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Cultivating dialogue at the Conservative Party Fringe

Publication date: October 3, 2017

Written by Professor Sarah Niblock, Chief Executive, UKCP

“I’ve just been walking and talking to Jacob Rees-Mogg.” I had to blink hard as my bleary, early-morning eyes read the text from our Chair Martin Pollecoff, just hours after we’d delivered our rallying cry at the Conservative Party Conference.

While most Mancunians ate their cereal and toast, Martin was already briefing on UKCP’s visionary zeal to cut our mental health crisis off at the knees.

I must admit, when I joined UKCP as CEO three weeks ago, I was a little cynical about how much impact we could muster from our evening stint at the Fringe. What if no-one showed up?

Fear turned to frisson once we were through airport-style security.

OK, by my quick-and-dirty journalistic survey, the conference venue was around 75per cent young-men-in-blue-suits. But, as it soon became clear, we couldn’t have got closer to Government.

One moment, we were next to Michael Gove. Then up popped Andrea Ledsome. We even crossed paths with Edwina. A quick pit-stop and we were perched besides a mineral-water sipping Jeremy Hunt.

Invigorated, at 6.45pm we hoisted the UKCP banner aloft – in a spot an estate agent would describe as ‘perfectly-aspected’ beside the main entrance. Suddenly, a flurry of men-in-black scuttled toward the door.

They were encircling a purposefully-striding Prime Minister Rt Hon Theresa May.

Yes, I’ll put my hands up and admit: she didn’t make a beeline for us with a blank cheque…not  THIS time anyway.

But there’s no doubting she got an eyeful of our logo as it swayed in the evening chill, fanned by the sweep of the beetling press photographers.

As you can read in our accompanying news story, our event itself could not have been more positive and collaborative. We came away feeling we’d made an impact.

It came through loud and clear that UKCP’s members are research-led social innovators, and we’re committed to working alongside all sectors and walks of life to deliver lasting and transformative changes at the grassroots.

We know there are barriers to access which we must break down for children, young people, individuals, couples and groups of all ages and backgrounds.

But instead of conflictual energy and language, we’re cultivating dialogue. After all, it’s talking – not tablets – that’s the solution.

That’s the message Jacob Rees-Mogg and all his colleagues will be taking back to Westminster from UKCP today.




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