Published 20th June 2018

Northumberland woman becomes 1,000th community organiser trainee

Cathy Crowther from Lesbury, Northumberland, is the 1,000th person in England to train as part of a nationwide, government-funded programme to expand community organising.

Community organising brings people together to take action around their common concerns and overcome social injustice. Community organisers reach out and listen, connect and motivate people to build their collective power.

Cathy completed a one-day community organising introductory course led by ACORN Newcastle, a union for tenants campaigning on housing issues in the city and across the wider region.

ACORN is one of 20 social action hubs funded by the Office of Civil Society as part of the Community Organisers Expansion Programme, which aims to train 3,500 people in community organising between 2017 and 2020.

Cathy’s interest in housing prompted her to sign up for the training course. She explains: “I have worked in the past as a volunteer with young people seeking asylum, and migrants and their families in Newcastle, so I know that they often live in the worst sort of housing and are truly vulnerable. For me housing is something I am passionate about — it’s a basic human right and it affects everyone, so I wanted to learn about community organising and how it relates to housing.

“Increasingly, people in this country are becoming more and more isolated. If we are to achieve change we need to come together, because together we are powerful and can create change”.

This vision for community organising relates directly to ACORN’s work in Newcastle around the impact of isolation leading to vulnerability for housing tenants. A recent BBC documentary described how ACORN Newcastle had shone a light on the ‘sex for rent scandal’ where landlords have been accused of offering cheap or free accommodation to vulnerable people in exchange for sex.

Tom Scott, Lead Organiser for ACORN Newcastle, said: “The fact that landlords feel able to break the law and take advantage of vulnerable people like this is another sign of how broken the housing market has become. Our organisers have brought people together from across the city to tackle this and many other issues. On your own dealing with people like that is almost impossible. In a group it’s easy.”

Cathy was presented with her training certificate by Nick Gardham, Chief Executive of Community Organisers Ltd, the national membership and training body for community organising in England.

Nick Gardham said: “It’s great to meet people like Cathy who are going through this training. She is clearly energetic, enthusiastic and an experienced community activist. Cathy’s passion for people and her belief in the collective power of communities was palpable, not least in the many grassroots organising activities that she is involved with.

“ACORN’s work training, supporting and connecting people like Cathy is powerful. It highlighted to me that through the network of social action hubs across England, Community Organisers Ltd is building networks of organised people who are effecting change that is impacting on the lives of the poorest people.

“We need to continue to find and support the next 1000 Cathys and ensure that we mobilise these people and tackle the root cause of problems that are affecting the neighbourhoods in which we live and work.”

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