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
Sep 182014

Antony Carpen appeared on the Breakfast Show with Dotty McLeod (@dottymcl on Twitter) on Thursday 18 Sept 2014 to talk about the voxpop films that are part of the project. (See the album of videos at Watch the interview below

Antony also recorded a ‘video blogpost’ – or vlogpost for short – on the discussions the art and culture group had at our Conversation Cafe event at Anglia Ruskin University on Saturday 13 September 2014 (see previous post here). Watch the vlogpost below:

Cambridge Area Committees

Filming at community events and council meetings, and helping educate people about how local democracy in Cambridge functions is also part of our autumn filming project. In the interview below, Antony asks Councillor Richard Johnson, who represents the Abbey Ward in Cambridge, about why area committees are important, how they enable residents to raise issues face-to-face with councillors, and enable councillors to scrutinise local public services – such as policing, on behalf of residents.

Cambridge Communities Fair 2015

Back in spring 2012 when Richard Johnson was standing as a candidate in the local elections, Antony asked Richard to back an idea of a big ‘societies fair’ for Cambridge similar to the ones organised by Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin students unions. Click here to see his response!

As you can see from the link above, Richard backed the idea. Fast forward two later and the now Councillor Richard Johnson, executive councillor for communities, arts and recreation, announced the go-ahead for this as a council-organised event for Saturday 28 February 2015 at the Cambridge Guildhall. This has the potential to be one of the biggest and one of the most exciting community action events in Cambridge’s recent history. It could significantly increase the sustainability, activities of and the range of our community groups and organisations. Be the change – Cambridge is supporting Councillor Johnson’s efforts to organise and deliver a successful event.

Accordingly, we have created an online holding page for the communities fair on our Meetup page to help raise awareness and avoid event clashes. See the page at If you are interested in joining the working group that is organising the communities fair, please get in touch with Councillor Johnson using the contact details here.

“What does this mean for our big community action gathering in early 2015?”

The events will complement each other. One of the things we will be discussing is when the best time to schedule our community action gathering to support rather than compromise the communities fair.



 Posted by at 12:51 pm
Sep 142014

Over 50 people took part in our Conversation Cafe on Saturday 13 September 2014 at Anglia Ruskin University – the first of a series of events that form part of our project. Co-chaired by Dr David Cleevely CBE and Anne Bailey of the Cambridge Area Partnership, guests taking part identified issues and ideas that formed into a series of themes including:

  • Community action
  • Arts and culture
  • Transport and housing
  • Green spaces
  • Growing up in Cambridge
  • Improving local government

We have uploaded some slides that capture some of the discussions that we had. See

We were joined by the Mayor of Cambridge, Cllr Gerri Bird. See what she had to say in the video below having taken part in some of the discussions

We also had representation from all three political parties on Cambridge City Council, and the three tiers of government with Vicky Ford MEP, Dr Julian Huppert MP and Cllr Lewis Herbert taking questions from participants.


We are grateful to photographer Lucinda Price who took lots of excellent photographs of the day – have a look at them on her website at

As well as having residents from across the city taking part, a number of people took part representing community groups and campaigns, such as the Cambridge Student Hub, the Cambridge Map Project and the Cambridge Cycling Campaign. We also had the Dosoco Foundation - one of the two beneficiaries of our project, represented by Andrea Cockerton of the Dowsing Sound Collective. We were also delighted to welcome Alan Alexander of the Haverhill-Cambridge rail campaign. With a large support network in Haverhill, the campaign is looking to work with Cambridge to re-open the old railway line that linked both places, and extend it all the way to Colchester. This opens the possibility of a direct rail service between Cambridge and Chelmsford – a boost for Anglia Ruskin University if we can make it happen.

We also benefited from the input of representatives from some our sponsors & supporters who joined us, including Bob Ensher of Morgan Sindall, Jane Paterson Todd of Cambridge Ahead and the team from Cambridge Event Management.

The workshops

We invited everyone to write ideas and issues onto post-it notes. We grouped the post-it notes into themes, which workshop groups then discussed how we could turn them into actions. At the end, we invited groups to summarise what they had discussed. The housing and green spaces workshop’s presentation is below – unfortunately the only one that survived the video transferring process! Apologies for the other presentations that wouldn’t transfer!

Everyone was invited to undertake one small action or one small behaviour change as a result of taking part in the conversation cafe. It was great to see people from different backgrounds and with different experiences coming together to take on the challenge of making our city great.

Want to get involved?

If you’d like to get involved in making our city greater than the sum of our parts, please join our Meetup group for free at This will ensure you are kept up to date with future events. We are also on Facebook and Twitter at @Bethechangecam.

We are also looking to run similar events with young people. If your school or college is willing to host a ‘Be the change – Cambridge’ event, please email Anne Bailey at the Cambridge Area Partnership at abailey [@] See if your school or college is part of the Cambridge Area Partnership at

For further questions about the project, please contact the project founder, Antony Carpen at antonycarpen [@]

Many bridges, one Cambridge. It’s your city.

Be. The. Change.



 Posted by at 5:45 pm