Posts Tagged ‘community organising’

Welcome new members – here’s some leaflets to deliver

13/05/2015, 11:54:08 AM

by James Noakes

20,000 new members since the election is something the Labour Party should be pleased about but we also shouldn’t squander this opportunity. Aside from updating the introductory email as the current one from Ed asks them to work for a Labour victory in 2015, there are some things we can do to make the membership experience better.

Ask not only why they join but what they want

We live in an age where membership experience of any organisation is increasingly driven by expectations. Except in political parties. Some people are driven to become very engaged and want to be out there flying the flag and canvassing, others want to be part of the policy process whilst there are some who just want to make a donation and receive some literature every now and then. It may come as a shock but not everyone joined to deliver leaflets or attend meetings akin to those of the People’s Front of Judea.

The party can save time, effort and annoyance if we just focus more on this crucial area. Imagine being a CLP secretary who is told that 200 new members have joined. That’s a lot of (somewhat enjoyable) work. Imagine though if the secretary was told 180 of them have no interest in meetings, leaflets or canvassing. It makes for a better directed approach.

Find out who they are

Even as an elected councillor there have been few occasions when I have been asked about my profession and what I could add. People come to the party with skills – life and work skills we can really make use of but invariably fail to do so. I’m not just talking about ‘professional’ skills or in depth knowledge of a particular subject field – though that is important to tap into. Sometimes it is a bit more straightforward. A colleague of mine worked in the pools industry and was used to stuffing envelopes at a ridiculously fast pace (and had friends who could help too). It was silly it took to so long to ask her to coordinate that!

Remember that they need help too (more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

We don’t have to choose between the party and community organising

20/02/2011, 05:00:23 PM

by Karin Christiansen

With the re-launch of “movement for change” there are some important debates that need to be started within the party, but also a few that we really need to move beyond.

We should stop debating whether community organising is an ends or a means, whether it is about winning elections or empowering communities.  It is both. People can prioritise and see the sequencing in different ways, but we can still all let’s get on and do it.  As Anthony Painter pointed out in Uncut on Feb 4, when the original Chicago modellers hit the barriers of political power, they shifted their techniques to “hard” direct party-political campaigning.

But beware straw men in this “organising as means or ends” debate. Community organisers are well aware of the importance of who wins an election to achieving and delivering on community empowerment objectives. Similarly, even those who see community organising in purely instrumentalist terms, as basically a great technique for recruiting door knockers to up our contact rates and get out the vote, don’t believe that winning elections is the sole function of the Labour party, but that empowering communities matters too. Differences in emphasis, articulation and ideas about what causes what don’t mean there should be oppositions of either principle or practice.

Anthony Painter emphasises that we shouldn’t be looking to pick a winning model right now, but need more experimentation and evidence. I would go further and suggest that we shouldn’t be looking to pick a single model at all. There is no single approach to organising that will work everywhere or for everyone. Context matters – in terms of party, people and place. Our organisers need to be given a full range of models, skills and techniques that they can select from, experiment with and adapt to the situation they find themselves in. A central London or Birmingham constituency is likely to respond very differently to its counterparts in the semi-rural home counties or the industrial heartlands of the North.

So the movement for change is an approach that should be central to the future of the Labour party, simultaneously as a way of winning elections, re-engaging with communities and empowering people. But the movement cannot mean everyone marching in line and in time. Rather, it should be seen as an approach to experimenting and skilling up a new cadre of organisers armed with a wealth of techniques and approaches with which to support our activists, supporters, members and comrades.

We need to try different approaches and collect the evidence on how and why they work. What we must not do is pit them against each other or encourage factionalism around particular schools of thought or practice.

The Labour party needs the movement for change not just to transform communities, but for those very community organisers and communities in turn to transform the Labour Party.

Karin Christiansen is part of Labour Values and a contributing author to The Change We Need.

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

We need to build a party ready to win, argues David Miliband

26/07/2010, 10:00:36 AM

Labour has a responsibility to win again.

John Prescott, who epitomises the permanent campaign, wrote here that the correct response to the anger we feel is to get organised. I could not agree more and agree strongly with the ideas he set out. The Labour leadership election will rightly focus on the policy lessons we need to learn from our defeat – and there are many – but when the debate is over, Labour will have to re-emerge as movement with both the right ideas and organisation to win again.

We should recognise the remarkable lengths that party activists go to. Their hard work saved Labour from catastrophe and meant that we got a 1992 result on a 1983 share of the vote. But despite their commitment, and this hasn’t been said enough in our contest, we lost badly. We won just 12 seats in the Southern regions of England. 4 million Labour voters and 180 Labour seats have been lost since 1997.

The seeds of our defeat were sewn long in ago in the loss of council seats, activists, members and supporters across the country. The leadership of our party invested too little in organisation. We lost the link between the voices and experiences of local members and the policies we campaigned on nationally.

Labour’s new leader will have just over 200 days to get machine and movement ready for the Welsh, Scottish and local elections. If I was that leader I would put us on a war-footing from day one. This coalition seems cosy but I suspect some Liberals are already looking for an escape route. I don’t want us to be caught napping by a surprise election or for us to still be selecting candidates with a few weeks to go before an election. We need good people in place as quickly as possible, especially in those Lib Dem seats which have become competitive again after their decision to join the Tories. The Liberals, for so long the party of relentless opposition campaigning, should now reap what they have sown.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon