Community Organisers and Local Government

Civil Society Innovation Network logoEarlier this week, we posted an overview of the second session of the Civil Society Innovation Network. To continue the discussion from this session, the Community Organisers programme have provided us with a guest blog, where they outlines how Community Organisers work and why they aren’t a threat to representative democracy.

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The Community Organisers programme aims to nurture a home-grown movement of community organising for the 21st century, emerging directly from the strengths, concerns and hopes of all kinds of neighbourhoods across England. The programme will recruit and train 500 senior community organisers, along with a further 4,500 part-time voluntary organisers, over four years to 2015.

Community organisers are usually recruited and hosted by local community host organisations, often in deprived areas of the country, in teams of 2-5. The organisers are independent – they do not work for the local host or contact, or for the government.

Organisers are dedicated, motivated people who build trust, respect and networks through dialogue and a systematic, broad-based local listening process that ignites the impulse to act. They are trained by RE:generate using their ‘Root Solution Listening Matters’ approach.

With this grassroots approach we are finding that organisers are reaching way beyond ‘the already involved’ and hearing from those with the quietest voices. It is important that the information gathered – in terms of networks of contacts and the issues and ideas emerging – belongs to the community itself. It is almost always shared at some point with councillors, agencies and others, but only when the community is ready and chooses to do so. 

The work aims to ‘ignite the impulse to act’, encouraging people to take action to build on what they love about the area, address the issues that make them angry, sad or frustrated, and take personal and collective responsibility to achieve their own vision of what they would like the area to be like.  This approach does not threaten representative democracy but rather complements and can strengthen it, particularly through recognising that a simple action people can take is to vote. Of course it is not a magic bullet and it requires people to trust the process. As one councillor from an area where RE:generate have been working for some time noted “you need to leave the bread to rise and not keep opening the oven door”.

The Community Organisers programme is delivered by Locality in partnership with RE:generate and the Office for Civil Society. The programme board includes elected representatives of the community organisers and the local host organisations.

Local authorities interested in the programme could encourage local community partners to apply to be a host. While the main route into the programme is through hosting, if there is a particular reason why this kind of work is a priority in your area and you would be interested in the direct deployment approach email us directly at corganisers@locality.org.uk describing the situation.

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