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Birmingham Citizen's Find A Voice

Don Cortez | 03.04.2005 20:52 | Migration | Social Struggles | Birmingham

Citizens of Birmingham have their say on diversity in business.

Citizens Alliance: A Stronger Voice Together

If you are feeling that there is no one taking the opinions of ordinary people and the voluntary sector to the people in power, then there is some good news. As we look forward to Birmingham becoming Britain’s first majority ethnic city a ‘broad-based coalition’ of organisations and individuals is challenging big business in Brum to live up to their public statements when it comes to diversity in the workforce.

The Citizen’s Alliance was set up after a group that had been organised and trained through an organisation called Community Resource decided that they wanted a more formal name and structure so that they could continue to meet with people in power and push forward the agenda of its members, ordinary people and small voluntary organisations.

In February 2004, the Citizen’s Alliance launched a survey of ethnic diversity within the private sector in Birmingham. Many of the companies surveyed were signed up members to business sector programmes like Birmingham Professional DiverCity (an offshoot of Birmingham Forward*) or similar initiatives like Race for Opportunity or Better Together, and as such claiming that they are doing their bit for equality.

Of the 58 companies contacted and asked for their data, only 8 supplied data, 4 confidentially and many showed little interest in the work. 4 of the companies were awarded Gold Star recognition by the Alliance for their Policies, Achievement and Transparency, but these cases were far from the norm, 10 companies responded negatively and 40 companies did not respond at all. Those that did reply negatively often stated that they were signed up with Professional DiverCity so that they were covered.

The report was published in October 2004 with a large event at the Central Library in town. As well as members of the alliance itself, there were speakers from industry and employment agencies like job centre plus - who were keen to point out how the Bullring had provided many ethnic minority jobs, neglecting to mention that these are retail assistant and cleaning jobs. The meeting was a great chance for people of the city to challenge people in powerful positions with some difficult questions and stories of their own experience. The meeting was a great success and is slated to be followed up next year with an updated and improved report on the performance and transparency of business in Brum, we can only hope that they have got their act together by then.

The Citizens Alliance continue to link with local players and have recently started a group for refugee/minority ethnic organisations to have their say - The Birmingham New Communities Network, launched in March at the council house. It is up to us as citizens to make sure that our voice is heard by the people who make decisions, and groups like the Citizen’s Alliance are a fine example. It shows that if you get together in your area of the city and present a united and coordinated voice at people in power that they have no choice but to listen.

*Birmingham Professional DiverCity ( is part of an alliance between the learning and skills council and Birmingham Forward, who have a broad brief of making the business workforce reflect the diversity of the ‘wider-community’. Both presentations that I have seen by their staff have been spectacularly uninspiring, mainly stating how much they have achieved so far (not a lot). Their parent group Birmingham Forward ( are a wholly more interesting case, as a group of the top businesses in Birmingham who are extremely well connected (as you would expect) and are constantly involved in lobbying politicians locally (see their ‘events’ section).

To contact Citizen’s Alliance or Community Resource or to get a copy of the Report “Cause for Concern” call 0121 477 0935.

Don Cortez
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