Practice Spotlight: Advice from Groundswell Project – How to Support Communities During COVID-19

Above: The Groundswell Project was founded in 2018 as a way to bring communities together. 

Hadiya Masieh, Founder of Groundswell Project

Hadiya Masieh is an expert consultant in the area of community cohesion, interfaith relations, counter extremism, and women’s involvement in extremism and radicalisation. Her experience spans over 22 years. She has been a counter extremism consultant for various Governments and NGOs worldwide. She has worked with both nonprofit and commercial organisations including Google and Facebook. She founded Groundswell Project in 2018 as a way to bring communities together. You can read her full biography here.

Connecting ethnic minority communities to local support and services is vital in responding to COVID-19 says Hadiya Masieh, founder of the U.K. based Groundswell Project and Fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. Here she shares her perspective of how and why we must strive to do better.

Over the weekend, thousands of people took to the streets up and down the country to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement. The murder of George Floyd has brought into sharp focus the anger, grief and feelings of injustice that so many around the world have felt for years. This time, it is not only well-established activists that have been moved to action. It’s given birth to what looks like the biggest civil rights protest of all time. And for those not joining a protest, our social media feeds have been filled with pledges to better educate ourselves, check our privileges and take proactive action in our personal lives, workplaces and in our local community.

Now really does feel like a time for real change and reflection. As the founder of a peacebuilding platform, I welcome this, but I also hope we can move forward as one by taking the time to listen, understand and serve each other. Our communities are vital platforms for this. As places where we should feel safe, supported and accepted, there is no better place to support diversity and build a more just society.

I founded the Groundswell Project last year to bring together communities in London following the division and hate that began to spread during the EU referendum. Whilst I saw peacebuilders everywhere, I was struck to see they often work in silos, meaning work was being replicated or was being overlooked. At the Groundswell Project, our job is to find, connect and amplify the amazing work happening across U.K. communities. We make it easy for people to get involved by mapping local community groups challenging hate, racism  via the map on our page.

Supporting the BAME community during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected us all in different ways; yet in the UK it has become clear that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected the ‘BAME community’ – Black, Asian minority ethnic communities, frequently referred to as BAME within. To help, we launched the campaign #CoronaKindness in early March to promote organisations working to support the BAME community during this time. The campaign also serves to highlight, connect and promote the many stories of communities helping each other through this global crisis, while helping refugees and others who are either too scared to access mainstream help or unaware of what is available.

As a woman of colour and the daughter of refugees, I identify closely with the people we’ve been helping to support. I appreciate the importance of community and the kindness of strangers, without which my family would have suffered terribly. The pandemic has affected everyone; but it’s going be felt hardest from those who have always been on the fringes of our society. Those are the people that we really want to help through our mapping, and promotion of community activity that is underway to provide food, essentials, company and more.

What can municipalities do to support the BAME community during COVID-19 and beyond?

  1. Create a one-stop shop for support available during COVID, like the Groundswell Project’s map
  2. Connect anti-hate/peacebuilding organisations to those that need them, but also to each other
  3. Promote a shared campaign, such as #CoronaKindness to encourage and promote positive acts

The selfless acts and kind gestures of unity that we’ve witnessed from our network during lockdown have blown me away. A synagogue opening its doors to their Muslim neighbours to break their fasts; a Mosque delivering food to their nearby hospice; white British Christians reaching out to their Somali neighbours for the first time and offering to make free meals for their community during the pandemic, these are just a few of the acts of kindness I’ve witnessed over the last few weeks.

Thank you to everyone who has reached out to your community during lockdown. We truly believe that when people are helped to join together with the same aims it always results in something powerful. These connections and acts of humanity are the natural antidote to the growing negativity and hate we still see during these unprecedented and uncertain times.

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