I've just returned from a conference funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation called 'The Common Good'. It was a weekend to build up trust and relationships with people who are passionate about Bradford, and who were pooled from a cross spectrum of faith's and organisations.
It was encouraging to meet so many others who cared about the city, many of whom I had either not met before, or I had not had time to get to know properly. I hope it is true of most cities and town that there are more people working for the common good than we might realise.
Of course there were differences about the definition of what the common good is, and what the issues that a network such as ourselves could actually deal with. Is it to build up 'resilience' during tough time? Is it to defend and promote agencies of the common wealth; Education; Housing; Healthcare? There were discussions about Public sector cuts; the alienation of white working class kids; lack of opportunities for Black and Ethnic Minorities in the city's institutions; issues of attitudes towards women and the how to protect vulnerable young people in Bradford. There were also interesting discussions about the Biraderi Clan system (Pakistani brotherhood tribal networks) and the increase in disabilities with the local Asian population.
One of the objectives is to find a space where we talk honestly about these issues. But if the group becomes yet another talking shop - often simply regurgitating issues that can be used by the media to attack the local Pakistani population (especially after Jack Straw's recent comments) then the exercise will be a pointless waste of time and money.
If though it can genuinely harness the common good of Bradford people, share resources, offer a think tank for solutions and encourage interethnic/faith/cultural networking, then it will be worth a long weekend away from family.
Like all of us from Bradford (or indeed any city) I guess the outcome will be down to us. We are the 'common'. The question is; can we come up with anything 'good'?