The Near Neighbours programme - that brings together diverse communities and different faiths through a range of activities - has been awarded an additional £1.5 million of funding, Baroness Williams of Trafford announced today (4 April 2016).
Using the infrastructure of the Church of England, Near Neighbours provides small grants and support to grassroots groups to help them run projects which bring about lasting benefits to neighbourhoods with significant religious diversity.
From teaching computer coding to girls in north London, setting up a pop up community café in Leeds to community gardening in Luton, the programme covers a broad range of activities across the arts, the environment and sport.
Since its launch, in 2011 over 1,100 projects have been established, benefiting 1 million people in some of England’s most diverse communities, including over 50% of projects offering new skills to the unemployed.
Communities Minister Baroness Williams said:
Local people are best placed to know how they want their neighbourhoods to improve and Near Neighbours has a great track record in encouraging individuals from different backgrounds, faiths and cultures to come together on the issues and concerns that are most important to them.
This new funding is a great boost to the important work Near Neighbours does to build stronger local ties, mutual understanding and respect to make our neighbourhoods even better places to live.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby said:
I am delighted that the government has provided Near Neighbours with the funding to start its third phase of work. The innovative, collaborative and inspiring work of Near Neighbours has enabled diverse local communities across the country to work and live together effectively, but more importantly, it has enabled community relationships and friendships to blossom.
As Christians we are preparing to celebrate Easter with its message of hope and reconciliation for all people. We are committed to working with others of faith or no faith to see the transformation and restoration of our local communities. It is this vitality that makes me excited for the future of Near Neighbours.
To date Near Neighbours partners have run over 1,000 events in local communities which have been attended by 60,000 people.
Near Neighbours was set up in 2011 in partnership between the Church Urban Fund and the Archbishop’s Council and is funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Near Neighbours works out of ‘hubs’ in Bradford, Birmingham, the Black Country, Leicester, Luton and across most of London.
This additional £1.5 million funding brings the total funding to £9.5 million.
A Jewish-led initiative gathered girls from 3 faith school sixth-forms (Jewish, Muslim and Christian) to learn computer coding. This project work has been adopted by the social media company as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility work. The project will now grow from supporting 30 to as many as 300 young women.
Participation and empowerment
ToastLoveCoffee Community Cafe was funded by Near Neighbours to establish a pop up community cafe in Harehills, Leeds, offering a venue for this diverse neighbourhood to come together and meet. Their project has grown to the extent that TLC are now crowd funding for a permanent venue and are also extending their work into the Chapeltown area of the city.
Tackling intolerance and extremism
Innovate Walsall a Theatre in Education company, supported disadvantaged people in the Chuckery area of Walsall to stage a play in local secondary schools that explored the process of radicalisation and all types of extremism. The play was performed alongside a workshop, which allowed students to discuss the issues that have been raised in the play. The actors were local and from Muslim and Christian backgrounds.