Mar 152015

Over fifty people – including the Mayor of Cambridge, Cllr Gerri Bird, took part in Be the change – Cambridge’s community action gathering at Anglia Ruskin University.

A first review by Antony Carpen

The Mayor opened our event which saw students representing Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge Regional College and Chesterton Community College all making an important contribution to an afternoon of discussion, debate and problem-solving. The students also took part in an intensive cross-examination of Cambridge City Council’s planning and communities policies in a workshop with Cllr Richard Johnson, executive councillor for communities.

Students & activists cross-examining Cllr Richard Johnson on how to support grassroots charities & campaigns

Students & activists cross-examining Cllr Richard Johnson on how to support grassroots charities & campaigns














Jane Paterson-Todd, chief executive of Cambridge Ahead speaking on behalf of the host sponsors Anglia Ruskin University & Cambridge Ahead highlighted the importance of community groups and young people working with businesses and local councils in shaping Cambridge’s future – something that was reflected by the active participation of all that took part.

Open-space – participants designing the agenda

The event was expertly facilitated by Jennifer Jones, a community media researcher at the University of the West of Scotland. With extensive experience in community action and digital media, Jennifer provided the much-needed external challenge and alternative perspective on what is happening in Cambridge. For many of the participants, this was the first time they had experienced an event where they were invited to shape the timetable and content of workshops.

The Mayor of Cambridge with (L-R) Anne Bailey (Cambridge Area Partnership & co-founder, Be the change - Cambridge), Jennifer Jones (Host facilitator), Antony Carpen (Founder, Be the change - Cambridge), Lucy McMahon (Student volunteer, Chesterton CC), Cllr Gerri Bird, Mayor of Cambridge, Mr Alan Pooley, JP, Aaron Hurst (Student volunteer, Cambridge Regional College), Sharon Kaur (Workshop facilitator & community activist)

The Mayor of Cambridge with (L-R) Anne Bailey (Cambridge Area Partnership & co-founder, Be the change – Cambridge), Jennifer Jones (Host facilitator), Antony Carpen (Founder, Be the change – Cambridge), Lucy McMahon (Student volunteer, Chesterton CC), Cllr Gerri Bird, Mayor of Cambridge, Mr Alan Pooley, JP, Aaron Hurst (Student volunteer, Cambridge Regional College), Sharon Kaur (Workshop facilitator & community activist). Photo: Lucinda Price Photography

A desire to learn about housing and transport planning

Cambridge City Council’s Patsy Dell hosted an inspiring workshop on housing and planning functions in Cambridge. In the spirit of the event, participants discussed how community groups could work with councils to improve citizens’ understanding of how the planning system works – and how to improve it for the benefit of the city. This reflected earlier conversations with student representatives of Anglia Ruskin University Students’ Union where they expressed a desire to work with Cambridge City Council to ensure any future plans for student accommodation meet the needs of Anglia students while remaining sensitive to local residential communities.

‘My Cambridge’ – the arts and culture offer for the city

Rae Snape of the Kite Teaching Alliance and Jane Wilson of the Cambridge Live Trust led a workshop on their proposals for ‘My Cambridge’. The project’s goal is that “every young person in Cambridge is able to confidently construct their own cultural life, drawing on and feeling connected to the whole of the city in which they live.” Important actions for institutions include:

  • Establishing long term relationships between schools and cultural organisations.
  • Effective local research takes place
  • Decision-makers are given the right knowledge & tools to make effective decisions about their roles

The above are consistent with themes of long term planning – in particular ensuring co-ordination of events in both planning and publicity, along with the collection & sharing of information relevant to decisions that organisations need to make.

For those of you interested the plans that the Cambridge Live Trust has for Cambridge, note the Trust ‘goes live’ on 1st April with a series of events including a free musical extravaganza led by the Dowsing Sound Collective at the Cambridge Corn Exchange. Get your free tickets here!

Youth engagement, improving transport & cycling, and ideas on how Cambridge should be run

Participants discussed how Cambridge could improve youth engagement. They identified a number of changes that local schools and colleges needed to make to their systems and processes in order to build a city-wide culture of civic action. In particular, our student participants cited the timely provision of information on what’s available when they are making choices on college extra-curricular activities – such as Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

On improving transport, cycling and the future administration of Cambridge, participants appreciated the opportunity to discuss the issues in depth. This included but was not limited to the possibility of a unitary authority. Ideas on removing institutional barriers between frontline workers included GP surgeries having social workers co-located in the same building.

The way forward?

At the end of an inspiring & intensive afternoon, participants mentioned one of the most beneficial impacts of the event – and of the project was bringing people together from diverse communities & backgrounds to solve shared problems. A number of the more experienced and longstanding community activists recognised the passion & potential the student activists had – making a number of exciting connections between local college campaigns and longstanding community groups. We look forward to supporting them, inspiring more of the people of Cambridge to shape the future of our city.

We will be presenting the findings to Cambridge City Council – who we’re incredibly grateful for their support & participation. Feedback from Patsy Dell’s introduction to the planning system was particularly well-received in one of the afternoon’s most well-attended workshops.

Local charities benefit too!

As mentioned early on in the project, we committed to donating some of the sponsorship money raised for the projects to two local charities – Disability Cambridgeshire & The Dosoco Foundation. £500 will be split between these two charities, both of which are making significant positive contribution to the lives of many people in and around Cambridge.

Professional photographs and a professional video-maker

We commissioned Cambridge photographer Lucinda Price to cover our event. You can see an early selection of her photographs here. We also had the multi-talented Graham Copekoga filming throughout the afternoon, giving participants the experience of being filmed using broadcast standard equipment. As well as creating a medley video of the afternoon, Graham also filmed the end-of-afternoon feedback sessions, ensuring that we captured a much fuller record of the discussions, learning points and agreed actions.

Are we going to be doing this all over again next year?

Certainly the feeling in the room was that we should – with the possibility of teaming up with the Cambridge Hub following their highly successful Volunteer for Cambridge event a fortnight earlier. Both Volunteer for Cambridge and this event were the first events of this type in recent times in Cambridge. In both cases the feedback we’ve heard is that between us we proved the concepts worked. With this learning, we look forward to creating something even bigger & better next year!

Antony Carpen

 Posted by at 1:04 am
Mar 122015

We have been incredibly fortunate to have had the backing of a number of supporters and sponsors. One of the organisations that drove us to reach out to young people was Cambridge Ahead. We are delighted to have students from Hills Road and Long Road Sixth Form Colleges, along with students from Cambridge Regional College and Chesterton Community College taking part.

“Who are ‘Cambridge Ahead’?”

Have a look at this video

The chief executive of Cambridge Ahead, Jane Paterson-Todd, had the following to say about Be the change – Cambridge:

“At Cambridge Ahead our vision is for Cambridge to be the greatest small city in the world.  There is certainly the appetite for Cambridge to grow, however growing in an elegant manner is paramount, that offers a strong quality of life for all who live and work in Cambridge.  We need to have a view on the future and what Cambridge will become in 30 years time and start planning for it now.  

We know that Cambridge suffers from a shortage of housing, our education is underfunded, our roads are congested and our public transport system is limiting.   Fundamentally as representatives of big business and enterprise our eye is on the future, the next generation and ensuring Cambridge has all the ingredients required to make it a quality city to live in.  We are now looking at how we can address these key areas in housing, transport, skills and education working in support of and in consultation with the local councils.  

We are delighted to sponsor Be the Change and to get an insight from you, the next generation, on what your Cambridge should be.  We look forward and welcome your thoughts and ideas.”

Quality of life survey 2014

One of the pieces of research commissioned by Cambridge Ahead was their 2014 Quality of Life Survey. You can have a look at the results by clicking here. You can also here Cambridge 105′s Julian Clover radio report about the survey, which also features Prof Michael Thorne, Vice Chancellor of our hosts, Anglia Ruskin University – click here to listen.

If you’d like to find out more about Cambridge Ahead, you can find their contact details by clicking here.

Further viewing

For those of you interested in housing and transport issues, Be the change – Cambridge founder Antony Carpen has filmed discussions at some recent council meetings. They are as follows:

If you’ve not got your free ticket for Saturday, click here. So far, 80 people have signed up – almost twice as many as at our Conversation Cafe event in September 2014.


 Posted by at 2:24 pm
Mar 102015

One of the pre-announced workshops we will have at our Community Action Gathering will be a workshop on the arts & culture offer for Cambridge. For this workshop, we have been working with and have had the kind support of the following:

Some of you will have also seen the brilliant e-luminate festival last month (Feb 2015). If you didn’t, here’s a glimpse of what you missed!

On 1st April 2015 Cambridge will see the formal launch of the Cambridge Live Trust. To help celebrate this, the brilliant Dowsing Sound Collective (of which Be the change – Cambridge founder Antony Carpen is a member of) will be hosting a free concert titled ‘Lungjam’ at the Cambridge Corn Exchange. ‘Hosting’ because you are invited to take part in the singing! You can book your free ticket here. Want to get a glimpse of what it might be like? Here’s the Dowsing Sound Collective at The Corn Exchange in December 2014.

The Dowsing Sound Collective concerts help raise money for the Dosoco Foundation – a music foundation that gives out grants for musical projects in Cambridge. Be the change – Cambridge will be making a donation to the Dosoco Foundation. Have a listen to founder Andrea Cockerton describing them to a packed Cambridge Corn Exchange and you’ll understand why we’re supporting them.

Bringing Cambridge’s arts organisations together

Have a look at the list of organisations that form the Cambridge Arts and Cultural Leaders Group here. Some of them you may be a regular visitor to. Others you might not have heard of before. In the context of ‘making Cambridge greater than the sum of our parts’, what do you think is the role for arts and cultural organisations in Cambridge? You’ll be able to discuss this and more at our community action gathering on Sat 14 March at Anglia Ruskin University. If you’ve not got your free ticket, click here. 70 people have already signed up via our Eventbrite & Meetup group pages. For anyone who is still unsure about what Be the change – Cambridge is about, have a look at our video below:

 Posted by at 3:17 pm
Feb 282015

Hello everyone

We will be sharing a stand with one of our sponsors, the Cambridge Area Partnership, at the Volunteer for Cambridge event at The Guildhall today (Sat 28 Feb). Do have a look around and say hello if you see us!

We have a new video explaining more about what our event on 14 March is about – see below:

In a nutshell:

  • This is a project to bring Cambridge’s many communities together to do more than just talk about our city’s future, but to decide what shared actions to take in order to shape it
  • We’re particularly encouraging young people – in particular those in further education – to take part. This is our response to research showing 18-24 year olds are least likely to vote as an age-cohort.
  • The main output of the project is our event on 14 March at Anglia Ruskin University
  • On 14 March as well as running three core workshops (run twice), we will be running ‘open space’ workshops where anyone can pitch a session. Depending on numbers this will either be through people posting ideas on cards which we will group together as we did at the Conversation Cafe, or people pitching directly to the gathering. See for more about open space organisation and how you can get the most out of it. See for an example of pitching at an open space event.
  • We’ll be asking everyone to commit to either a one-off small action, or a small behaviour change as a result of taking part. If dozens of us do that, our impact could be greater than the sum of our parts!
  • The Mayor of Cambridge and the Leader of Cambridge City Council will be joining us in their civic capacities
  • We will be presenting the outcomes to our local councils, the Cambridge City Deal Assembly and Executive, and following these up with our parliamentarians after the general election in May.

Not got your free ticket yet? Get them by clicking here!

 Posted by at 1:13 am
Feb 222015

If you’ve not already got your free ticket, please join the dozens of people from across Cambridge that have already signed up -> click here for tickets

If you already have signed up, please invite family and friends too! Have a look at this video from the Electoral Commission from several years ago. Do you know someone like this who might like an invitation to take part?

Posters in your workplace or college?

This week we will be displaying some posters around town. For those of you with access to a colour printer, please could you print out and display these posters (having sought any appropriate permissions!) in your workplaces and communities.

Click on Be the change – Cambridge Poster – PDF

Or alternatively, click on the JPG image below.

Be the change - Cambridge: Poster JPG



 Posted by at 9:59 pm
Feb 132015

Have a look!

Would you like to make similar short video clips on issues in Cambridge as part of the ‘Be the change – Cambridge’ project? If so, let Antony know!

We’ll be uploading some posters for you to print out & display next week, as well as putting a few up around town ourselves.

Not got your free ticket yet? Sign up here. (Thank you to the dozens of you who already have!)

For further info and discussions, find us:

“Many Bridges

One Cambridge

It’s your city.

Be. The. Change.”

 Posted by at 12:17 am
Feb 102015

We’re delighted to announce that Mayor of Cambridge will be joining us for a second time, this time to speak at our community action event on Sat 14 March at Anglia Ruskin University. We’re incredibly grateful for the support the Mayor has given our project. Have a listen to her speech at our conversation cafe event in September 2014

To get your free ticket for the 14 March, click here.

For further info and discussions, find us:

Have more than your say on the future of Cambridge – have an impact.

 Posted by at 12:42 am
Feb 052015

****Tickets now available****


Click on this link

Do you want to have more than your say on the future of Cambridge?

Do you want to share your ideas with dozens of passionate & like-minded people?

Do you want to make a positive difference to our city?

If so, this event is for you! 

We’re delighted to confirm the arrangements for our community action event, which will take place on Sat 14 March at Anglia Ruskin University, East Road, Cambridge.

We’ve changed the ticketing format from the paid vs free tickets to having all tickets free while allowing people the option to donate towards the costs when booking. Our suggested donation (£10) is the same price as the original ticket price for the small group of people that carried over their original bookings. The most important thing however, is people’s participation.

With Cambridge’s packed calendar of events – in particular the brilliant Cambridge Science Festival, we’ve gone for a 12pm-6pm event rather than a 10am-4pm event. We are also incorporating three planned workshops into the afternoon to reflect your ideas & input from our Brewhouse & Conversation Cafe events in autumn 2014. These will be:

  • The arts and culture offer for Cambridge
  • Housing and transport planning: How does it work and how can you influence it?
  • How should Cambridge City be run?

The final of the three stems from very recent developments with the Greater Cambridge City Deal – which now has a constituted executive board and assembly. This resulted in the very recent announcements of £100m of funding for ten transport projects between 2015-2020. See here.

We will also be organising a couple of small focussed skills-sharing workshops in the morning prior to the 12pm start. One of these will include the very talented Jennifer Jones, who was a project manager for the Digital Commonwealth project for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. She will be sharing her skills, knowledge and learning on community media and engagement from both the 2014 project and from her research as a PhD student in the School of Media, Culture & Society at the University of the West of Scotland.

We look forward to meeting you all in March!

Anne, Antony and David.

 Posted by at 2:31 am
Dec 032014

Hello everyone!

We hope you are staying warm in the cold outside!

Confirmed date for our Big Spring Gathering

We can now confirm the date for our Big Spring Gathering will be on Sat 14 March 2015 at Anglia Ruskin University. Please save the date in your diaries via our Meetup Group. Also, if you haven’t already joined our meetup group, feel free to do so. It’s one of our main channels for keeping in touch with everyone.

Feedback from our Cambridge Brewhouse Event

A belated ***thank you*** to everyone who came along to this event. The comments and feedback you gave us were really useful – in particular some of the constructive criticism of what we didn’t get right first time at the Conversation Cafe event.

One of the biggest themes to come out of the Brewhouse event was having community meetings across the city either as the main output for, or in the run up to a larger gathering. This is something that the core team (Antony in particular) will be looking into, especially in terms of how we can support existing council-run Cambridge Area Committees, established residents’ associations and more informal residents’ groups. In this context, several of you mentioned to our facilitator Anne Bailey about what ‘added value’ Be the change – Cambridge could add.

“What do you mean by ‘added value’? It sounds a bit vague!”

The most recent visible example we have was in the November by-election in the Queen Edith’s ward. Working with students at Homerton College, Antony Carpen and local blogger Chris Rand who blogs at organised and filmed a hustings at Homerton College. Antony filmed interviews with each of the candidates. He also recorded a joint interview with the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidates for South Cambridgeshire, asking them to talk about what got them involved in local democracy. You can view all of the clips in this album.

The ‘value added’ is helping organise an event, and recording it so those who cannot attend can see what happened. It also allows people to see and hear the speakers in their own voices. In this case, the value added is creating digital content for a wider audience, ensuring that a greater number of people are more informed about what is happening in Cambridge. It also serves as a historical record.

Mobilising young people

This has been something a number of you want to see Be the change – Cambridge make an impact on. Initial efforts so far have not borne fruit. Hence at a recent ‘green open space’ event hosted by the brilliant Cambridge Hub, we put the challenge to students in Cambridge: In the context of environmental activism, how would they go about mobilising Cambridge’s 16-19 year olds to get them to take part in community, student and city societies? Click here to read what ideas the students came up with. This event is going to be repeated early in the New Year. If you’d like to stay informed, the Cambridge Hub are on Facebook here, and on Twitter at @CambridgeHub

Specific actions before Christmas

Antony and Anne have analysed feedback and spent an afternoon working up a series of options that we will be putting to the group of volunteers who are helping shape the spring event. We will be in touch by Mid December.

Interesting events for your diaries

Interesting event 1: Cambridge – The Creative City. How can the arts and cultural sector contribute to the future of our City? Alison Richard Building, West Road, Cambridge, 10 Dec 2014. (Uni4 Bus stops outside).

Cambridge City Council’s Jane Wilson will be hosting this event. This is one of the workstreams she and others developed at the Conversation Cafe, and since then it has developed significantly. If you are interested in supporting Jane, the City Council and the Cambridge Arts Network in improving our city’s arts and culture offer – particularly (but not only for) young people, this event is essential. Tickets are £5 and are available online here.

Interesting event 2: UKGovCamp – Central London, 24 Jan 2015

This is the annual gathering of many of the finest minds working in digital public services. I’ve posted details here. Normally only a handful of people from Cambridge attend. This time we want to see a significant number of new faces from Cambridge taking part. Learn from the pioneers of digital public services, and test your ideas with talented people so passionate they are prepared to give up a Saturday unpaid to take part in this.

Interesting event 3: eLuminate festival – Cambridge, 11-15 Feb 2015

Alessandra Caggiano, who has been providing us with essential support for the Conversation Cafe & Brewhouse events, is organising eLuminate. See here for more details on how her team will be illuminating some of Cambridge’s most loved buildings in a sea of colour!

Interesting event 4: Volunteer for Cambridge – The Guildhall, Cambridge, 28 Feb 2015

Two weeks before our Big Spring Gathering is this wonderful event. Hosted by Cambridge City Council and organised by Cambridge Hub (again!), they are being supported by a core group of organisations and activists, including the Cambridge Council for Voluntary Services & Be the change – Cambridge. Community groups are invited to register for a stall. Click here for more details. The big aim for this event is to get people who would not normally get involved in volunteering or community action to find out more about what they can get involved in.

And not forgetting…

The Cambridge Science Festival: 9-22 March 2015

They are hosting a number of exciting and inspiring events. See here for full details.

There’s the inevitable event clash, but a combination of the general election, students’ exams and summer holidays, this was the only reasonable date without having to put everything back to autumn 2015.



 Posted by at 9:10 pm
Oct 212014

At a meeting of Cambridgeshire County Council’s full council on Tuesday 14 October 2014, councillors debated a motion on the future structure of local government across the county in the face of further budget cuts. The text of the motion is here. You can watch a video of the debate that councillors had on Youtube here. Note also the contribution from Cllr Ian Manning (click here for the video clip) where he mentioned the work Be The Change – Cambridge has already done, and how it could be a possible means of starting this conversation about the future of the county.

This debate took place shortly after Antony Carpen’s public question to Cambridgeshire County Council. (See here for a video of the question, and the response from the leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, Cllr Steve Count).

Update on Spring 2015 event

We’ve had a meeting of the core group of organisers, and will be having a further one shortly to confirm the date of the spring event. We are working with Cambridge City Council and the Cambridge Student Hub to co-ordinate/sequence the event with the Cambridge Community Fair, scheduled for the 28 February 2015. Once we’ve got the essentials confirmed, we’ll have a gathering of interested parties beyond the core group to shape the spring event.

Several of us will also be going along to the event Could Cambridge become a smarter city? which is part of the Cambridge Ideas Festival. It’s on Thurs 30 Oct – hope to see you there!

 Posted by at 10:41 pm