking Boundaries was tough, I was asked to supervise a call centre and outbound calls to Shielded residents and then Track and Trace aswell. I had to juggle the two and some days it was tough to manage but with effective planning and effective communication with my managers I feel I was able to allocate enough time to both causes. Within the project I found that my creativity was a mere shadow of what it was previously around creating unique initiatives to hit outcomes, as a city we tried different methods of engagement such as online sessions (Roma focus group) and separate activities that linked together (pen pals) but ultimately, they will not compare to real world sessions.

 

  1. What new innovative ways did you adopt to ensure social connectedness during the pandemic? 

Like a lot of other organisations, we had to utilize online platforms to engage with our participants and to attract new eyes to the project. We found out early the virtual market for activities was flooded for young people, they had a lot of platforms to use such as YouTube, TikTok and Instagram along with many others. Therefore, to adapt to this our online sessions had to be for a purpose i.e., celebrating a specific day such as The Great Get Together or to celebrate an event such as The Girls Cricket Quiz celebrating the Women's T20 tour. Alternative methods of engagement came through focus groups that facilitated forced social mixing or a Pen Pal project that had a capture audience and once again facilitated forced social mixing.

 

  1. Which social media or digital campaign did you feel was the most impactful and successful during the Covid-19 pandemic?

In the month of ……… we highlighted quotes from our community champions. These were real quotes collated during the CLE in 2019 November. The quotes captured what impact young people have on change in today's world, as a city we wanted to share these quotes as we recognise the change our young people can deliver.  (LINK)

 

  1. What were your overall highlights for this year of project delivery for Breaking Boundaries?
  • Bespoke women's coffee morning in Manor Park started in Feb 2020
  • Cricket Activator Course in Feb 2020, good social mix and Fernando and Paving the Way friendships
  • Grant workshops were a success, 8 applications submitted to City Board meeting compared to less than 3 in 2018
  • Mapping of new Sri Lankan organisation in Baylis and Stoke in August 2020
  • Involvement in new Community Cohesion Strategy from November 2020

 

  1. What were the biggest challenges for you this year as a city coordinator for Breaking Boundaries?

Adapting to the new circumstances was definitely the biggest challenge, I believe cohesion best takes place in the real world we can read each others body language, we can recognise motivations to attend events and most importantly we can see each others mood change. Whilst it is possible to run online activities it does not take much effort to attend, engage and is easier to not develop friendships. Having to adapt our activity online was tough, we were competing with bigger platforms such as social media, YouTube, tic-tok amongst other platforms. My experiences are putting on sport activities not online activities, so it took a while to adapt, we had to recognise people's behaviour and quickly we found online activity is not as a good of method of engagement and that for me was the biggest challenge this year.

 

  1. What were your biggest successes this year as city coordinator for Breaking Boundaries?
  • Engagement with Roma community, ROMA ambassador for 2021
  • Foundations for new Roma sessions, social mixing of Pakistani and Roma
  • Mapping of new Sri Lankan organisation
  • Development of Social Media marketing skills
  • Linking in with the newly Created Slough Community Cohesion strategy
  1. How did you work to support your city in becoming more cohesive and socially connected this year?

During the pandemic I gave up my own time to drop medicines and food parcels to vulnerable people through the #oneSlough campaign , whilst there was no direct cohesion people's attitudes to volunteering would have changed, in a 2019 health beliefs survey run by Public Health Slough they found that between 80-90% of people would never volunteer but with the rise in need for people to give up their time I could only think it inspires more people to give back to their community.

  1. If you were to summarise your experience of Breaking Boundaries this year in three words what would they be?

Puzzling, Acclimating and Wearing.