Yesterday I went to a conference called 'Be the Change'. For me, it was about the residents of Cambridge meeting together and seeing how we can make our city greater, fairer and more equal. There were politicians present too, who were there to listen and take away with them our ideas.
I suppose many outsiders wonder how such a great city has any problems, but the truth is that while our city is great and we are proud to live here, there are still problems we need to face up to and find their solutions. Yes, we are the forerunners in science and technology, but I feel that the ordinary citizens of the city have suffered from its success. Due to its success, Cambridge has become the beacon of hope, and the city where people flock to, to make a career. Due to this, we have a shortage in affordable housing, housing in general in fact, and issues surrounding education and traffic problems. These are not the only problems, and things aren't really as simple as I'm making them sound. The city is expanding too quickly, and due to it being surrounded by green belt land, it is becoming more and more difficult to buy within the city, unless of course you are a millionaire. Although the city has lots of new developments, they cost sky high prices. We are also suffering from investors buying up these expensive homes or people buying them and renting them out for extortionate sums of money. Then, there are other concerns surrounding the idea of the community and people trying desperately holding on to the endangered soulfulness of Cambridge.
At the conference, after coming up with these problems or issues, they were divided into 6 different sections. I went for the 'Housing, Green Spaces, Development' section. I found that being there showed me that I still have much to learn, I must speak out more and be more confident in my opinions. When you are in a situation that many people feel deeply passionate about the subject, it is often difficult to voice your opinions. Furthermore, it is made even more difficult when others dismiss them. It kind of showed me why so many people remain silent, and why many more people feel disenchanted by politics and speaking up about the solutions to the bigger problems. Although I was able to later on express this to the group, I still feel uncomfortable and slightly disheartened by what I experienced yesterday. Moreover, I can now understand why it is difficult to come up with solutions to the many problems our city faces. People are intolerant. People are impatient. People are disrespectful. If we became a little bit more open to other people's opinions on any matter, if we're willing enough to listen to their ideas, we may well come up with solutions we would never have thought of. That's what I've always loved about working in groups, listening to others' ideas opens up so many more possibilities.While listening to other groups, I felt happier, feeling hopeful that they had been able to overcome the pride that a few people in our group were unable to shed. Their presentation of ideas were much more positive. But then, housing is not an easy subject to discuss either.
Something else that was discussed in the conference was Unitarian Authority. Cambridge is effectively run by 3 authorities, which makes things a lot more difficult rather than easy. One thing that all the groups spoke of was the idea of joint up thinking, and a separate entity that over looks the housing situation. It seems that despite Cambridge being run by 3 authorities, they've still not gained the skills of working well together. There seems to be no effective communication between different parts of the council and then similar departments of the 3 authorities that run the city which in turn has resulted in poor communication to the residents. There was an interesting talk of a unitarian authority as one of the sections. It was interesting, and something that will need a lot of support behind it to have any chance of becoming a reality.
The Conservative MEP for East of England, stumbled in an hour before the end of the event, and to me seemed to have completely missed the point. Instead of discussing our solutions, she tried to make us feel guilty for having any views on any matters. She reminded us about how we should be proud of Cambridge, and how Cambridge is the city of advancing science etc. In other words, she just gave a political speech. She may as well have not come and just sent us a video. The leader of the council addressed all the topics and demonstrated that he had listened. He discussed at great length the issues facing us and made a great effort. The city's MP was the only one who made the links- we had all pretty much said that we needed joined up thinking. He also made a great effort on his part.
Someone else worth noting about is the Cambridge Conservative Parliamentary Candidate, who left quite early on in the day. She seemed to know very little about the real issues surrounding Cambridge, and seemed to know very little about the city she is standing for soon.
The idea of having politicians at this conference was excellent. It made me feel positive, as though my ideas were listened to and someone who had the power to make a difference had heard them. This, in turn, made me feel powerful as an ordinary citizen. As I've already said, I will be taking a few things away with me from yesterday. The most important thing is that I will speak up, I stupidly thought that since we're all adults that I didn't have to but you really have to fight to be heard. I will keep learning as I still have so much more to learn, and I will stand by my opinions. At the same time, I will remain respectful to the opinions of others.
Overall, it was a great event, albeit in a room half full of egos.
Until next time,