27 May 2011
Thirty-one students were honoured at a graduation ceremony for an innovative community leadership programme designed and delivered by the Centre for Ethnic Minority Studies (CEMS) at SOAS and funded by Tower Hamlets Council.
The ceremony was attended by several dignitaries, including Lord Nazir Ahmed, the UK’s first Muslim life peer, and the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman.
The students, either living or working in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and mainly professionals, all share the aim of trying to make a difference to peoples’ lives in the community.
The Postgraduate Diploma in Community Leadership was established to cultivate and nurture community leadership so as to empower participants to tackle urgent social problems connected to disadvantage, discrimination and adversity in general, and in particular those found in highly diverse communities such as Tower Hamlets.
“I am confident that, after exploring the factors that enable leaders and senior executives to develop their leadership role, the participants will provide opportunities to share their experiences, enabling others to take inspiration and learn from successful practices to best fulfil community leadership roles,” said Professor Graham Furniss, SOAS Pro-Director (Research & Enterprise), who presided over the ceremony.
The interdisciplinary programme focuses on legal, political, cultural and social power structures within which leaders and communities must operate, connecting a wide range of academic, theoretical and practical topics. These include understanding the many cultures and religions in a community, civic participation, research methods, advocacy, diversity of leadership and management styles, the nature and role of law and key organisational and business skills.
The aim is to teach students how to address urgent community social issues, particularly those associated with education, mental health, the criminal justice system, discrimination, racial harassment and violence.
Sultana Khanom, one of the graduating students, said the programme came about at just the right time, given the recent political and economic changes, and that it has been a vehicle for her professional development.
“Communities are in transition, time moves fast in the voluntary and community sector, but the needs of people do not, and this is where the real challenge of bringing balance and equilibrium lies”, she said.
The project was launched in September 2010 and the graduation was held in SOAS' Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre on Monday, 16th May 2011.