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Interview: Paul Formosa “We need to find ways to support people to flourish and live their best possible lives”

26 March 2021

Paul joined Cripplegate as an adviser in 2020. He has lived in Islington his whole life and has been a trustee at local organisation Centre 404 for many years. As part of the Programme Committee and of the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Working Group, he looks forward to making a contribution to our work.


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I've been a trustee at Centre 404, a learning disabilities charity in Islington, for over a decade. I also work in a community setting, which is Culpeper Community Garden, where I also work with for trustees. So I've got a lot of experience of being involved in both sides of the governance coin. It's also something that I've studied, as I’ve got a master's in public service management and a PhD which involved policy evaluation. It's something that I'm really riveted by! I look forward to making a contribution in this way to my community, for as long as I may.


Why did you decide to become an adviser?

I applied to Cripplegate out of a sense of public duty. I was aware of Cripplegate's work, had a lot of respect for it, and understood the importance of this foundation within Islington. So when the advert came up, I thought, "Let me offer up my services. Let me see if they need me." And clearly it was decided I'd be of use, and I'm around now to make myself as useful as possible.

Paul Formosa during the interview at Culpeper Community Garden


Is there any particular piece of work or project that you have started working in as an adviser that you could tell us about?

I'm part of the Programme Committee and I'm part of the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Working Group. And I've also put my name down to support the communications work. One thing that I'd be most interested in, initially, is around digital inclusion. As the pandemic unfolded, it was clear that your ability to engage in services and support online became a lot more important. This is obviously an issue that Cripplegate worked on and confronted, and I think now, as the dust is settling, there is a need to really get an idea about what the state of play is. What should we be hanging on to about these online services? What do we need to be supporting in terms of who is missing out on things? And, if services are moving from face-to-face to online, what's the loss in that? I think the piece of research that we are starting around that is going to be really useful in getting a clear picture of where we are.

I think that there are underlying high levels of need amongst people who live in prosperous cities like London, and they can often be quite easily overlooked

Which do you think is or are the biggest challenges in the sector at the moment?

I think that there are underlying high levels of need amongst people who live in prosperous cities like London, and they can often be quite easily overlooked. When it comes to people's lived day-to-day realities, the quality of life becomes of less concern than meeting people's basic material needs, which is, of course, important and needs to be done. But I feel that there needs to be a consistent move towards holistic approaches to people's support and flourishing in our society. And we need to find ways as best possible to support people to flourish and live their best possible lives. It's not enough just to say, "Oh, someone has enough food and they have shelter." Those basic Maslow needs. Because there are enough resources in society, and enough expertise, for us to be thinking, "How do we help each other to flourish? How do people live the fullest and best possible lives?"


Lastly, what is your favourite thing about Islington?

Tough question. I really like the fact that in Islington I may walk around places where I grew up, around Finsbury Park and Holloway in particular, and I bump into people who I may have gone to nursery school with, who I may have played with when I was 10, or who were my neighbour at some point. And I really like the feeling I get when I see someone that I've known, not very well for 40 years, but know them well enough to say, "Hello", and have noticed some difference in them. And I really like the familiarity of the somewhat village experience this particular part of the world offers me.


Is there anything else you’d like to add?

One of the things that inspired me, and encouraged me, along with the branch at Cripplegate, was their emphasis on inclusion and equality at that time. And since I've joined, I can see that it is an organisation that is really committed to inclusion and equality, and addressing imbalances amongst the population. I'm really happy to be part of that, and I look forward to seeing some of the positive changes that are affected by this.