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Civic Approaches to Decolonisation

Marie-Annick talks to Bristol mayor, Marvin Rees, about the One City Plan which includes commitments on the curriculum and race equality.
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One of your key election pledges was to tackle the issues of inequality as a whole-city approach. And your approach, as I understand it, was to create the one-city plan. And I’m mindful that the one-city plans to address all forms of inequalities. You highlighted this in many of your discussions and presentation talks. But could you tell us a little bit more about the one-city plan, the thinking behind it, and more specifically, the approach on how it help address the issues of race inequality? So I think I’m one of those people that I’ve always described Bristol as a city of contradictions, where it has a fantastic story to tell to the outside world.
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But tens of thousands of people in Bristol are not part of that story, don’t share in that incredible story. And for the sake of social justice and integrity and economic strength in the future, we have to deal with that. But the one-city plan is a recognition really that what people get from Bristol and what Bristol is, is not the result of the decisions made by any single organization. Bristol is the product of all the decisions made across local government, health service, business, trade unions, faith organizations, voluntary community sector, community groups, and individual decisions.
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And if we’re serious about shaping life in Bristol in a way that we would want it to be shaped, rather than leaving it to chance, the roll of the die, we need to organize ourselves. There’s a great line by Malcolm X. That “we don’t lack numbers, we lack organization.” We would fail to become the thing that we want to be if we could ever agree what we want to be and without being organized. So the city plan does two things. One, is it brings all those organizations together; two, agree on what we want to be, not just this year. But we’ve set out in 2050 because you’ve got to build into that.
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And we want to be a city of hope and inclusive, sustainable city in which no one’s left behind. So we’ve agreed that’s the vision. Then what the city plan does is it says outside of any individual organizations and activity, what do we need to achieve as a city year-on-year every year to become that thing in 2050? And there were some outcomes that are very specific to particular organizations. But even if it’s not an outcome you are delivering, you’ll know that it’s going on, and you can bend what you do to support it. So ordinarily providing foster families would be down to the local authority but actually we’ve had private companies like Hargreaves Lansdown, for example, say, do you know what?
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We’re going to look at HR policy. And if people become foster families, we’re going to support them as a business, so we can take collective responsibility for these aims. So it allows us to bend our activity towards that shared vision, that shared goal that we have for Bristol. Tackling exclusion tackling inequality is part of that, whether it be driven by race, class, gender, sexuality, disability. And I’ve already said, it’s on all of those, but doesn’t mean we don’t specialize because while class is inseparable from race and gender intersects with race, they are not the same thing, right?
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It may be that you cannot talk about one without the other, but we should not fail to realize that they aren’t the same thing. So there’s also an intellectual work going on with the city plan as well, which is giving us a framework for being able to talk about any particular issue of discrimination. While also recognizing that does not mean that we are not talking about and addressing other drivers of discrimination. And that’s really important for people to hear because so often, it’s like someone tells you a story about race, and someone has to counter it with gender. And if you talk about gender, someone has to counter it with sexuality. It’s not a game of top trumps.
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We’re doing them all. And the plan sets out how we will do them all. So every issue will have its energy. I’m also aware that some of these issues are at the local level. We can do as much as we want to change things, but there’s a much more global context. And I’m aware that you’re doing a lot of work around that. And I wonder whether you can touch on this a little bit in terms of how you intersect the work that you’re doing locally with a much more broader and a global outlook. Yeah. There’s an interesting dynamic around that because we just had a debate on the airport, and that was approached as a ferociously local issue.
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And yeah, it’s an international issue by definition. And one of the journeys I going on in Bristol is since, getting elected, I am a global citizen anyway. Dad’s from Jamaica. My great grand mom came from Ireland. My wife is American. My sister married a Swiss, German guy. We are a global family. And most of my Jamaican family are Jamericans, living in Atlanta and Maryland. But I didn’t come in on my top priorities of, we’re going to do this internationally and that internationally. But what’s clear is that city leaders need the powers when we talk about devolution.
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Not just powers to shape what goes on inside that city boundaries, but to shape the national and international context in which they have to work because that context shapes life in a city. So migration is an issue of national policy, but has ferociously local drivers and consequences. And that’s not just about social, that’s about businesses and universities, right? And yet the places where migration happens are not getting the opportunity to shape it. Climate change, as I said, many of the actions we need to take are international. And at the local level, we have a role to play, but we’re not going to solve it household by household.
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It’s going to mean a system change, fundamentally or in systems that underpin our cities. So one of the pieces of work I’m involved in with the World Economic Forum at the moment is about city finance, municipal finance, because the argument I’ve made is we can go and win hearts and minds and that’s fine. But actually, what people need are waste systems, energy systems, transport systems, water systems that are decarbonized and pro-life so they’re not even thinking about– they don’t even have to think about climate. The way the city works does not contribute to the planet becoming uninhabitable for human life. Now that takes billions of pounds. Cities don’t have that kind of investment money sitting around.
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It’s with national governments, and it’s with international investors. So as we begin talking about taking on these major challenges, we have to be able to operate on a global scale. So we work, through– for example, I’m on the Mayors Migration Council. I’m part of Euro Cities, obviously, with Bristol. I was on the Executive Committee of the Global Parliament of Mayors. I attend C40 events. We’re part of the UCLG Inclusive Cities Network. And these are all forums and platforms for cities to combine their voice and shape national and international policy. I’m also the Local Government Association’s rep on the Commonwealth Local Government Forum as well now.
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So I sit as our national , I guess, rep on that, which I grew up in Easton. And when I say that, that sounds mad, right? [LAUGHS] But I am. And what we’ve done is we’ve stressed the importance of young people’s voices, but also making sure that the sustainable development goals are central to our planning going forward.

In this video, Dr Marie-Annick Gournet (one of the lead educators for Week 4 of this course) talks to Bristol mayor, Marvin Rees about Bristol’s One City Plan.

The One City Plan is ambitious and wide-ranging. It contains an important strand around education, which includes CARGO’s work on the school history curriculum that you heard about in the previous step. It also involves a Learning City Strategy and Partnership which includes community organisations like CARGO, schools, colleges and universities in Bristol working towards common civic aims.

One of the Plan’s commitments is to ‘to increase the diversity of educators in the city, and support education partners in launching a Bristol curriculum that reflects the city’s diversity and history’.

Just as the University must look outside itself to ensure a meaningful decolonisation, Marvin Rees discusses how a city must also seek to work at the national and global levels to effect change. He, like Lawrence Hoo in the previous step, emphasises the importance of adequately resourcing programmes that are seeking to change structural legacies.

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