Susan Popoola

Leveraging The Value of People

Archive for the ‘Business Community Engagement’ Category

July 16th, 2013 by SusanPopoola

Race, Legislation and a Legacy for future Generations.

I started following the case of Travyon Martin from across the ocean here in England from the earlier days. From the early days, I mean right from the time that it was reported that he was shot, but due to the “Stand Your Ground Laws” of Florida the person who shot him, George Zimmerman was not arrested and charged. I noted how Travyon’s body was not immediately identified. I’ve followed a number of the twists and turn up to the court hearing such as the fact that it took over 40 days for Zimmerman to eventually be arrested and charged, the issues of his bail, the lies he told and I could go on and on.  I followed the court hearing – the way people spoke about and analysed the friend that he happened to be speaking to on his phone on that fatal evening on which he was killed.  I’ve followed down to jury verdict what has left me with a deep sense of disquiet…..

Disquiet as a man, George Zimmerman killed someone – a young man, a boy, teenager or however you may choose to describe Trayvon. He killed him and as the verdict was read in court and he spoke to family and friends in court, he was smiling and even possibly laughing. Now maybe this was down to a deep sense of relief, but it didn’t seem right – he may have been found innocent of murder or even manslaughter, but without question he killed someone – he took away a valuable human life.  Zimmerman has the right to his emotions and the way in which he expresses them, but I must say I might have felt better if he looked sad and dare I say if he had even cried. Cried because he was relieved, but also because he was aware that he had taken another human beings life. Instead, I subsequently hear he says that he is sorry that Travyon’s parents lost their son whilst simultaneously suggesting that the black community owes him an apology.  Unremorseful as he appears, Zimmerman also now has the right to once more walk around with a gun.

This in of itself heightens the racial element of this case. There are actually white people that have expressed concerns about George Zimmerman, however, he’s focus is on the black people who have spoken up.  Beyond this, right from the very start, the profiling of Trayvon Martin by Zimmerman that led him to follow him was at least partially due to race.  It therefore automatically becomes a race related case. If Trayvon was not black, there is a strong possibility that Zimmerman wouldn’t have viewed him as suspicious and followed him.

There’s a further possibility that the early reaction of the police was due to a mindset or at least an unconscious bias and stereotyping of young black men.  Who knows about the jury – at the end of the day the jury selection was agreed by both the defence and prosecution.

Focusing in on Zimmerman though, as a member of the neighbourhood watch it could be said that Zimmerman was duty bound to report Trayvon to the police if he thought that there was something suspicious about him, his activities or his presence.  I strongly believe that once he had done so and was told not to follow Travyon he stepped beyond what could be deemed to be reasonable actions to what I would describe as vigilante activities.

It is in line with this that I believe that Zimmerman followed Trayvon contrary to police instructions and at this point, heightened by him actually getting out of his car that I believe that he loses any justification for self defence and becomes an agitator and if at all a victim a victim of his own actions.

The facts are blurry, but if Travyon ultimately for whatever reason, attacked a strange man that had been following him and then got out of a car and came up to him (I suspect in a not to friendly manner) – something that would be very disconcerting for anyone, can you actually blame him? I would actually refer to this as him standing his ground and defending himself.  What would you otherwise have him do?

On the other hand for Zimmerman to follow Trayvon, get out of his car with a gun in his pocket and go up to someone he believed to be suspicious and dare I add on the basis of his suspicions someone possibly dangerous; and ultimately shoot him as he claimed to have been attacked by the him… this is a completely different matter.

For such a person to be found not guilty says to me that there is either a problem with laws of Florida, a problem with the presentation of the case of the prosecution; the interpretation of the law or a combination.

There is an African saying that comes to mind. “When the owner of the house does not catch the thief in time, the thief will turn around and call the owner of the house a thief” (Paraphrased)

I must add that it’s not just the verdict, but the whole handling of the case that is of concern from when Trayvon’s body was left in a morgue, to the response to his father when he reported him missing; to the lack of arrest of Zimmerman …. It is the entirety of what took place that leads to questions about the value that has been placed on Trayvon’s life. When things became public and the demands for justice begun, the handling of things improved. In many ways, I did however, find myself thinking of New Orleans and Kanye West standing up to say that George Bush doesn’t care about black people. A very strong perception (reflective of what was on many people’s minds) that planted a deep-rooted seed, even if not a reflection of reality.

The problem now is not just that either based on reality or perception, justice has not been served, but the far reaching implications for future generations.

Parents of children of colour in America, now know (not believe) without an question that they must continue to tell their children – not to run when they see a cop; to always show their hands; not to make eye contact; to be mindful of what they wear as it is subject to interpretation …..

In other words parents have been reminded that they need to teach their children that they may (and are likely to) be judged on the basis of the colour of their skin and that they must therefore prepare for this and react even before people act. Young people of colour in America will continue to be taught to be suspicious of the people’s intentions and assume that any negative response to them is more than likely to be due to the colour of their skin.

The crux of the matter is that regardless of the fact that, yes Obama is a man of mixed heritage or more simply put an African American man in the White House; the Trayvon Martin/Zimmerman case serves to help entrench racial prejudices and concerns for generations to come. This is the biggest concern and the long lasting legacy of the case.

Selah

Susan Popoola runs Conning Towers Ltd, an HR organisation focused on Talent Management and HR Transformation and Engaged For Success a Social Enterprise. She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain. She is also Winner Women4Africa Author of the Year 2013

Copyright 2013. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated

July 7th, 2013 by SusanPopoola

Reflecting on 7th July… In 2005 and 2013.

Today, the 7th July 2013 marks the 8th anniversary of the London bombing by four terrorists. It’s also the morning that we wake up to the news that Abu Qateda has finally been deported from the UK.  In addition to the news of suicide bombings in Uruzgan, Southern Afghanistan; Baghdad, Iraq; and  Lahore, Pakistan, there was a report of at least 29 pupils and a teacher being killed in a boarding school in North Eastern Nigeria.

Whilst I recognise that these acts of terrorism are perpetuated on the basis of these people’s definition of Islam, I really  and truly wish that we would stop calling them Islamists. I believe by doing so we almost begin to give their acts some justification or even credibility. As a Christian, I cannot speak on behalf of Muslims. However, on the basis of my understanding of Islam and interaction with Muslims over the years, I don’t believe that terrorism is a true representation of Islam. I therefore believe that by connecting terrorism to Islam and calling the terrorist, Islamist or Islamic extremist we inevitably end up avoiding the need to take the time to really and truly understand and define the root causes of these terrorist act.

More critically, however, I believe today is a time to pause and reflect on the victims of such acts.  I could try and search for the right words to express the sadness, the grief and loss as a result of such events.  However, there is someone who has a direct, personal experience that I believe expresses the situation much better. Her name is Marie Fatayi-Williams, the mother of Anthony Fatayi-Williams.

“This is Anthony, Anthony Fatayi -Williams, 26 years old, he’s missing and we fear that he was in the bus explosion … on Thursday. We don’t know. We do know from the witnesses that he left the Northern line in Euston. We know he made a call to his office at Amec at 9.41 from the NW1 area to say he could not make [it] by the tube but he would find alternative means to work.

Since then he has not made any contact with any single person. Now New York, now Madrid, now London. There has been widespread slaughter of innocent people. There have been streams of tears, innocent tears. There have been rivers of blood, innocent blood. Death in the morning, people going to find their livelihood, death in the noontime on the highways and streets.

They are not warriors. Which cause has been served? Certainly not the cause of God, not the cause of Allah because God Almighty only gives life and is full of mercy. Anyone who has been misled, or is being misled to believe that by killing innocent people he or she is serving God should think again because it’s not true. Terrorism is not the way, terrorism is not the way. It doesn’t beget peace. We can’t deliver peace by terrorism, never can we deliver peace by killing people. Throughout history, those people who have changed the world have done so without violence, they have [won] people to their cause through peaceful protest. Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, their discipline, their self-sacrifice, their conviction made people turn towards them, to follow them. What inspiration can senseless slaughter provide? Death and destruction of young people in their prime as well as old and helpless can never be the foundations for building society.

My son Anthony is my first son, my only son, the head of my family. In African society, we hold on to sons. He has dreams and hopes and I, his mother, must fight to protect them. This is now the fifth day, five days on, and we are waiting to know what happened to him and I, his mother, I need to know what happened to Anthony. His young sisters need to know what happened, his uncles and aunties need to know what happened to Anthony, his father needs to know what happened to Anthony. Millions of my friends back home in Nigeria need to know what happened to Anthony. His friends surrounding me here, who have put this together, need to know what has happened to Anthony. I need to know, I want to protect him. I’m his mother, I will fight till I die to protect him. To protect his values and to protect his memory.

Innocent blood will always cry to God Almighty for reparation. How much blood must be spilled? How many tears shall we cry? How many mothers’ hearts must be maimed? My heart is maimed. I pray I will see my son, Anthony. Why? I need to know, Anthony needs to know, Anthony needs to know, so do many others unaccounted for innocent victims, they need to know.

It’s time to stop and think. We cannot live in fear because we are surrounded by hatred. Look around us today. Anthony is a Nigerian, born in London, worked in London, he is a world citizen. Here today we have Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, all of us united in love for Anthony. Hatred begets only hatred. It is time to stop this vicious cycle of killing. We must all stand together, for our common humanity. I need to know what happened to my Anthony. He’s the love of my life. My first son, my first son, 26. He tells me one day, “Mummy, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die. I want to live, I want to take care of you, I will do great things for you, I will look after you, you will see what I will achieve for you. I will make you happy.’ And he was making me happy. I am proud of him, I am still very proud of him but I need to now where he is, I need to know what happened to him. I grieve, I am sad, I am distraught, I am destroyed.

He didn’t do anything to anybody, he loved everybody so much. If what I hear is true, even when he came out of the underground he was directing people to take buses, to be sure that they were OK. Then he called his office at the same time to tell them he was running late. He was a multi-purpose person, trying to save people, trying to call his office, trying to meet his appointments. What did he then do to deserve this. Where is he, someone tell me, where is he?”

#Selah

 

Susan Popoola runs Conning Towers Ltd, an HR organisation focused on Talent Management and HR Transformation and Engaged For Success a Social Enterprise. She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain. She is also Winner Women4Africa Author of the Year 2013

 

Copyright 2013. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated

 

 

 

 

June 9th, 2013 by SusanPopoola

Unlocking Charity Giving

I recently read an article by Sunil Bali on an Italian sandwich shop, which faced with the threat of a Giant Supermarket opening next-door ending up sharply increasing their profit within the period of six months.  I believe they attained this contrary result because they offered something of high value to their customers; they had an engaging approach and they remained focused without panicking.

This led me to reflect once more on a telephone call I recently received on behalf of a Charity, which was looking, to raise funds for what I must say is a very good cause. The approach adopted did, however, make me feel very, very uncomfortable.

The Charity in question was offering information on cancer. I provided my details in order to obtain the mentioned information and this led to the above mentioned phone call.

I was asked if I had a few minutes to spare, to which I responded yes. (If talking to them/providing information would be of help to them – why not) I was asked for confirmation of my contact information so that the details could be sent to me.  I confirmed the information required.  I was then asked how much I know about cancer?  That’s a very vague question I responded. The lady proceeded to ask me a few other questions in relation to cancer. To each of my responses she gave me some information.  I began to feel as if I was in school being spoken to by a teacher.

She moved on to ask me whether I knew about recent breakthrough and spoke about a specific breakthrough treatment now being trialed. She went on to speak about how they need support.  She told me she wanted to tell me about 3 ways in which I could support them. She started talking about a direct debit option. Only half listening to her, I waited for her to finish so that I could inform her that I would consider how I would support them once I had, had the opportunity to review the information sent to me. She pointed out that this level of information would not be included in what was sent to me, as they could not afford it as a charity. I told her I’d look at their website.  She asked me if I would commit to making a lower payment by direct debit. I explained to her that I wasn’t saying that I couldn’t help, but I don’t make commitment over the phone/without proper information.  I thought this would be the end of it.

The pressure continued as my discomfort and resolve grew. They could only call me this once she said. With the breakthrough they needed immediate help. It was cheaper to process payments over the phone. There was a cooling off period ………

I pointed out that I was beginning to feel as if I was being harassed by a doorstep salesperson. She still continued not recognizing how comfortable I was or how disengaged I’d become.  Shortly afterwards the call finally ended to my relief. I had not provided any information and now although somewhat put off I’m waiting for the promised from the Charity to see if and how I will support the charity.

It’s sad because the Charity is doing critical work of high value – I recognized that from the conversation. I was totally disengaged and put off by someone trying to do what virtually amounts to bullying.

All in all it reiterates my thinking that Charities will receive support if they have a worthwhile/valuable course.  Critically, however, is to target people that identify with the cause and to ensure that all the people involved with the cause effective serve as ambassadors and communicate with people in a manner that is informative, engaging and compelling.

As with the sandwich shop – the product or service should speak for itself.

Selah

 

P.S. Of possible interest – Conning Towers Ltd.’s Strategy, Skills and Brand Ambassadors programme.

Copyright 2013. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated

March 25th, 2012 by SusanPopoola

Just Keep on Moving

I drove down to Milton Keynes Shopping Centre earlier today for a meeting with Waterstones about my new books.

I hadn’t realised that the Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Mile was taking place in the City Centre.  This led to some closed roads and the need to do a bit of meandering to get a parking spot.

Having parked my car I walked towards the shops only to get caught trying to cross the road by some of the event’s participants running along the road.

Being that it was such a lovely afternoon and I had plenty of time on my hands, I stood relaxed waiting for the participants to pass by, listening to the beating of the African drums being played by the side of the road as it did so.

As I stood watching it was fascinating to see the diversity of the participants from those in costumes to the other participants of different ages – parents with children and people just going along by themselves.  There were those that were running and also those just walking along. There was even a lady with a pushchair.

All of them were just walking towards a destination at their own individual paces.  As they finally all passed by and I crossed the road, I found myself thinking – as we all go in the new week, let’s keep on moving by whatever means necessary, regardless of whatever odds we may encounter.

Selah.

Copyright 2012. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source.

December 11th, 2011 by SusanPopoola

The Power of an Idea

Did you know…
£5 provides water for a family for a week?
£10 pays for a rural health care worker for a week?
£25 feeds a family of six for a month?
£50 pays for a sewing machine?
£100 empowers a widow to set up in business?
The Akabusi Charitable Trust Literature

If for no other reason, if you watched the 4 by 400m relay at the 1991 World Championships at Tokyo you will have heard of Kriss Akabusi.  Since the end of his athletics career you may have seen him on television on programmes such as Record Breakers, heard him on the radio or had the privilege to hear him give a motivational talk at an event.  Even if you do know all of this, you may not be aware that he additionally Chair’s a Charity, “The Akabusi Charitable Trust”, that works to promote the social and economic development of communities in poverty in Nigeria.

I say he Chair’s the Charity, but he’s role doesn’t stop there – amongst other things he is actively involved in fundraising for the Charity and in 2010 he led on a Charity Bike Ride from Edinburgh to London aimed at raising funds for the Charity.  Having done what I could to support Kriss on the Bike Ride, a few months later, I received some information which outlined the difference that various amounts of money could make, starting from £5 to the impact that a £100 could have on the life of a widow.

£100 could enable a widow to set up a business I read. I’d like to do that I thought i.e. have the privilege of helping to transform someone’s life. It was just another one of the many ideas that I develop.  More often than not, I think of things that I could do that might be great ideas, but just put them aside. I don’t know if you’re anything like that too?  The only thing is that with this particular idea, the next time I went into the office of the Charity I took my cheque book with me.

“I’d like to sponsor a widow”, I announced. Everyone looked at me. “Your literature mentions that £100 can transform the life of a widow” I stated.  “Find me a widow to support” I went on to demand as I wrote out a cheque for £100. Obediently the next time Kriss and another trustee went to Nigeria to monitor the work of the Charity, they identified a struggling widow and through one of the Charity’s partner organisations supported her in setting up a small business which enabled her to support her family and ensure that her children went to school.  Her life, her prospects and that of her children were transformed.

As a result, the Charity decided to set up a project  – Woman2Woman; to enable women in the UK to support women in rural Nigerian communities.  It’s early days yet, but already there are a growing number of women whose lives are being transformed through this project. I’m humbled by the knowledge that this project developed because I did something with a simple idea that I had.

I’m therefore writing this for two reasons. In the first instance you may have one or two ‘simple’ ideas of you’re own that you’re sitting on. I would like to encourage you to go for it, put yourself out there – you just don’t know what will happen.

Secondly, a seed has been planted, i.e the idea of transforming lives of Nigerian widows and those of their families through donations of £100. In my head, the idea is beginning to develop that this could actually become something phenomenal that transforms whole villages and I was just wondering if you would be interested in being a part of this?

#Selah

© Susan Popoola MA CIPD FRSA
Conning Towers Ltd
Leveraging the Power of People

August 30th, 2011 by SusanPopoola

New Orleans – Making a Difference

I’ve always felt a connection to New Orleans as my all time favourite group – Maze featuring Frankie Beverley, recorded their popular album “live in New Orleans there.

Subsequently, when I sat glued to the television watching the events that followed Hurricane Katrina unfold, I felt the need to do something – the need to physically go their and to help to make a difference.

It took me a couple of years to make my first visit, but I clearly remember that when I mentioned my plans to friends who lived in Houston they told me that it wasn’t a good time to visit New Orleans as the place had not yet recovered from Katrina. I was, however, convinced that this was the exact reason why it was an important to visit.

You see when any place faces a disaster – our natural inclination is to stay away. However, whilst donations in cash and kind unquestionably go a long way to make a difference – the presence of people coming back to visit the area really. Lets the local people know that we care. I’m not talking about immediately after the disaster as this could be in the way if we do not have a specific role to play in the clean up process. (For this reason it is best to check first before visiting immediately after a disaster)

However, visiting after the immediate clean up process not only says that you care, but it helps the economy of the area to come back as regardless of what they have been through, the shops, the hotels, the entertainment centres and tourist activities need our custom more so than ever before.

It’s even better if you have the opportunity to volunteer. For a long time I had the impression that in order to volunteer to work on a house-rebuilding programme you had to be available for weeks or months on end – frustratingly, this is not a practical option for me.

Over recent years, I’ve got into the habit of going to New Orleans for the annual Jazz and Heritage festival, which spreads over two weekends. This leaves me with a few days in between the weekends to do tourist things and catch up with friends.

I was therefore delighted when I came across an advert from a volunteers’ organisation named Project 195 earlier this year. They were looking for people to help with reconstruction over the Jazzfest period for anything from a day upwards. They also made it clear that no prior experience was required. I therefore signed up and spent three of days in between the Jazzfest weekend laying floor boards, fitting and painting doors and skirting boards for the house of an extremely grateful and excited man who was going to be able to finally move back to his home after over five years.

During this process I learnt that while it is common for people to volunteer for weeks or months, there is also a place for people who can only help for a day or two or even half a day. During this process I also learnt about the diversity of people that volunteer, from school children, to numerous young adults; to professionals inclusive of a group that had come to play golf in the morning and then volunteered in the afternoon. I was also told about a group of nuns that came in their habits to work for a day. Of further fascination was the number of young American who decide to permanently relocate to New Orleans following on from a volunteering experience.

I’ve also had the opportunity to become an advisor for a small non-profit organisation and with modern technology I don’t have to physically be there to be of help. Ultimately, what I have learnt from my visits to New Orleans is that there is always a way to help even from a distance or whilst having fun.


Copyright 2011. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated

November 8th, 2009 by SusanPopoola

Lakes Youth

“Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea,

never regains its original dimensions.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes

In 2006 a young man named Ray Quinn appeared in the talent show The X Factor. I couldn’t help but like him. While he remained true to who he was he was extremely grateful for the opportunity of being on the show and wanted to make people, especially his mentor, Simon Cowell, proud. He went on to the finals and finished as the runner-up. In 2007, I felt proud to see him judging on Baby Ballroom, another talent contest.

In some many ways, he reminds me of some other young people I know of in Milton Keynes who live on the Lakes Estate. I guess like most young people they were of the opinion that they never had enough to do – they were bored. On the Lakes Estate there is an officer called a Community Mobiliser who has responsibility for community development within the area.

Described by a local parent as “someone who gets things going or keeps things going in the community.”, recognising the frustrations of the young people, the community mobiliser worked with them to arrange a number of sporting events. This included the rare opportunity to go away for an event outside of the estate and as such broaden their horizons. To her credit the events were a great success. They both involved and effectively engaged a lot of the young people. Significantly, they have carried on since the first event. What stands out about the events now is that they are no longer organised by the Community Mobiliser. Rather they are actually organised by the young people themselves. The only thing that the Community Mobiliser does to help is provide them with support at their request.

Their activities have had such an impact that they received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services in 2005. And some of these boys, though still quite young now are very conscious of their community needs and are working to help fulfil the needs of the young children on the estate who look up to them. They also work to support the older people within their community. To this end some of these young people also go to meetings within the Council Offices to represent their community’s needs.

It’s amazing how little things have such a huge impact. After all, these are young people that the typical adult would not think of talking to, who on their own part were very shy and would not have even contemplated conversing with adults, who now go to meetings and clearly articulate their viewpoint on behalf of the whole of their community.

There are a total of eight community mobilisers in Milton Keynes, working across the most deprived areas. Taking the time to understand the community needs and support the communities in fulfilling them through a number of different means inclusive of activity groups, workshops, trips and outings, but ultimately providing local people who sincerely care about their communities with the opportunity to improve on things for the collective good.

On YouTube there are a few videos which much better highlight the work of Community Mobilisers than I ever could. [i]


[i] Community Mobilisers – http://www.youtube.com/user/CommunityMobiliser

Copyright 2008 Extract from Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective

This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated from content obtained from other sources and such content is referenced as appropriate.

November 5th, 2009 by SusanPopoola

The Demonstrated Beauty of Credit Unions!

It’s been quite saddening to learn via the BBC of atrocious stories of how people have been charged ridiculous interest rates on loans from loan sharks. Interest that they could never practical pay, but have accepted out of desperation.

The stress that the resulting pressure of being chased for payments causes cannot readily be explained. However in what some may see us an extreme one young man ultimately committed suicide recently.

It’s therefore pleasing to remember that in Milton Keynes there is a credit union to help people who may otherwise have no other choice but to go to a loan shark.

I recently read the story below which clearly highlights how credit unions can help to transform lives!


Christina has been a member of Milton Keynes Credit Union (MKCU) for some time now. She told Kim Davis, MKCU, Development Officer about her experience of borrowing money with MKCU.

“I’d known about credit unions for a while so I searched on the internet to find one in Milton Keynes. I’d heard food things about credit unions from my mother, as she had been a member nearly 50 years ago when she lived in Canada. Mum had gone there to live and decided she wants to come back home. Using the local credit union, she saved up her fare home! Having heard such a positive story, I got in touch with MKCU and joined.

When I became a member, I wasn’t managing my money very well. I’d borrowed from a ‘doorstep lender’ and was paying a high interest rate. Even when I got a loan from my own bank to pay off an overdraft they charged me 50%in interest! I’d been with them over 20 years and expected more support, instead I got a really high interest rate.

I had no savings and no means of saving – no one wants you to save just a few pounds a month. Nowadays most banks require you to keep a certain amount of money in your account of you have to pay charges.

Since I joined Milton Keynes Credit Union, I’m still not great with money, but I’m improving. For the first time for years, I have some savings behind me – I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I borrowed money from MKCU to pay off my Provident loan, as the credit union charged me a lower interest rate, they talked to me about repaying too, we agreed a repayment which was affordable, and left me able to save too.

Borrowing with MKCU is different as I began to know some of the people there, it was a very personal service. I’m now on top of my repayments plus I’m building on my savings too – in fact, my savings are now greater than what I owe on my loan, which makes me feel good. With MKCU, the interest is charged on the decreasing balance so the more I repay, the less interest I’ll be charged, much better for me than doorstep lenders or my bank.

It’s good that money I’m saving also helps out other people in Milton Keynes with loans when they need it. You have to live or work in Milton Keynes to join the Credit Union so I know I’m helping other local people.

Now I’m looking to the future and planning a family holiday for my birthday – I’ll be using the Credit Union to save for this and it helps to know I’ve got the option to apply for a loan if I need it too”

As told to Kim Davies, Development Office. (story retold with permission from Milton Keynes Credit Union – ref: http://www.mkcreditunion.org.uk/ )

October 30th, 2009 by SusanPopoola

Welcome to Milton Keynes

Never be afraid to try something new.

Remember, amateurs built the ark,

Professionals built the Titanic.

Anon

Milton Keynes is synonymous with roundabouts and concrete cows. However if, after 40 years as a new town and centuries of prior existence (as a number of different small towns and villages), this was all that Milton Keynes had to offer, Milton Keynes would not be such a diverse place with people from all backgrounds, colours and creeds and an ever-growing population.

It would also not be deemed England’s most successful new town and a showcase city visited by people from across the world who want to understand how to develop a successful new town, which is earmarked for growth into one of England’s ten largest cities by 2030.[i]

I’m possibly not the most knowledgeable person on Milton Keynes as I’ve only been here for five years, but the more I learn about it, the more passionate and in love with it I become and the more I come to believe that there is a need for greater awareness of what Milton Keynes is really about for the people outside of the town, some of whom will never ever visit, but carry an often very strong opinion of the place. Of equal importance, I believe it is necessary for those of us who live and work in Milton Keynes to be more aware of the diversity it offers.

Recognising the limits of my experience and knowledge of Milton Keynes, I have taken the time to visit different parts and speak to different people who I know have a much clearer, in-depth knowledge than I do on specific areas.

Having done all of this, I am very conscious that I only just touch the tip of the iceberg as there is so much more that I have consciously or subconsciously omitted or am possibly unaware of. For this reason, I hope that what I have put together will inspire you to investigate and find out more. You can find a number of links on the Leverage Points website.[ii]

As with everything in life there are negative things about Milton Keynes as well as the many positives. I have chosen to focus more on the positives: the possibilities and opportunities to overcome the negatives. I’m in no way deluded, but I don’t believe it is constructive to focus on the things that have been tried that have not worked or the mistakes that have been made along the way, unless there is a direct lesson to be learnt from doing so.

It is therefore not a contradiction that on occasion I have been compelled to mention some of the ‘mistakes’ that have been made in order to explain some of the current circumstances and, I hope, to provide some suggestions on how to avoid them and to move forward into the ultimate future for Milton Keynes.

I also hope that, through this book, people outside of Milton Keynes will come to understand that while we love our roundabouts and concrete cows, there is so much more to be said of this vibrant town.


[i] Invest Milton Keynes Facts & Figures 2008 Basic Presentation

[ii] Leverage Points – www.leveragepoints.org

Copyright 2008 Extract from Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective

This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated from content obtained from other sources and such content is referenced as appropriate.

October 28th, 2009 by SusanPopoola

Beyond The Enigma

Without mysteries, life would be very dull indeed.

What would be left to strive for if everything were known?

Charles de Lint

Talking about the history of Milton Keynes brings me to what can be referred to as another myth. People generally believe that Milton Keynes is just a town based around a grid system – i.e. the roundabouts. This may be true of the newer, central parts. Most of the areas that existed prior to 1967 are, however, little towns in their own right just outside of the new town already mentioned. These towns, together with the gridded area, make up only 30% of Milton Keynes. Outside of the town there is a vast rural, or should I say, country, area, which makes up the rest of Milton Keynes. Although I had intended to explore all these areas when I first moved here, I am yet to do so, so although I’m aware that there is a vast richness within these areas with numerous stories of their own to be told, I intend to focus on the urban parts.

This takes us back to the grid system. Outside of Milton Keynes most people seem to be unaware that the much-mocked roundabouts form the basis of a grid system that enables people to rapidly move from one part of the city to the next.

For me it also means that it is difficult to get lost in Milton Keynes as the roads are marked with H’s and V’s: Horizontal and Vertical roads. It’s why, when my friends from London laugh about the roundabouts, I always passionately explain the grid system and tell people that all you need to do is follow your H’s and V’s.

At the centre of the grid system is Central Milton Keynes – otherwise referred to as The Centre. While there is a growing residential element to The Centre, it is very much the commercial centre of the town. It houses big businesses such as Argos Head Office, Volkswagen Group UK Ltd, Coca cola Enterprise Ltd and Abbey, down to medium-sized businesses and a multiplicity of small businesses. In total there are almost 10,000 businesses across the City[i] . It is also the retail centre of Milton Keynes – home to two major adjoining shopping centres – Midsummer Place and the mile-long Centre MK. In response to the question of what shops can be found in the shopping centre, the answer almost has to be “What shops cannot be found in the Centre?”

The Centre also houses the Church of Christ the Cornerstone. Built in 1992, it is the UK’s first ecumenical city centre church. It serves as the home church to Christians from the various denominations inclusive of Anglican. Baptist, Catholic, Methodist and United Reform. All these denominations are represented in the Church worship and ministry.

I cannot mention the Church of the Cornerstone without also mentioning the Peace Pagoda at Willen. Though not in the Centre, it is another first and a major religious symbol. Built in 1980 by monks and nuns of the Nipponzan Myohoji, it is the first Peace Pagoda to be built in the western hemisphere, and is understood to enshrine sacred relics of the Lord Buddha.

Outside of central Milton Keynes each square of the grid system encompasses a housing estate, industrial estate or combination of the two. There is a lot of greenery between the estates, with trees sheltering the houses from the main road.

This means that Milton Keynes is full of beautiful greenery, which is very well maintained by the Parks Trust. I have on many occasions gone walking and seen employees of the trust cleaning up the public areas or repairing property.

It is also home to a vast amount of wildlife, with woods and a number of parks.

Milton Keynes is also characterised by 13 lakes of varying sizes, each with its own unique features. The largest is Willen Lake, which is popular for watersports. Others include Caldecotte Lake, the Blue Lagoon at Bletchley, Furzton Lake, and the Tear Drop Lake.

I mention how easy it is to get from one area to the next. This is very true if you have a car. The grid system makes it a driver’s paradise as you can so easily get from one end of the city to the other within 10 to 15 minutes. If you don’t have a car it is a bit more complicated unless you cycle. There is a fair distance between locations. I used to go to a church which was a three-minute drive from my house, but about 20 minutes rapid walking. In a place like London where you have a good (though not always efficient) transport system it would be a non-issue but unfortunately, in Milton Keynes, if you don’t have a car and you don’t or can’t cycle you are reliant on public transport or taxis.

Sadly, the greatest weakness of Milton Keynes is our public transport system within the City as all we have is buses that do not run regularly. These shortfalls became apparent to me when, shortly after I moved here, I faced the unfortunate situation of having my car break down. With the dread of car repair bills hanging over my head, I wanted a way of moving around as cheaply as possible. I was disappointed to find that the buses only ran every half hour and left me with a 15-minute walk to get home. So I ended up travelling about by car. This was not cheap and with my impending car repair bill left me very squeamish.


[i] Invest Milton Keynes Facts & Figures 2008

Copyright 2008 Extract from Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective

This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated from content obtained from other sources and such content is referenced as appropriate.