The story of HOPE not hate’s communities work

HOPE not hate is committed to working in the communities most vulnerable to far right and racist narratives by challenging hate, supporting activists, building community resilience and even by more intensive community organising. Our CEO Nick Lowles explains more.

Underpinning HOPE not hate’s ethos and approach is the idea that the best defence against extremism comes from within the communities targeted by the far right themselves. Local people have the knowledge, are better respected and more trusted and will find it easier to build sustainability than activists coming in from the outside.

While our community work does not always receive the level of public attention of our research or campaigning, it is a vital element of who we are and what we do. Indeed, intervening early and supporting existing networks can often head off trouble or at least make it easier to deal with when it occurs.

Our community work comes in several different forms. In 2019 we launched When Hate Comes to Town, an online toolkit for understanding and challenging the far right. This toolkit provides ‘how to’ guides to challenging hate, delivers simple but clear profiles of far right groups and key individuals and highlights real life case studies of good practice.

We deliver regular training to statutory partners, third sector organisations and activists on specific elements of the far right threat and building community resilience. Over the past year this has included helping people understand the dangers of conspiracy theories and QAnon. Our Hopeful Towns project has created a Towns Leadership Network, which includes sharing good practice and ‘How To’ guides with local authorities and local statutory and community organisations.

A key partner in our community work is faith networks, as they are embedded and invested in local communities and have crucial local networks. We work with faith leaders at a national and local level to share information and good practice, provide training, offer research briefings that may impact their communities and give campaign advice.

A central part of successful community organising is winning the trust of local people and this takes time. It’s crucial that we listen to local people and offer them support on their concerns and priorities before we start engaging on issues of racism and fascism. Local people are understandably skeptical – and even resistant – to outsiders coming in to tell them to think or behave in a particular way.

One of our longest running and most successful community initiatives has been in Bradford, where we work in the communities most vulnerable to far right narratives. Over the years we have run projects in Keighley, to prevent the BNP from exploiting grooming scandals, and more generally mobilising civil society in Bradford against English Defence League incursions.

Our latest project in Bradford is in Buttershaw, in the south of the city, where we have been working for the past four years. During the pandemic we teamed up with a local community centre to establish a food bank and delivered hot meals and shopping to the elderly and others who were shielding. This summer, we produce an eight-page community newspaper and hosted a community fun day, which was attended by over 500 people from the estate.

HOPE not hate has recently launched the HOPE Heroes award to recognise and celebrate those who have helped to unite their communities and build resilience against the far right.

Ultimately, we see our role in communities as using our knowledge and experience as a resource to be there simply to support regular people who care about where they live, and who want to build resilience against the far right.

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