Carlo Schroder, our Near Neighbours Coordinator for Greater Manchester, tells us how the recent Catalyst Programme went and the skills participants gained through the Programme.  

During the last two Sundays and Mondays in January 2017, Near Neighbours ran the Catalyst Programme for Greater Manchester. Catalyst is an inspirational free programme for young people, aimed at developing creative leaders to act as positive role models in neighbourhoods and communities. Catalyst also emphasises the positive contribution which multi-religious and multi-ethnic diversity makes at all levels of society.

Over four days of the Programme, participants from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds studied the role of religion in modern Britain, learnt about leadership and personality characteristics, reflected on the role of conflict in personal life and society, and practiced how to engage with the media and make effective use of social media. All of this took place at Katherine House, a relaxing informal venue which lends itself to creating a safe space.

During the session many fruitful conversations about the current state of the world and its impact on British society took place. Catalyst provided a safe space where young adults could explore ideas and learn from each other. 

In the midst of the range of news we read about, we have stereotypes and misconceptions of people from other faiths and backgrounds. In most cases, a silent majority struggles to find the right voice to express itself torn between wanting to speak honestly and the fear of being judged, or causing hurt.

Some participants who identified with this struggle, asked questions such as: What can I say on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn? How do I avoid a conflict or address tension rather than exasperating them? How do I behave in society with so many different cultures, with different norms and different ways of interpersonal interaction? In the Catalyst Programme they took one step to resolve this state of confusion and strengthen their relationship with people of other faiths.

  

What did some of the participants say about the course?

 

“It was a great experience for me. It was a mini group reflecting diversity of Manchester. The Programme was full of good intellectual discussions and each activity was meaningful and helpful in real life. Different ideas were about challenging issues, which widened my perspective. This Programme gave me a chance to understand more about my surroundings. It will guide me in my future projects. It was great that people from different backgrounds could agree about bettering the world for the future. Thank you Near Neighbours.”  - Fathi, Catalyst participant

“I thoroughly enjoyed the Catalyst Programme because it gave me knowledge of other faiths and beliefs. I would like to do more work within the communities I work with, because I feel there is a great demand of work required to bring communities together. People need to realise the common ground they share with others. I have made new friends from attenting this Programme, who I will hopefully maintain links with and support whenever possible. Overall I would definitely recommend the Catalyst Programme to others.” - Rizwana, Catalyst participant

These Catalyst participants come from various backgrounds and it was wonderful to watch them grow as a group and as individuals. One great outcome from the Programme is that the participants went to visit each other at their place of work and find out more about each other. They also went to visit different places of worship to increase their knowledge about different faiths and are staying in touch via social media to discuss their future plans.

It is still early days but building connections like this will often lead to greater partnership work. A good example of this is a group of young adults from Rochdale who stayed in touch with each other and just received Near Neighbours funding to run a joined project supporting refugees and asylum seekers. We hope that some fruitful friendships and connections will be formed between participants so they can work together to improve their communities.