It’s true. ROC is officially a teenager. As old as the young people who come to our ROC Cafes or take part in our new peer mentoring project.
I struggle to believe how much ROC has changed and grown since I first dreamed of communities being transformed in Greater Manchester. We launched ROC in 2004 at the Reebok Stadium (now the Macron Stadium) in Bolton where thousands of people across the North West gathered and pledged to reduce violent crime in the region. A year later that pledge was met when the Metro Newspaper reported that violent crime in the region had fallen by 11%, bucking the national trend.
It was 6 months after this launch that I realised that all the work and all the struggles were making a difference – I was overwhelmed to read in the Manchester Evening News that anti-social behaviour had fallen by 40% in the areas where we had started projects. And this was only the beginning; over the next couple of years ROC grew at a rate we were barely able to keep up with.
In 2006 we launched ROC Nationally at the NEC in Birmingham, with over 7000 people gathering from all across the country to take a stand to see our communities changed forever. Since then projects have spread all over England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But it was 2014 that I feel has been one of my favourites. In our 10th anniversary year we moved into our new headquarters at The FUSE in Partington – the £5million community building given to us by the government to help change the lives of youth people throughout Trafford and Manchester. Taking on The FUSE has been both one the best things and one of the hardest things we’ve done at ROC. It has been difficult trying to run a business and a charity at the same time and paying the bills is always a challenge, but I thank God for an amazing staff team who can do aspects of the work that I find the most challenging.
Last year, ten years after we launched nationally, ROC launched internationally; with plans in place for our first overseas ROC Conversations in Australia later this year in October. I am excited to be planning the next phase of ROC – to see many more projects starting up around the UK and overseas so that more people and communities can benefit form our work. My hope is that we can raise up community champions to work alongside us in developing ROC and provide training to hundreds of volunteers. And, who knows, maybe I will write another book to share the new and exciting stories of ROC to inspire more community changers to join our vision.