An interview with Rumman Ahmed, Community Relations Advisor, London Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, & Chair of the Faith & Regeneration Network
As an experienced project manager, do you have any words of advice for MCBDirect?
It is important for MCBDirect to first of all have a very detailed business plan for its first couple of years of operation. It is important that in this business plan the proposed work targets and outcomes do actually relate to the vision. This is because quite often when a new venture is set up, one tends to get on with doing things, and soon one is expanding to encompass all sorts of activities which in reality may not may have much to do with the original vision of the project.
Many donor organizations and funders are reluctant to fund religious organisations because of the association with missionary or proselytizing. How can the MCB overcome this barrier for its community service projects such as MCBDirect?
I think this is quite easy for the MCB. The MCB does not claim to work in the theological realm of Islam in Britain. As far as I understand the MCB is a national umbrella body of grassroots community organisations. This by itself is service orientated. Recent Government policies have made it easier for faith based organisations with service delivery aims to access all kinds of funding. I think MCBDirect needs to make clear that it is not a proselytizing body when making its grant applications, but in actuality it is there to provide much-needed information and services to all sections of the community. This is a very vital role which hitherto has been neglected in Britain and MCBDirect is filling this area of deficiency.
How does one gain the right skills to do community service work? Are there are any training courses or career pathways that you recommend?
Basic community development is a hands-on activity. For that you will need a certain portfolio of skills and insights which are not necessarily obtained from doing an academic work. However in recent years some universities have started post-graduate courses in community development and regeneration, such as the University of Westminister.
The Markfield Institute of Higher Education runs an MA in Islamic Studies that includes a module on the management of mosques, madrassas and Islamic centres. The tutor is Dr Fatma Amer. Perhaps this module could be expanded into a postgraduate certificate, postgraduate diploma and a two or three year part-time MA course in Muslim community development and management. I was invited to conduct a seminar at MIHE recently where I suggested such a course could be developed.
It is important that community development practitioners are on a continuous learning curve and for that they will need to periodically attend training courses run by the many national training organisations. But it is also important for practitioners to keep abreast of day-to-day developments in the sector and that one can easily do by subsrcibing to a number of journals and magazines that give a good overview of the sector. Examples are the newsletters of the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), theLondon Voluntary Sector, the Churches Community Workers Alliance (CCWA) and the Council for Ethnic Minority Voluntary Organisations (CEMVO).
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