We recently invited Cllr Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor & cabinet member Communities (Public Health, Public Transport, Libraries, Parks), Events and Equalities, and Christina Gray, Director for Communities and Public Health from Bristol City Council to join us for Transitions 2.0.
Claire Hazelgrove (CH): Good morning and thanks for joining us at Transitions 2021. I'm really excited to be facilitating this very exciting conversation with two brilliant speakers who I'll introduce in just a moment.
To introduce myself first, I'm Claire Hazelgrove, FutureGov’s Organising and Political Engagement Director. I lead our practice of work with public institutions, supporting them with community engagement, community participation and deliberative democracy to really ensure that people's voices are at the heart of change within their place. That's one good reason why I'm leading the session today. The other is actually I just recently moved to South Bristol. So this is the place that we'll be discussing today within this session.
The topic that we're looking at is really around Bristol's coordinated COVID-19 response. And what the council and its elected representatives are doing to build back better in a collaborative networked way that addresses not only the pandemic, but wider challenges and climate and economic uncertainty.
The two speakers who we’ll go to in a moment to introduce themselves and give initial opening remarks about five minutes each are Councillor Ashler Craig, Deputy Mayor with responsibility for communities, equalities and public health and Christina Gray, Director for Communities and Public Health at Bristol City Council. So welcome to you both.
Councillor Asher Craig (AC): Thank you so much for inviting us, both myself and Christina to present the journey that Bristol has been on, particularly over this last year. One of the things that I will say quite clearly about Bristol is that about three or four years ago, the mayor had the vision to look at how we as a city can coordinate better collectively.
Not just as the city council, because we are only one of the sum of many different parts. But to bring together a collective of partners and key organisations from across the city, in what we call that one city approach: Bristol, one city. Over the last two years, we've actually initiated and set out a plan for the future direction of the city to 2050. But it's a collective effort. It's no one organisation leading, it's a collection of those organisations.
When Christina came that day and tapped me on the shoulder, whispered in my ear that we have our first (coronavirus) case, we just set the wheels in motion. And because we already have the infrastructure of the one city plan and the one city approach, it made our response absolutely immediate.
We'll get to talk about some of the things that we did, but we had a very dormant, volunteering website. And maybe it had a couple of hundred people on there. We mobilised really quickly, working with our community development team to up the ante and use that as a means by which we could coordinate a lot of the efforts from the mutual aid support groups, that just literally sprung up overnight. I think we have maybe 30, 40 even more mutual aid support groups. It was great to see all of that volunteering effort happening. But obviously, we're also talking about vulnerable children and vulnerable people, we needed to make sure that people were not going to take advantage of that situation.
We were able, as a local authority, to use our infrastructure to wrap our arms loosely around those mutual aid support groups. So they were still able to just be free and flexible and do what they needed to do. But we used our website, our volunteering hub, to actually get people to sign in and do some training.