25 April 2023 A legendary community organiser, Neil Jameson

“I describe myself as a community organiser seeking talented leaders and young organisers who have the courage and commitment to work with others democratically to strengthen civil society in pursuing the common good and tackling injustice” – speaking at SICM Mahfil Ali on 3 March 2023.

Muslim civil society and beyond mourns the demise on 24th April 2023 of a selfless public servant and founder of Citizens UK, pioneer of community organising, Neil Jameson CBE. He had retired as Executive Director of Citizens UK in 2018, but remained active in the cause dear to him – the plight of refugees coming to the UK – to the very end. Among his last public engagements was at the MCB affiliate the Shia Ithna’ashari Community of Middlesex on 3rd March 2023, when he noted, “refugees have always been with us, so get used to it. Because of climate change there will be even more refugees”. He lived by what he preached, and housed an Ukranian family at his home.

Neil Jameson was the driving force behind numerous campaigns and initiatives. This included an investigation, ‘Islam, Participation and Public Life’, chaired by the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve MP QC. Neil invited Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari of the Muslim Council of Britain to serve on its Commission. Its work resulted in the report ‘The Missing Muslims: Unlocking British Muslim Potential for the Benefit of All’ (2017).

Through Citizens UK, he was key in the achievements of the Living Wage Campaign, launched in 2015, Its activism provided leadership and community organising experience to a younger generation of activists such as Ruhana Ali, Neil was also instrumental in forming the East London Community Organisation (Telco) in 2001, With the support of Chowdhury Mueenuddin of the East London Mosque, Telco became a strong interfaith alliance bringing together imams and the clergy to tackle shared social issues in a practical way.

A biographical note about him on the Citizens UK website notes,

Neil first started organising in Bristol in 1988, following 20 years’ experience of working for Coventry and Somerset Local Authorities and two major Children’s Charities. In Bristol Neil built and launched Communities Organised for a Greater Bristol (COGB). In 1994, Neil was invited to move to East London where he worked with others to build The East London Citizens Organisation (TELCO). By 1996 Neil had established a London headquarters for Citizens UK and in 2000 he was appointed the first Executive Director for Citizens UK by which time he had overseen new alliances being built and launched in South London and the West Midlands and the small team of professional Citizens Organisers began to grow.

By 2016 and 2017 Citizens was UK wide and over 15,000 people participated in election assemblies, including 6,000 citizens at the London Mayoral Assembly at the Copper Box in April 2016. These Citizens Assemblies are just one of the powerful tools that Neil along with CUK’s leadership adopted from the US (and revived from a long-standing UK historical tradition). Trained leaders hold power to account and build positive relationships with powerful leaders such as Mayors, Council Leaders, Ministers, political party leaders and senior business executives. Neil and his team have also maintained and benefited from strong links with the Industrial Areas Foundation in the USA and a growing movement in Europe of the wider international network community of organisers. [. . .]

The Guardian has identified Neil as one of UK’s top 100 leading public servants. In 2016 Neil was awarded a CBE for ‘Services to Community Organising and Social Justice’ in the New Year’s Honours list in recognition for his pioneering contribution to public life.

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