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Polish roots boost engagement for Crewe consultation

Polish roots boost engagement for Crewe consultation

Emotionally, the majority of people I spoke to were disappointed about the outcome. In reality, Brexit seems to have made a lot of people from the Polish community solidify their decision to stay here and commit citizenships

Patrycja Zawisza

An interview with Patrycja Zawisza at Groundswell Innovation

In conversation with Maia Broadley, Patrycja Zawisza discusses her role with Groundswell Innovation for Crewe’s Towns Fund consultation; from market research and re-discovering a community, to finding common ground and sparking inspiration for her thesis.

Crewe Towns Fund – tell me about your involvement

I’m from Crewe and I’m Polish, so I was really pleased to be able to get involved in the stakeholder engagement work that Groundswell Innovation was commissioned to complete by Crewe Town Board for the Towns Fund bid. 

My remit was to reach out to the Polish and Eastern European community because we knew there was a lack of representation.

It was a very odd time to be trying to engage in conversation because of the pandemic but I was even more surprised sometimes by what people said.

During the interviews it was strange to hear many people, Polish people especially, saying “I’m not confident enough in representing the community”. We used to have a very tight knit Polish community here in Crewe, there would be loads of social events going on.

Certainly not easy to connect with people during a pandemic. Did you face any other challenges?

Apart from one interview I did with an interpreter in Crewe, everyone else I had to speak Polish with. And that was kind of a new thing for me. It took a lot of practice to help me find my words in the beginning. It made me tap into the community that I didn’t really associate myself with because I mostly use and speak English. So, when I started reaching out, talking to different people and getting the survey out, I began to realise how large the community really is and how much is going on within the Polish community in Crewe.

Rev. Edwards (member of the Crewe Town Board) talked about the focus on receiving genuine responses rather than just ticking boxes… you’re both a resident of Crewe and a researcher, what was your perspective on the authenticity of the process?

I think it was authentic – we had some quite colourful responses!

As always, there’ll be a lot of people who will see a survey and want to list all the negatives about the place they live. But that’s an important part of the process, to let people vent their frustrations.

When people feel heard, you can often start to turn the conversation around to more positive discussions.  Others talked about everyday issues that can cause huge frustration. For example, rubbish collection, potholes and traffic all have a massive impact on people’s lives. Overall, people seemed quite hopeful to see that something really positive is happening in Crewe.

Getting a range of diverse voices was important for the consultation, how do you think that impacted the Polish community?

I don’t really see much of the town’s diverse outlook in the local press or anywhere online. In a lot of the interviews, people felt important because I’d say to them, the council is reaching out to us because we’re one of the largest communities in Crewe.

It made the consultation process itself a really positive experience for people whose views are not always visibly represented.  

Did you find commonalties within the different backgrounds and ethnicities you spoke to?

Everyone knows what needs to be improved in Crewe.

A lot of the outcomes people were asking for were well aligned across different community groups. Much more than you might imagine.

When we looked at all the data across the different surveys, and the interviews, the common themes were all pretty much the same. 

They felt the town centre needed a good look at, they also wanted far more facilities where people could come together as a community. Either around sport or around shared interests. The main differences were things like a bigger emphasis on green spaces for the Polish community. If you’re living in accommodation that doesn’t have its own garden, open spaces to play with children or meet with friends become really important for your general wellbeing.

And you spoke about the light-bulb moment for your dissertation. How did the work with Groundswell Innovation influence your research?

You see a lot of different reports on migration and Brexit brought out a lot of articles of people saying they experienced racism… I realised these were the big headlines in the media, but what are people actually thinking? 

Emotionally, the majority of people I spoke to were disappointed about the outcome. In reality, Brexit seems to have made a lot of people from the Polish community solidify their decision to stay here and commit to citizenships.

I connected to the Polish community through Groundswell and realised there’s a lot of community activity going on. I wanted to hear real people’s views rather than turning to the media, so I made that the focus of my dissertation research.

Would you say the engagement piece has been a catalyst for more change, more action? (Not least helping you with your dissertation topic and boosting Crewe’s bid for the £25million backing!)

It has definitely been a catalyst: if it only takes one person to do it for the Polish community and make an impact, then it could inspire other communities to do the same. People have said to me please keep me in the loop, keep me updated on what’s happening next.

I know Crewe Chronicle also brought out a massive four page spread in the newspaper, to talk about it!

To see how a Groundswell consultation and engagement piece can help to catalyse positive change within your community, then head to our case studies page here


Connect with Patrycja here

categories: Market Research

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