In 2001, two groups of young men living either side of Bristol’s M32 motorway attacked each other with knives and machetes – not for the first time, nor the last. At the same time, Bristol – a compact, relaxed and to that point overwhelmingly white city in SW England – was struggling to cope with one of the highest rates of demographic change in the country. These challenges were leading to tensions and conflicts on the streets, in schools and in local communities and housing blocks.
Founded in 2001, Community Resolve worked as an NGO to strengthen community relationships and build connections across city networks and hierarchies. The organisation pioneered an untried approach to community divides, of developing a shared language around everyday conflict while embedding conflict management skills in individuals across all walks of life. Community Resolve’s strong commitment to an ethos of inclusivity and respect engaged an extraordinary range of people from across Bristol backgrounds and life experiences – from the poor to the rich, the educated to those without qualifications – who connected with the organisation as workers, volunteers, steering group members, supporters and commissioners, alongside thousands of service users.
The experience and learning from those years form the platform for all my work today, including academic teaching and research. For me, the comments below – collected by independent researchers in 2013 exploring the impact of Community Resolve on Bristol over 10 years of work – encapsulate a lot of the principles I tried to bring to the organisation in my role as Director:
“The Director was a really good ambassador for the work they did … she really understood multi-agency work”
“The Director’s leadership was very dynamic, very inspirational, extremely intelligent and quick but also with a really keen ideal of trying to enable others”
“She’s very good at directing and looking at the best possible way to move forward and she’s a risk taker”
Local authority colleague
“The Director was like a breath of fresh air, with a unique combination of a grasp of theory relating to community and conflict and also a sense of action and application. And it’s very rare that I see those qualities in one person.”