Blog archive

By: Majeed Neky posted Jan 29, 2009, 1:23pm in General

This blog has been posted at The Campaign Company’s WordPress Blog

Last Saturday I attended the inaugural Progressive London conference at Congress House, home of the TUC. Having heard little about it other than that it was a front to re-elect Ken Livingstone as Mayor of London, I went pretty much on a whim, it having been one of the many events and websites that I’ve become aware of lately by way of my sublimely hyperactive friend and colleague Charlie Mansell .

The Progressive London organisation (such as it is) having been around only a few months, its mission statement is still fluid. To a large extent, it will be determined by those who choose to participate in the discussion that it generates. My hope is that it can become some form of loose electoral coalition – transcending rather than replacing party allegiances, but being a reliable indicator of a candidate who is willing to work across party lines to achieve what is needed – a badge, if you like, of ‘progressivism’.

I hope to be part of this wider debate over the legitimacy, agenda and future positioning of Progressive London over the next year or so – more on which here from a blogger at Lib Dem Voice . But leaving that aside for the minute, I want to address a more fundamental aspect of this venture. The subject has received a good deal of attention on sites such as LabourList and Comment is Free of late, but I haven’t yet found a satisfactory answer. What does ‘progressive’ actually mean?

In the first panel session I attended at the conference, Liberal Democrat London Assembly leader Mike Tuffrey offered what I felt was a valuable opinion, saying that the true benchmark of progressivism is an eagerness to devolve power further from the centre and allow people to make more decisions about the ways in which their communities worked.

Though this is obviously not the whole of the point, and he went on to make other points, I thought he was onto something here. I believe in subsidiarity – devolving the power to make any given decision as far as possible. Tuffrey quoted William Gladstone, saying ‘Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear.’ (He added that socialism, in his view, was trust of the state tempered by distrust of the people.)

This government is widely perceived as having shown centralising, distrustful tendencies – though my view has softened lately; perhaps they just haven’t decentralised enough of the centralised state created by the Tories for my liking. Whatever the origins of the problem, I think this perception of the government is the key reason why the phrase ‘progressive conservatism’, which looks at first glance like an oxymoron and doesn’t improve massively at a second glance, has been able to gain some traction. Demos, for example, has announced a major new project around the concept.

Progressive London is a major part of the effort to reclaim the idea of progressiveness for the broad left, and – whether or not the term itself will endure – the empowerment agenda could and should be a focus around which to continue reconstructing the dividing lines that the would-be ‘progressives’ need. Conservatives believe in a political elite; progressives believe that democracy is for everyone, and that representative democracy isn’t some sort of panacea of civilization, but essentially a fudge that needs to be made to work as transparently and inclusively as possible.

The recent controversies over Heathrow and MPs’ expenses will have done the government no favours in building up these credentials. But legislation like the Sustainable Communities Act, which I’ve blogged about previously, could be the rallying point for a new progressivism in British politics.

If this is the way it’s going to go, though, the progressives have to answer a question – not just answering to the conservatives, but to themselves. Having lauded and fought for the power of communities, what do you do when ‘they’ make the wrong decision – plump for the Tesco over the wildlife reserve, or the tax cut over the improvements in services for children with learning disabilities? Suddenly, the abstract people towards whom you previously felt vaguely, liberally benign have become at best fools, at worst brutes, and in either case people whom it is imperative to keep out of the process of government.

I’ve not come close to working this one out yet. Anyone got answers? Hint: I’m looking for something easier than ‘be nice to everyone’.

Published by Majeed Neky, a project officer at The Campaign Company .

By: Majeed Neky posted Jan 15, 2009, 3:12am in General

During my involvement with Transition Town Kingston as introduced in my previous blog I came across a really interesting piece of legislation that has also raised some interest here at The Campaign Company.

The Sustainable Communities Act aims to give more power to local councils and to local people (‘double devolution’) to help people make their communities more economically, socially, environmentally and democratically ‘sustainable’. The remit of the Act is deliberately defined broadly, making it a significant opportunity for the devolution of power to local communities.

The Act allows councils who ‘opt in’ to suggest new powers – including the ability to levy new taxes and institute subsidies – to the Government. A short list is drawn up by the Local Government Association from the proposals made by councils around the country, and the Government must respond to this short list with a view to instituting as many of the suggestions as possible, and justifying why any suggestions have been rejected. Proposals just have to be things that the Government can do and is not currently doing, which will advance the broad definition of sustainability.

Examples of potential new powers for councils include the ability to give rate relief to local businesses and social enterprises, the power to tax behaviours that damage the local or global environment and the possibility of removing obstacles to enterprise that exist in previous legislation, such as the various legal difficulties of establishing ‘feed-in’ electricity tariffs to encourage local generation of renewable energy.

The crux of the Act is that this process of making proposals must be carried out in collaboration with ‘panels of representatives of local people’ who must include people from under-represented groups – a perfect opportunity to consult beyond the usual suspects. Rather than the consultation being just another procedural stage that has to be completed, both sides have a duty to work together and reach an agreement.

The Act is interesting in legislative terms. Originating as a Private Members’ Bill. During the course of its passage, it gained all-party support and can now be seen, in some senses, as the flagship of the Government’s new local democracy agenda – being the first act to be passed and implemented that draws on councils’ new ‘duty to involve’ and the much-feted principle of ‘double devolution’.

But in democratic terms, the Act could be even more interesting. The provisions for new local powers are underpinned by a radical provision for ‘opening the books’. For the first time, central government will have to publish accounts stating how much public money is spent in an area (by anyone – whether the council or a QUANGO), what it is spent on and which agency holds the budget. This clearly leads into proposals being made to the Secretary of State to transfer control of existing budgets to councils – bringing the money under democratic control.

The potential for stimulating local participation, encouraging people to become councillors, improving the sustainability and resilience of local communities is evident. But there are two crucial links that need to be forged and maintained – between councils and central government, and between communities and councils.

Communities will need to be convinced that this is more than another consultation exercise. This links to the need to improve knowledge and perceptions of local councils – a particular problem in economically deprived areas, but by no means confined to them. Councillors, officers and local people will need to be proactive in examining each others’ perceptions of how their town, borough and country actually run.

Meanwhile, these are uncertain times for governments to make promises, and there is particular concern from councils and activists around the need for new money to help councils carry out new functions – something that has been hinted at in various quarters, including the legislation, but never made completely clear.

There is a lot of engagement work to be done – recruiting the citizens’ panels and ensuring that their input is genuine and democratic, but also dispelling myths, promoting participation and advertising new powers that have been won.

The Sustainable Communities Act could be one of the most radical laws we have seen under this government, and TCC will be watching with interest.

For more information on the Sustainable Communities Act, and resources for making sure it is implemented in your community, see

There is a public meeting on the Act in Parliament on the 10th of February, which should be a good opportunity to learn more and ask questions.

By: Majeed Neky posted Dec 23, 2008, 9:22am in General

On the front page of the Campaign Company website, , there is an interesting new ‘vlog’ (video blog) from James Thirtle, an associate of TCC’s who has been working with us around the concept of emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is the idea that one is able to consciously perceive, assess and manage one’s own emotions and those of other people with whom one comes into contact. This has all sorts of implications for how we communicate with people.

On the vlog, James talks a little about how these ideas have been applied in our ‘Community Communicators’ project in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. The Campaign Company has been responsible for building networks of people who, though they might not consider themselves to be anything special, act as hubs for information, ideas and even attitudes in a way that is geographically measurable. People will trust their communities where they might mistrust statistics, or adverts, which are not congruent with their emotional experiences.

The Campaign Company’s integration of the emotional intelligence concept has led to training on more effective communication for Council members and officers. As well as geographical communities, the ideas are just as applicable in the context of a ‘community of interest’ such as a business, helping to probe the entrenched narratives around which the community functions and redefine them to be more congruent with the emotions of the people within the community.

Watch carefully for a series of video blogs on this subject – we hope you’ll find them interesting and useful!

By: Zuhayb Ahmed posted Dec 22, 2008, 3:56am in General

Festive Greetings!

It is now coming up to two months that I have been in my role and I have had a real eye opening experience as in to how much work and effort goes into projects such as Young Mayor Network. My first couple of days were spent adapting to the office and the TCC system and evaluation the current YMN workings. After many hours of contemplating and dreaming, myself and Matthew realised what we needed to change and where we were heading…a long term vision was now formed.

Since then I have projected this vision in YMN meetings and gathered members views and opinions. I feel as id with this direction in view the members have a greater sense of purpose within the YMN. We have now thought up many aspects of the YMN that need to be tailored to ensure it fulfils its purpose. We are planning on hold a working residential shortly after the new year, in which we will workshop many ideas such as a public/private website, roles and titles within YMN structure, elected borough reps to ensure effective communication and many more initiatives.

I hope to be sitting here in the near future writing about how the YMN has many sponsors, an increase in members and many success stories of influencing and aiding other young people to get involved and make a difference.

Merry Christmas & a prosperous New Year

(Young Mayor Coordinator)

By: Christopher Hill posted Dec 18, 2008, 8:55am in General
The What Do You Know campaign launched on the 17th of December as part of The Campaign Company’s initiative with NHS Barnsley to improve access to sexual health services in Barnsley and surrounding areas.

The Campaign Company have developed the project on behalf of the Primary Care Trust (PCT) as the first part of a major effort to tackle unplanned pregnancy and STIs in young people.

We at The Campaign Company conducted research, to design, with various groups of experts, stakeholders and, most importantly, young people in and around Barnsley.  I would like to thank all of those who participated in our research, the experts in the NHS, the staff and volunteers at the Young Volunteers Agency, participating schools (Edward Sheerian), youth centres and community organisations, the members and adminstrators at the Youth Council and everyone else who contributed along the way.

Oh and if you are a young person in Barnsley you can jump on the site now for a chance to win an Ipod Nano!

The website is just the first stage of a much larger, all encompassing What Do You Know, campaign operated by The Campaign Company.

Here is a quick run down of a few other developments to look out for…

Brings information about sexual health services in Barnsley together in one place.

The website houses essential information about protection and prevention, infection, pregnancy, how to get tested, what to do in an emergency and where to find services.

whatdoyouknow champions
Peer champions are central to the campaign as managed word of mouth peer to peer messages are the most effective way to get to reach the target audience.

whatdoyouknow champions will act as accessible and approachable sources of information about sexual health services within their peer group. They will promote awareness of the campaign and encourage peers to use  services for advice and prevention without fear or embarrassment. The champions are being recruited through existing groups and networks of young people across Barnsley. They will be trained and supported throughout
the campaign.

whatdoyouknow promotions
Galaxy FM is the main radio station that young people in Barnsley listen to. Over the next six months their website will feature advertisements for the campaign and links to alongside a competition feature within Hirsty’s homepage (Galaxy’s breakfast programme DJ Simon Hirst is from Barnsley and is well known amongst our target audience).

whatdoyouknow street teams
whatdoyouknow street teams will work alongside Galaxy street teams to hand out campaign information to raise awareness at key points within the campaign whatdoyouknow social networks

Tailored to suit the audience, whatdoyouknow groups will be established on Facebook, MySpace and Bebo – which our research has shown are all well-used by the target audience.

The campaign will also join any relevant existing groups to raise campaign awareness and spark debate.

Want to get involved with the What Do You Know campaign?

whatdoyouknow materials

A range of whatdoyouknow campaign materials are available – including posters tailored to be used within different settings and credit card size flyers.These materials are being distributed to appropriate outlets, for example sexual health services, youth agencies, education settings, youth centres pubs and clubs.

Just email – or call 0114 282 3530 for more details or materials.


Christopher Hill – Project Officer

By: Majeed Neky posted Dec 10, 2008, 6:19am in General

I’ve now been at The Campaign Company for five and a half weeks and have decided to take the plunge and write my first blog post!

Outside of work, my interests are fairly eclectic (though almost all interpretable as ‘political’). The thing taking up the biggest chunk of my time at the moment is the Transition Town initiative in my home town, Kingston upon Thames, where I have lived for about 18 months.

Transition initiatives aim to inform and inspire local communities to respond positively and practically to the twin challenges of climate change and peak oil. The phenomenon of climate change is well-known – arguably almost too well-known for news of it to have the impact that it needs. Peak oil, however, is much less discussed. Globally, we are rapidly approaching the point at which the rate of oil extraction reaches its maximum. This does not mean that we immediately ‘run out of oil’, but that oil production after this point will only become steadily less profitable – and so supplies of the fuel on which the world relies will decline.

The Transition ideas and methods are based on the need to consider these two problems as being interrelated. Taking them individually, it is fairly easy to invoke the ‘techno-fixes’ of the future that will solve the crisis and enable us to avoid behaviour change altogether. But put them together, and the problem takes on new dimensions. Energy-intensive solutions to climate change suddenly come under closer scrutiny in light of the diminishing oil supply – and conversely, the instinct to ‘burn anything we can’ to avoid using petroleum must be tempered by the threat of runaway global warming.

So the Transition movement is about regaining local control. Growing our food locally, generating energy locally, taking local responsibility for local consumption – all of this is part of building an area’s resilience to external shocks and influences – a good example of which, in fact, might be rising oil prices.

This joined up thinking chimes with a lot of the work I have been doing since I joined The Campaign Company. The current vogue for partnership working in local government can be seen as an effort to ensure that problems facing a community are considered in an interrelated way – because to do anything else is unrealistic. Over recent months, the process of visioning has become a more explicitly integral part of local government work, and rightly so. We need to know where we’re going before we can get there. Transition Towns seek to involve whole communities in creating such a vision – because if we are to galvanize people into action, they need to know that they’re working towards a future which, despite the constraints that the environmental challenges place upon it, will actually be happier and more sociable and fun than what we have at the moment.

Transition Town Kingston has only been going about 6 months but we are having a lot of fun and have had some notable successes so far. I’m increasingly finding that the skills I’m developing at TCC are overlapping with TTK. Having outlined the problems facing us in this blog, I’ll try to blog again soon and give more detail on what we’re doing about them!


Further information:

By: Zuhayb Ahmed posted Nov 19, 2008, 5:34am in General

Nearly three weeks have passed since I passed on my Young Mayor title to Joshua Adejokun,  second Young Mayor of Newham.  He managed to attract nearly 1,700 votes, an incredible achievement demonstrating his success in reaching out to the electorate way beyond the confines of his school and friends. His deputy, Tommy Seagull was equally impressive with over 1,200 votes. Turnout across the borough rose to over 43% with nearly 10,000 young people casting their ballot. That’s twice the number of young voters than last year.

On hearing these figures I was greatly relieved as my main aim for my term was to boost the recognition of the Young Mayor scheme and more importantly just get young people actively involved in their community. I wanted young people to realise how important it was that they had a say in how their lives were run. This is a hard aim to achieve at a time when the public, especial the younger bracket, have lost faith in politics and the countries figureheads. I also congratulate the increased percentage turnout in the borough of Lewisham in their recent election. Once again reflecting that more and more young people are realising and standing up to make their voices count.

Joshua has made a booming start to his term, already effectively campaigning against youth on youth crime which is a major concern for all young people. I feel comfort in knowing Joshua has decided to carry on the work I and my youth council started around gun and knife crime, and I believe he will do all that he can to push the issue further. I think it is important to highlight such positive moves by young people instead of constantly portraying young people in negative light as the media does thus perpetuating this creates a break in faith and communication between the community and young people.No doubt Deputy Young Mayor Tommy Seagull will be firmly by Joshua’s side, supporting him in ensuring that the young people who they represent have thier views, opinions and emotions voiced on a platform that they deserve.

I have learnt a lot during my term as Young Mayor, and have (sometimes unwillingly) matured through the experiences it offers. It has revived my belief in the general public being able to make a difference. It is this belief I wish to pass on to other young people across the country and is the core reason and aim of being involved with the ‘Young Mayor Network’.

Zuhayb Ahmed

If you would like to hear more about Zuhayb’s experiences as Young Mayor…


For more info on the Young Mayor scheme go to

By: Charlie Mansell posted Nov 6, 2008, 8:35pm in General

Having live blogged the US result for hours, I’m sure you can imagine I wanted to share in the celebrations.

What happened next?

After holding back for two hours as the first states came in, emotions then just exploded. Chants of “Yes we did” and “O-bama” were continuous.

African American students marched on the North Carolina state capitol to have a peaceful celebration.

People spilled from the bar onto the street. Cars sounded their horns and people shouted Obama to anyone they could see.

Only videos can probably do the scene justice and the local TV station was filming the scenes for posterity.

The Ukraine had it’s Orange Revolution – here was the USA’s own “Blue Revolution”.

Then came Obama’s acceptance speech. It was up there with Kennedy and MLK as a sumnation of where we were. “Change has come to America” and it was not hyperbole, but absolutely true.

When Obama said it was not the weapons, or the wealth, but the strength of our ideas that counted, he reached a magisterial high that caused a powerful emotional spasm in the Raleigh Times bar. it was the absolute high point to an evening of highs. I have to admit to shedding a tear or two at that point.

We continued to monitor the North Carolina electoral college result. Having taken an early lead, we had for an hour dropped behind as Republican precincts came in. However I never wavered from my conviction, I had held all day that we would triumph even there. The results for the Senate and Governor reinforced my view. By 1am we had taken the lead again and by 2am were 12,000 in front. Whilst it has not been formally called we are now 14,000 ahead and I do not think it will change. We joked about the narrative. I told Katrina one of the staffers from HQ who led our trip out into the countryside over the last tow days, that “It was Fayetteville wot won it” ad for her to spread that word of mouth!:-)

By 3am the party was winding down. My job was done, it was time to head home. I thought I had 5 hours to kill at the bus station, but then found a bus leaving at 3.30am.

I travelled through the night and morning through an America that was still celebrating or coming to terms with its momentous decision.

At Richmond, Virginia, the former capital of the Confederacy, at 6.30am, I stopped off for a hour to wait for a change of bus. The TV was showing the news. People were all clustered around, watching. Elderly African American women were talking of their amazement at events. It was profoundly moving.

The bus then travelled through Washington. I saw the US Capitol for the first time. It was amazing to think of change coming to Washington, a majority African American town with an African American family for the first time its most important residents.

We stopped at Baltimore, where I was able to buy a copy of USA Today with the Headline “Obama wins!” and the sub headline that sums it up, “America makes history”. How true it was. Can you imagine the UK or a European nation doing the same at this stage? America had recaptured the world’s imagination!

Before we reboarded the bus, the African American driver noticed the Obama stickers on my bag and said to me what a great victory and we got into a conversation. When I explained that I had come over from the UK as a volunteer, he said, “Thanks for coming over, we needed all the help we could get.” This was not the only time this happened. A guy in the bar said the same earlier. Later a museum attendant in New York and at the airport a white American woman also said similar things. I was so moved by this.

At 2.30pm I arrived in New York. I has originally planned to go straight to the airport from the victory party, but due to  the fluke of getting an earlier bus, I found myself as an “Englishman in New York” with three and half hours to do some touristing on the day after America made history.

Here is my “what you can do in three hours” guide:

  • Get a map. I could not find one on the nearby news stands, so I quickly went lateral and bought myself a Michelin restaurant guide which had the maps I needed.
  • Walk to Times Square, where only hours earlier there had been a massive Obama celebration.
  • Get a subway train to Central Park. The metro, though efficient, looked rather dated compared to the recent modernisation to the London tube.
  • Walk across Central Park. Its massive, but rather beautiful in its autumnal colours. Amazingly for such a Beatles completist, I did not look for the “Strawberry Fields” memorial to John Lennon. Perhaps I thought it was too sad on such a joyous day. In any case I am off to Liverpool in November to enjoy the “City of Culture”. Perhaps the right place to enjoy some mournful dockside harmonica?
  • Go to the Metropolitan Museum of Arts. It is also massive. I allocated an hour to this and got through all the 15c-19c European paintings on the second floor. It was worth a 7,000 mile round trip to see Burne-Jones’ “Love song”, let alone everything else that happened.
  • Walk through Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue to get a subway to Grand Central Station. I just love the roof. I also stood in the queue to get a rapidly selling out New York Times with the headline “Obama”. There really wasn’t much else to say at that point!
  • Having arrived on a Greyhound and used the subway, one had to finish with a New York Taxi driver taking one to the airport. The traffic was appalling, however by then we had a long chat and he said he would take me through all the backstreets he knew to get me there well in time to avoid missing my plane. He was formally a senior supervisor at General Motors who had lost his job, so we had a good chat about the hopes for Obama and the US economy.

I flew back overnight and arrived in London on Thursday morning. In just fours days, I had the adventure of a lifetime at a point of historic change. What more could one ask for? “Bliss it was”. I may not have fitted in with Wordsworth’s demographic segmentation, but at least I was surrounded by a young country at ease with itself. It was a profoundly moving experience for me, so I am sure I will blog some more about it as I absorb all my experiences.

By: Joanne Milligan posted Nov 6, 2008, 9:22am in General

The eyes of the world have been staring at the US for months now and you can be forgiven for missing the dramatic change which recently visited the tiny Indian Ocean country of the Maldives.

The collection of some 1,190 coral islands, grouped into 26 atolls, south-southwest of India has just held its first multi-party Presidential election since it’s independence from Britain in 1968. Known primarily as a luxury tourist destination for Westerners, the total land space of the country is about 1.7 times the size of Washington DC and is home to a population of about 300,000 Sunni Muslims.

This small Islamic state has been on the long road to democratic reform for the last 4 years and has had significant obstacles to overcome on its journey, not least the obfuscation by powerful vested interests who have long controlled the levers of political and economic power.

The election of pro-democracy campaigner and former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, Mohamed Nasheed (Anni), with just over 54% of the vote, to serve as President following 30 years of rule by defeated incumbent Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, marks a turning point for this country. It holds out the potential for the emergence of a small, yet not insignificant, liberal Islamic democracy in the region.

The record turnout across the US in Tuesday’s Presidential election pales in comparison to the 86.58% of the eligible electorate who turned out in the Presidential run-off election on 28th October in the Maldives. The challenges still facing the Maldives and its people are many but all of the signs emanating from the country suggest that the roots of lasting democratic reform have been planted and embraced by the people of the Maldives.

For the last couple of years, The Campaign Company (TCC) have been assisting fledgling NGOs and pro-democracy campaigners in the Maldives to highlight the need for democratic reform amongst their own people and bring international influence to bear on the Maldives Government.

We are especially proud of our association with Dr Hassan Saeed, patron of Maldives NGO the Open Society Association, who stood as an independent candidate in the election and attained a remarkable 17% of the vote in the first round on 8th October, putting him in 3rd place of 6 candidates. Whilst this failed to secure Hassan a place in the run-off round, it confirmed that this embryonic multi-party democracy needs people of his intellect, vision, values and calibre to continue its transition to pluralism.

Whilst eyes may be diverted to change elsewhere in the world, there will be those in the international community who continue to monitor and support economic, political and civil developments in the Maldives and who will be especially keen to ensure that the lessons to be learned from the Presidential elections are taken on board by the new Maldives authorities before the Parliamentary elections scheduled for early next year.

By: Charlie Mansell posted Nov 4, 2008, 8:07pm in General

It’s now official. The Raleigh Times bar  goes wild watching Chicago go wild. History is made. Martin Luther King’s dream and Bobby Kennedy’s prophesy is fulfilled. This is more magic than 1997 in Britain. As we celebrate the TV camera comes through the bar……..

I might have a break now to properly celebrate…..!!

By: Charlie Mansell posted Nov 4, 2008, 7:21pm in General

If you look at the live blogging comments to our previous posts, you will see we have already called it for Barack Obama. This is an amazing piece of history and to be in a battleground state we might still wins makes it even more powerful. We are 15,000 votes ahead in North Carolina with 74% of precincts reporting. It will be tighter than that. if we do win we will all know our efforts were so worth it. We have already won the senate seat and should hold the Governorship too. Even if we don’t pull off the electoral college vote, we have made a difference. I have met so many amazing people who really went the extra mile.

By: Charlie Mansell posted Nov 4, 2008, 4:48pm in General

Currently in the Raleigh Times bar in Raleigh. The bar manager has allowed me to set up ad start live blogging of the results.

Good news from Kentucky. Though McCain has held, it is a 4% swing to the Democrats. This would lead to a 52-46% victory to Obama. Not enough for North Carolina, but we still think our on the ground organisation may make it closer.

More news will follow.

By: Charlie Mansell posted Nov 4, 2008, 4:40pm in General

Further to my previous posts, I was out on the road all afternoon doing GOTV. We then went out evening GOTV in rural areas. Utterly amazing and rather spooky, knocking on doors of small wooden bungalows in the trees.

After midnight we had some time off in the bars. They looked after me well. They let me recharge my laptop and booked me a cab. US bar managers are brilliant!

Stayed up all night and then met up at 6am for a trip to Fayettville – a weaker area. We have been there all day doing GOTV. I had a driver who drove me up to each house and I then GOTVed a poorer predominantly black rural suburbs all day. Amazing people with great stories to tell of going to the polling station and standing in line. Great people working in the committee rooms as well. Democracy in action!

Now back in Raleigh and posting a quick blog. North Carolina is in the front line. It is the “tip of the spear” as one activist described it last night. Polls closed 5 mins ago, but if you are in the line you can still vote. It’s a matter of endurance now.

Will update from the Marriott hotel in Raleigh, when we set up our analyis team there.

By: Charlie Mansell posted Nov 3, 2008, 1:19pm in General

Lots of us are about to head out of the office for another GOTV session. Most people here feel they have done what they can in the office and we need to hit the streets to turn that 0.6% Republican lead around.

By: Charlie Mansell posted Nov 3, 2008, 1:07pm in General

Just back from GOTV. Latest poll average is now showing a Republican lead of 0.6% NC.

Democrat poll observers have all been rung to collect their “Houdini” polling day advice packs.

Now our office is setting up the password for the online GOTV system for 50+ Polling field offices. The local state party will have real-time GOTV data at all points during the day. This should be a useful innovation. Went to one today and it is well organised. Will be working there tomorrow and we continue the GOTV operation. 40% of our vote has already voted. We still need to get the rest out to have a chance.

Legal challenges are still being emailed out against Republican lawyers who are not properly accredited to their polling precinct. The Republican campaign is all about the politics of the past and vote suppression, the Democrat campaign is all about the future and hope and change!

By: Charlie Mansell posted Nov 3, 2008, 7:47am in General

We are just shutting down the South Carolina calls and going out to blitz GOTV. We will mainly call on doors of people who are out. We will then leave a door hanger on their door handle as we cannot post a “We called” leaflet. Will report more on this later.

By: Charlie Mansell posted Nov 3, 2008, 6:58am in General

Back in the office after a good nights sleep. Thanks to Joanna ad Dave for putting me up.

Ready for the next 48 hours of activity. My Greyhound journey has toughened me up in preapredness for what is to come.

So where do we stand in North Carolina. The overnight polls show the postition is delicately poised tied at 47.8% each.

Over the next 32 hours till polls close it will be down to out organising the Republicans and stopping them from suppressing the vote.

More to come on this soon. Can we “tip” North Carolina back to Barack Obama?

By: Charlie Mansell posted Nov 3, 2008, 4:00am in General

Yesterday evening we were phoning South Carolina Democrats to get them to come over the border to help.

The majority were happy to help. I got 10 commitments along from people who were happy to go to the nearest North Carolina campaign HQ at Charlotte.

A smaller minority of more active people said they had commitments to help certain part of the election process in South Carolina as observers against election suppression as well as supporting their local candidates.

This led to an  interesting debate in the out of state volunteer office, where I was working. Some thought the entire Democrat operation should be shut down in South Carolina and that it was outrageous they were prioritising the election of a state schools commissioner over the Presidential vote, whilst some thought due to the devolved nature of the US, it was hard to do that. In the end a compromise view emerged that:

  • resources from the presidential campaign could be used to drive where activity went
  • whilst short term targeting was the priority, longer term aims should be accommodated (ie South Carolina may become more marginal like North Carolina by the next election.

I, perhaps, wryly observed that a decade ago, people in the Wisconsin office were probably having the same argument as to why Chicago activists were not coming over the border and were spending all their time to help an obscure Illinois state senator!:-)

By: Charlie Mansell posted Nov 2, 2008, 8:41pm in General

Some of the differences we see:

1. Resources

North Carolina is similar in size to London, but both Democrat and Republican campaigns are much bigger operations that Labour and Conservative.

2. Volunteers

Volunteer management is much better. Volunteers feel more valued and more likely to take part. Volunteers are drawn in t in its importanvr.hrough a phased pattern of engagement. In the UK  this work tends to be underestimated

3. Legal Issues

The Republicans are currently being accused of “voting suppresssion” in order to ensure political result for themselves.

By: Charlie Mansell posted Nov 2, 2008, 6:22pm in General

This is the first of hopefully a number of blog postings from North Carolina – a key battleground state in the US Presidential elections. TCC’s Charlie Mansell is currently volunteering in the North Carolina Headquarters of the Barack Obama campaign alog with TCC colleague Morgan McSweeney. Here is a quick summary of the first day/

“Arrived in North Carolina late this morning after an overnight Greyhound bus journey last night from New York – a bit tired but adrenaline takes over at this point…

Within 10 minutes of getting in the office, I was phoning people in South Carolina encouraging them to come into help.

Not content with that, a team of us then went out into a mixed district in the suburbs and spent the afternoon doig Get out the Vote Calls. After we got back to their “boiler room” – their name for a committee room, we committed to a further special doorstep session tomorrow at 10.30pm! More details on that session after the event?

In the evening back to the office for more calls to South Carolina……!”

Finally perhaps some sleep?

A more detailed commentary will be posted shortly.

By: Graeme Wilson posted Oct 17, 2008, 7:52am in General

At an exciting and feverish event yesterday, Lewisham announced it’s fifth Young Mayor (Miguel Gutierrez Astudillo) elected on the highest turnout to date. Over 9000 young people in Lewisham voted (1000 more than last year) making it a turnout of 49 percent up from 44 percent last year! It is extremely satisfying that the turnout has gone up, TCC have worked with Lewisham delivering a bespoke Young Mayor project for five years, a joint aim has always been to get the turnout figure as high as possible. This year we tried a few new approaches to the problem.

  • Turnout in 6th form colleges has always been very low (between 8-20%) because not all kids are there on election day, plus unlike schools there are no assemblies to encourage kids to stand as candidates or to promote voting. This year the YM team at Lewisham and TCC visited the colleges on a number of occasions to speak to students and raise awareness. We also trialed multiple voting days with ballot boxes at one college for a week – to give all students an opportunity to physically put their vote in the ballot box.  Later analysis will tell us if it contributed to the increased turnout.
  • By actively linking the Young Mayor elections and activity with other citizenship activities eg Young Citizens Conference, Youth Opportunities Fund, and a series of hustings events across the borough we spread the word to a wider audience than previously. Getting the message out to a few more kids can have a massive multiplier effect.

As well as the new approaches, this years event was driven by some excellent young people.

  • Last years young mayor Justin Cole has been an excellent role model. Throughout the year he has made a great effort to speak and listen to as many young people as possible. That outreach has created a buzz about the young mayor, kids know who he is and what he has done for them.
  • The key though was a boy called Kenny. Kenny was Miguel’s campaign manager. Kenny was also Justin Cole’s campaign manager last year. Kenny ran an extremely organised, message driven word of mouth campaign focusing on getting people’s second preferences (the voting system is STV)  that has ensured victory in both elections.

Next year we want to break that magic 50 percent mark – if we get Kenny working on it we might break 90!

By: Charlie Mansell posted Oct 12, 2008, 11:50pm in General

Nationalised banks. Reviews to look at increasing the amount of Council housing! A predominantly Council built estate wins the Stirling Prize for the Architecture.

It all sounds like a draft plot for the sequel to “Goodbye Lenin”, set this time in the UK: where someone in a coma since 1978 awakes to find nothing much has changed. On second thoughts it could even be a plot device for Life on Mars!

Much more seriously the credit crunch is a global challenge which will impact on many people’s lives and I don’t just mean which part of Dubai an ex-London banker is choosing to settle in this week.

Politics has clearly changed when, Leader of the Opposition, David Cameron attacks “bonus culture” in the city. When I was negotiating pay for staff in the Treasury in 1996-97 at the fag end of the last Conservative government, I remember warning about these sort of problems with the quantity of bonus and performance pay concentrated in such a skewed way, but did management there listen?

Nevertheless we now see opposition politicians in the same position as when the Falklands War was on and they were showing how even more patriotic they were than the government. Fat lot of good it did them at the time. Mrs Thatcher – remember her; the person who was a short interregnum between nationalised industries and nationalised banks – went on to win a landslide election!

Now that we are probably heading for a more cautious and regulatory period that could last 20-30 years, what are the implications for the this new, more powerful state.

Instead of the lumbering unresponsive state of the past, it does need to be smarter. The public, cautious as they may now become, will be looking for value for money, even from monopoly suppliers of services. There may be a lot of “low information voters” around, but there are increasing numbers of “expert patients”.

If the banking crisis, with its “Cambrian Explosion” of easy credit and “Ordovician (though this one is looking more rather like the Permian big one to me)mass extinction”  of banks, tells us anything, it is that the state should be building up more feedback mechanisms across its range of activities and make existing ones provide richer data.

The current “Cod War” between Town Halls and Icelandic banks might suggest that there should be regular citizen’s juries to consider Council banking strategies to ensure an occasional external check is kept on institutional decisions that officers and Councillors tend to make. Will the Audit Commission add that into one of its future advice notes to Councils?

More feedback should mean empowering local communities by properly implementing the proposals in the Quirk Report. If we are heading for a spot of Keynesian pump-priming, wouldn’t it be better if this was led at a local level so that the poorest communities benefit strongly?

In the last great era of financial uncertainty, people started to realise uncertainty required more feedback.

In 1935 Franklin Roosevelt conducted the first ever secret opinion poll to gauge the strength of support of Huey Long’s populist “Share our Wealth” campaign and used it to recalibrate his policies to develop a “Second New Deal” which led to the U.S Social Security Act.

A few years later a man called George Gallup came up with a commercial proposition that led to opinion polls becoming an industry and an institution in our public policy process.

In this current age of financial uncertainty, in an even more complex world, we need to go further than just sampling opinion. We need to develop more participatory and deliberative approaches, to ensure the state, however mighty, learns to engage and empower effectively.

Tags: politics
By: Anna Chester posted Oct 2, 2008, 12:10am in General

Bill Moyes speech

In a speech reported last week – Bill Moyes, of Monitor and the Chief Regulator for Foundation Trusts warned Trusts about the importance of local accountability and warned that while FT status could not be reversed that if local accountability failed there are “still lots of ways within the framework that centralising processes can be reasserted”.

The ensuing discussion has raised again the quantity (we have a PM pressing for an FT Membership of 3 million by 2012) versus quality argument in respect of optimum membership size. But given Bill Moyes comment that every time he goes into No 10 he’s asked how many members he has got – this presents a real opportunity for TCC. We do quality AND quantity when it comes to FT membership!

The methods of recruitment and immediate engagement activities are key – but it’s after authorisation that Trust may value our help in developing meaningful and diverse engagement strategies to harness member power. Ther’s a real opportunty to take this out of the FT silo and get members involved in promoting and advocating on behalf of the Trust – member power and patient choice – a powerful cocktail!

By: Ben Wild posted Sep 19, 2008, 5:56am in General
Working with our specialist envirnonmental communications partner, Sauce Consultancy.  We recently completed our first project using our newly designed Carbon Crime Stoppers programme for engaging young people in tackling climate change. Carbon Crime Stoppers is a fully developed youth engagement package, it’s design to engage young people over two sessions in environmental issues. It is modular and can be used with minor alterations to focus on energy issues, recycling, water conservation issues or transport issues. Equally it could be tailored fairly simply to other topics such as health eating.

The programme begins with an initial session with young people, this session could be in school, youth clubs, community events or any other place young people gather. At this event young people are engaged in an activity (i.e. Steps to the Future) there is a led discussion around the issue in hand i.e. climate change. The young people are then asked to become ‘Carbon Crime Stoppers’ a role where they audit there own homes/schools etc performing various tests to access the energy/water use, recycling etc. When the young people agree to this role they are given a ‘Green Tomato’ pack; this pack consists of a guide to the programme, a set of audit cards and various tools to help the young person perform the audit.

A second session is arranged for 1/2 weeks later, in these intervening weeks we follow up the young people reminding them to complete the audit, helping them as required. At the second session we look at the actions they have taken and the pledges they have collected. We use these to calulate an estimated annual carbon saving and the young person is rewarded with a certificate for their efforts. The young people who save the most carbon also recieve a prize (for example a young persons book on saving the world).

Our pilot of the CCS programme ran throught the summer of 2008 when we delivered the CCS programme in North Fulham (there branded Super Carbon Savers at the clients request). The programme was commissioned by North Fulham New Deal for Communities and form the youth engagement strand of their wider programme to work with the local community to improve the environment in North Fulham. Over the course of the project we ran sessions in youth clubs, schools and church groups with over 100 young people and estimate that through the actions of these young people as Carbon Crime Stoppers saved a projected 10 tonnes of Carbon.

environmental consultant agency Sauce Consultancy

If you’re interested in learning more or running CCS in your area then please contact Oliver Lewis on or 0208 688 0650.

By: Matthew Upton posted Sep 18, 2008, 8:23am in General

If you were a smoker and happened to be walking along the road and somebody approached you about your habit and the availability of stop smoking services, what would you say? Would you be comfortable with it? Would you welcome it or be hostile? If you were a non-smoker would you think it is a good idea to spend money on?

This is what Ealing Primary Care Trust is now actually doing. They recently began approaching smokers on the streets of Ealing to increase awareness of stop smoking services and signpost people directly to these services.  Inevitably, there have been claims that civil liberties are being breached; however the PCT claim that it is far more cost-effective and clearly lays out the options available to individuals, many of whom are unaware of those services.

This direct approach will become increasingly common over the next few years and in 5 years time, street social marketing accosters will probably be as prevalent in high streets on a Saturday lunchtime as fundraisers and evangelists.  A quick look at the ‘competition’ though and it becomes apparent that such tactics are necessary.

My brother has recently headed back to University for his 2nd year, a summer of work having made little or no impact on an extraordinary level of debt.  Rather than move into a more traditional student job in a supermarket or restaurant, (against my advice!) he responded to a web advertisement and has taken work with a well-known drinks manufacturer.  The makers of this sickly medium-strength spirit are particularly vulnerable to criticism levelled at those who specifically target teenagers as their key demographic.  Perhaps as a result, they are looking to reposition themselves within the market as the drink of choice for a (slightly) more mature audience.  His job description involves attending various student friendly events, including the Fresher’s Fair, to raise brand awareness and give free samples, giveaways etc to young people.  However, he is also being provided with crates and crates of the spirit for free, under one condition…….he must have a number of large parties at his 7-bed student house at which everyone binges on the said drink until the early hours.  All he has to ensure is that a wide variety of people attend from different social networks and that dozens of photos are taken of the revellers with drinks in hand.

The infinite resourcefulness and flexibility of the drinks industry to respond to new opportunities and threats should not be underestimated and when considering any public health intervention to change behaviour, this must be taken into account.  This also illustrates the fact that rationality and information are not enough by themselves.  My brother is more than aware that drinking this stuff until he passes out is not the sensible option but when targeted in such a cunning way, unless the challenge is met head on, there will only be one winner…

By: Benjamin Carter posted Sep 15, 2008, 4:06am in General

More doom and gloom on the economic front as Lehman collapses joining Bear Stearns, Fannie and Freddie and Northern Rock on the ever growing list of failed financial institutions.  This time it is derivatives that are to blame.  Derivatives are yet another ruse for stashing debt.  They involver weaker financial institutions selling off risk to stronger financial institutes that can supposedly handle the strain.  Evidently not it would appear!

As the faces of the ordinary taxpayer go greener with every new bill for even the most basic of goods, is it really worth standing around asking who is to blame?

Well actually yes!  Because I tell you who is most definitely not to blame and that is those people who put their faith in growth, diligently went to the high-street every weekend and decided to spend today and save tomorrow because, hey, the economy is looking good and consumer credit is just so very easy.

Ok we might have suffered from a bit if short sightedness, but hasn’t boom and bust ended?

No if blame there must be, and where there is anger there must be blame, then I aim it square at the idiots that run our financial sector as if it where a giant game of poker where winner takes all is all that counts.

I am no economist, but even I can see the problem with derivatives, toxic debt and so on.  It’s like trying to save on cleaning using air freshener.  Just because you cover the stink for a while doesn’t get rid of the dirt!

Of course a lot of these institutions are claiming that there are unforeseen circumstances, and they couldn’t possibly have predicted what was coming.  It’s just not fair!  But isn’t that precisely what economists are supposed to do, prepare for unforeseen events?  If it isn’t then it should be.  Just imagine if the markets kept moving at a steady pace always in the same direction.  We wouldn’t need traders then would we?  It’s called planning.

Our own government has done us little better.  To be fair to Gordon Brown this is not a financial crisis of his making but then that is exactly the same argument being used by the now unemployed bosses of Lehman.  Perhaps a bit more prudence would mean that the government would now be able to help people a bit more with some tax breaks for those on the lowest incomes or bigger increases in winter fuel payments.

Mind you, to repeat the theme, maybe people themselves, if they had planned a bit better would have a few pounds put aside for the hard times as well.  Maybe we should have learned by now that just as you can’t rely on the traders, you should also apply a bit of cynicism to any government messages on stability.

I might have to go back on myself a bit here and suggest that we might also be a bit to blame for our predicament.  Yes the business/media complex tells us “buy! buy! And worry tomorrow” but we didn’t have to listen to them, we could have put the cash aside instead.

Maybe what is needed here is another source of information that encourages us to follow a more sensible line in the future, one that we trust and that we listen to.  But with government untrusted and big business’ interests being in precisely the opposite direction, where will it come from?

Is there space for another voice, perhaps from the third sector, that might promote a more measured growth in the future?  It might be very hard to get heard without the big budgets, and austerity is a tough message to sell of course, without sounding like somebody’s gran…….

Yep its definitely the banks’ fault!

Tags: economy
By: Jonathan Upton posted Aug 26, 2008, 6:06am in General

Inevitably the success of Team GB in Beijing has sparked an orgy of punditry about what it means to be British. But we’re also told that Britain’s success is the talk of the pubs and clubs and that there is universal enthusiasm for the Olympics and things Olympian. There’s a poll in the Guardian today that apparently shows that 73% of the population is ‘pleased’ that the Games are coming to London.

I wonder.I’m not claiming great scientific accuracy with what follows but just want to share a possible straw in the wind…

Last week I was facilitating some focus groups in the North of England and as part of the ‘warm-up’ was asking participants what was their favourite Olympic moment of the previous fortnight. Almost without exception there was a distinct lack of interest or enthusiasm-the two weeks had largely passed them by.

By definition this was a pretty representative cross section of the population and there were 15 of them! As I say not over claiming here but worth thinking about..

By: Charlie Mansell posted Aug 25, 2008, 2:35pm in General

As the Democrat Convention opens in Denver it is interesting to look at where things stand in terms of campaign techniques in this Presidential election. Web 2.0 campaigning will be where much of the innovation will be and that will no doubt be covered further in future blog postings here.

However I want to comment about the ideas that Barack Obama and his Party Chair, Howard Dean seem to have added to ground war campaigns.

The Guardian on Saturday reported that Dean was seeing the election as the fruition of his “50 state campaign” where he has funded organisation across the USA in traditionally uncompetitive areas.

The general conclusion from many commentators as to why Obama beat Clinton in the primaries was that he spread his campaign wide to be more active in the more states than her strategy of targeting of a small number of big states

Does this mean the end of targeting?

I don’t think so.

What Obama has shown is that the Howard Dean campaign of 2004 was right to develop wide and strong fundraising bases with lots of small ongoing donors. However in 2004 the donors clearly chose the wrong candidate.

Targeting is driven as much by resources as by political calculation. Ask a political organiser what they would do with near limitless resources and they would say they would love to spend the money to maximise their competitiveness to stretch their opponent and thus weaken them in the areas that count in the end.

A 50 state campaign is almost certainly good for creating an effective feedback system to build support for a wide range of small donations to help build an insurgent candidate. However it does require an exceptionally good and perhaps lucky candidate to close the deal.

However in the end the election will be determined by winning a majority of Electoral College seats and priorities will need to decided based on voter segmentation analysis which will show where the momentum is in real target states.

What Howard Dean and Barack Obama may have taught us is that there is perhaps a danger in targeting too early and that a wide initial campaign front may be useful in the building the momentum that increases results to make final targeting all the more effective.

By: Charlie Mansell posted Aug 21, 2008, 2:29am in General

Today’s Guardian reports that Barnet will next month become the first local council to receive government funds to test “nudge” economics. This is very welcome, but we should not all assume this is the first case of this.

Local Authorities, New Deal for Communities (NDC’s) and social housing landlords have for a number of years been running projects based on using nudge techniques from behavioural economics and social psychology to increase the take up of recycling – especially in less well off areas. Examples of the work conducted are the EC1 and North Fulham NDC areas.

Much of the framework for those campaigns have been based on social marketing methodologies, which recognise there is a clear framework to behaviour change comprising a menu of options around:

  • Education
  • Support
  • Design
  • Coercion

Nudge economics fits mainly into the design area where insight research can be used to design incentives that create a better position of “inertia” that people will default to;eg opting into pension schemes rather than out of it.

Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein also use an example of social marketing in their book “Nudge” when they refer to the “Don’t Mess with Texas” campaign, so recognise the overlap.

In the Guardian article Ed Gillespie of communications firm Futerra, which is designing the pilots in Barnet, said: “One way of boosting recycling might be to offer top recyclers smaller bins to demonstrate they have reduced their waste. It gives people an aspiration to throw less away.”

In a place like Barnet, there will be many areas such as Mill Hill or Hampstead Garden Suburb where these incentives will work easily as the social norm may well be to see a commitment to recycling as part of a lifestyle, which is reinforced within the family and by neighbours. The big question is whether enough is done to design incentives, support and education to enable areas such as Watling estate in Burnt Oak or people in the Colindale area to increase their levels of recycling. It might already be reasonably good, but may increase much more slowly than the more affluent areas, due to people, for understandable economic reasons, perceiving higher priorities in their lives than recycling.

From our experience in working in those less well off areas, the sort of Nudges that may work require a balanced scorecard of action across the board. This includes ongoing insight work, education and support as well as design. Most crucially it also requires long-term commitment to the area being targeted. In the same week as this article, Polly Toynbee also wrote in the Guardian about the need for such a commitment on seeing through social policy in less well off areas, saying: “There is an irony in Britain knowing so much about the ill effects of its own relatively extreme inequalities and yet failing to convert that insight into a determination to fix it.” Whilst in this context she was talking primarily about social mobility, I think her point equally applies to socially positive activities such as increasing the levels of recycling.

By: Ben Wild posted Aug 11, 2008, 6:28am in General
On Thursday 17th July Hazel Blears delivered a keynote speech at the Empowerment in Action conference in central London, the pretext being the recently released local government White Paper on community empowerment. She presented a vision of communities made stronger by their members engaging fully in participative democracy underpinned by stronger elected leadership. This empowerment is to precipitate the entire public service, an extension of Foundation Trust and expert patients in the NHS that will see local authorities become beacons and promoters of democratic involvement and Police to follow the Foundation Trust model.

What can we expect to see as a result? The tried and tested mantra is run out, ‘More local, Less Whitehall’. The reality is that local authorities will be dipping their toes into newer models of engagement with their communities, a more hands on role in local affairs for local people. Participatory budgeting and deliberative consultation?  Local authorities should take note; Blears ambition is to see asset transfers to community groups up and young people to be spending 25 percent of youth participation budgets through young mayors and youth councils within five years. We have successfully developed young mayor structures for clients in Lewisham and Newham that are already acknowledged leaders in this field. In addition we have designed and facilitated a number of deliberative consultation events throughout the country. The White Paper supports our innovations in these areas, it will be interesting to see if its impact is to mainstream such techniques.

By: Ben Wild posted Aug 11, 2008, 6:26am in General

The Welfare Green Paper is out today and James Purnell argues in The Guardian (“Only we can help the poor”) how the Tories recent focus on individual responsibility as a way of tackling poverty is wrong and that the Government’s focus on using the collective power of citizens to galvanise individual responsibility is right.

Reading the new measures that will be (eg investment in skills, infrastructure and other measures that will encourage people to get into work and out of poverty) is a reminder that the “the third way” aka post neo-classical endogenous growth theory aka supply-side socialism aka investing in people / infrastructure rather than giving out dosh to individuals is back as Labour’s dividing line. When these concepts were first touted by Labour in opposition the mid-1990s, they showed that Labour had the mantle of the “party of ideas”.

However, the world has moved on, as has the behaviour of its citizens. The Tories are reclaiming the mantle of “party of ideas” by recognising the role of behavioural economics / social psychology in resolving current policy problems. Their current policies are  heavily influenced by leading thinkers in this field (for example, Robert Cialdini author of Influence and Richard Thaler co-author of Nudge).

Some on the left, dismiss these as being too individualist and ignorant of the responsibilities of society. Those of us who use these techniques to help organisations tackle inequalities, know that targeting individual behaviour can lead to societal “good”. The Government recognises this in the health sector by its continuous endorsement of social marketing approaches as a way of reducing health inequalities effectively. The next step will be recognising this in its economic policies. Or else they will be nudged out.

Tags: politics
By: Ben Wild posted Aug 11, 2008, 6:24am in General

TCC has posted a lot about the White Paper on Community Empowerment when it was still developing. We are pleased to that it is is now published and commits to:

  • A local authority duty to promote democracy
  • An extended duty to involve covering most crucially Police Authorities
  • A £7.5 million Community Empowerment Fund
  • £2 million in opportunities for people with disabilities to volunteer
  • Extending mentoring and befriending
  • A pathfinder “Take Part” programme on Citizenship education for adults
  • £70 million “Community Builders” scheme to support independent multi-purpose organisations
  • A duty on Council’s to respond to petitions
  • An extension in participatory budgeting to all local authorities
  • Modest incentives for voting
  • More Neighbourhood Councils
  • Extensions of Neighbourhood Management by Council’s and partners
  • More “community justice” and pilot projects in “community payback” by young offenders
  • The establishment of the Tenant Services Authority to strengthen the rights of tenants of affordable housing
  • Direct access and shadowing by  young advisors of ministers and elected mayors
  • A £6 million national institute of youth leadership
  • Youth internships with Councillors
  • Making it easier to have a directly elected Mayor
  • More discretionary localised budgets for Councillors to act as a community leader on
  • A new Asset Transfer Unit to help local communities act on the the Quirk Report
  • A national framework for Community Land Trusts and 14 pilots

Whilst the debate on community empowerment will continue, the most important aspects at this stage of the process are:

  • The additional monies that will be available. This is important in pump priming local activity.
  • The Asset Transfer process being strengthened. This area needs support to encourage demands to come from below, in order to realise the ideals of the Quirk Report. Any body should itself be made accountable to the bodies representing community groups such as the Development Trust Association and the recognition given to Community Land Trusts could also strengthen local communities.

Some organisations have expressed the concern that white paper is giving giving individuals rather than communities “control”. However we at TCC think the proposals are actually the sort of approach that we have been advocating and acting upon for years. We recognises that to empower communities you need to empower individuals first. Community groups shouldn’t feel threatened by this – they should feel genuinely empowered by it.

In saying the above we recognise this is an unfinished agenda.

A lot is being proposed, but there is a lot more to consider. For example the need to make make Police Authorities and PCT’s more accountable to the communities they cover is clearly now next on the agenda.

As a result rather than than just passively promoting the document, surely we should not just be talking to ourselves but instead organising a serious public information campaign by all engagement practitioners from across all the various sectors. We should not just leave it to the DCLG but collectively promote it. This would maximise its impact and its benefits to the public in the run up to it being approved as well as pushing public bodies to organise more pilots in advance of it.

The DCLG has produced postcards promoting the white papers key elements.

Perhaps we should ensure they have a much wider distribution than usual?

Richard Wilson, the Director of Involve commented on need to treat community empowerment similar social networking software. In the same way that the web 2.0 makes many services as ubiquitous as electricity, we now need the scope for communities of interest, whether geographical or interest group, to be able to plug into democratic structures in the same way that one can plug into an online system. The fact that vast numbers are now mobilised by Facebook for social events shows the potential for involvement.

Finally we should add that the White Paper seemed to gain a reasonable degree of consensus from the main political parties. This should mean legislation happens quicker and there is a degree of stability to bed down some of the proposals.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: