Posts Tagged ‘Karin Christiansen’

Flowers’ scandal casts shadow over Co-op party

16/07/2014, 03:58:18 PM

The welter of awful headlines that have greeted revelations about the Co-op Bank and its colourful former Chairman, Paul Flowers, in recent months seems to have left behind something of a ‘brand contamination’ problem for the Co-operative Party.

So much so that it’s General-Secretary, Karin Christiansen, has just written out to its members asking for donations to help fund a “scaling up” of the party’s media work because “too many journalists are getting their facts wrong”.

The aim is to raise £10,000 through small donations to help with efforts to target journalists and commentators and improve understanding of how the party “fit[s] into the wider movement.”

Christiansen adds: “Recent media coverage has misrepresented the Party, and confused our relationship with the Labour Party and the Co-operative Group. It’s incredibly frustrating, and leaves too much of our good work unnoticed.”

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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.

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