Monthly Archives: June 2014

What I’m up to in communities

12 years ago I set up a charity to reach At-Risk women and young people and over that time, we played a role in transforming a number of lives. The challenge I began to wrestle with a few years ago though was that for every girl we reached, every family we helped restore, every young person who found a better future; the same problems still existed within the borough, the town and region still had problems and even though we were seeing lives regenerate, the places within our communities were not changing.  One particular place that seemed to typify this was Stockton High Street. The high street had been in decline for over 20 years and gradually, the shops closed, business failed, the paint peeled off the windows and the signs came down. People who would once have been frequent visitors of the high street stopped coming and the place generally felt like it had lost hope.  So I began to ask the question “What would Stockton look like if it was loved?”

I took my question to the churches, then the community groups, businesses, I posted it on facebook and twitter, I began a blog, asked the film makers, the musicians and the creative people.

The answers began to come in.. People said things like, “it would look like a town that is thriving”, “a town that is growing”, “a town that is living and not dying”.  “People would begin to visit the high street, to see what is happening, to shop there, eat there, do business there, socialise there”.  “faith would be vibrant, the church would be on the high street” “Creative’s would find work”, “young people would find hope”, “we’d have a skate park”, “we’d have things for families to do”. “People would be healthier” “They’d drink less” “The pubs would be busier”, “It would be a place where musicians gather, artists reside and media businesses thrive”.  “We could be a Camden Town of the North with a famous market” “We could have live music in the streets, comedy in the pubs” “Stockton could be transformed”. 

The answers were amazing, but my next question was this “So what would it look like if “You” loved Stockton?  “What could you do to love the town?” You see, through 12 years of running a charity, I came to realise one thing.  This town won’t change unless we are all a part of making it change. The journey towards transformation of a place has got to be about mobilisation of the people of that place, to be the difference, to be the change they want to see. Things began to spring up from that initial question, people started getting active and groups started to emerge.  Now I’ve got more time, I’m getting out there again, engaging with communities to ask them what change would you like to see in your community?  When they are unhappy, angry, inspired or passionate about something, I am then asking so what can you do?

So far it seems to be working, people are beginning things again and its all quite exciting. If you want to follow these stories, make sure you subscribe and if you are inspired, angry or passionate about something yourself, why not get in touch, maybe you can do something?

What Jessie Jacobs did Next?

My name is Jessie Joe Jacobs and if you have been following my journey over the last few months, you will know that in April I handed over my role as chief executive of A Way Out, the women and young peoples charity that I had been running for the last 12 years.  It was an emotional month.  I had many encouraging and kind words from a whole host of people locally and further afield.  A lot of people congratulated me on what had been achieved, shared with me in the sadness of leaving, and wished me well for the future. But there was one question on everyone’s lips: “So what are you going to do next?”

I thought about it for a while, a little surprised at why people were so interested. People move on all the time from jobs and roles and positions, but I guess moving on from something that has played such a big role, not just in your own life but in the lives of so many other people is more rare. I wondered how to respond, finding myself awkwardly answering radio interviews, seeming too vague in conversations with friends. I then began to hear rumours from other people of what I was going to do next, ranging from an education role, Member of Parliament, local councillor, I’d retired, I’d been headhunted, to some wilder guesses which included becoming a minister in Africa! (That one made me laugh out loud)

I considered whether I needed to do a big press release, launch party or something else significant to give everyone the answer they were looking for, but I couldn’t, because here is the big reveal… There isn’t a big “What next”, because actually, the next part of my journey, is about doing a series of small things, while I work out the answer to that question.

I have become politically active & I am exploring what this might mean longer term. I have had some interesting offers of work and have been trying to decide which of these, if any I might get involved with. I am beginning something new, in terms of community activism and place regeneration and have been fortunate enough to get some funding for that… But; none of these are the next new big “what next”; they are all small things, small next steps. I have always been an advocate of the idea that we can all do small things to help change the world and so now I am basically joining in doing just that and seeing where it all leads. Some things that are emerging are amazing and exciting, other things are more small-scale, but fun. I believe there is something to be learnt through all of these activities though and so I’ve decided to document this journey through this blog.

I hope as I share my reflections you will continue to be encouraged, inspired and challenged and I hope we will find what Vincent Van Gogh once said to be true for all of us, that “Great things are done by a series of small things, brought together”.

If you are interested in following my journey, maybe you would like to subscribe to this blog and let’s see where this journey takes us