In April 2011 the London Coalition Against Poverty organised a discussion amongst independent grassroots groups who organise in different ways to share and record their experiences of what works and what challenges are up ahead. You can browse this blog or download the PDF of the discussion to read what was said – Community Organising Discussion .
The groups involved in the discussion were:
- Disabled People Against Cuts
- Southall Black Sisters
- Women Against Fundamentalism
- Haringey Housing Action Group
- Oxford Save Our Services
…and London Coalition Against Poverty groups:
There’s been a massive upsurge in community organising since the coalition government started rapidly dismantling public services, welfare and secure housing. Literally hundreds of new groups have formed to defend the resources their communities rely on. But as a nebulous concept, community organising is at risk of being hi-jacked. In February, the government awarded a £15 million contract to Locality for community organisers to “play a major role in delivering the Big Society”.
Described by Cameron in the run-up to the election as an “army”, we wait to see what the onslaught of these government-sponsored “community organisers” will involve. Many communities are experiencing the Big Society as a synonym for replacing vital public services with unpaid and less accountable workers. It is hard to see how government-sponsored organisers would be in any position to build communities’ power to challenge this. As David Milner from Islington Poverty Action Group said about Locality’s community organisers:
“Is it to ensure that communities actually remain dis-organised and present no threat to government plans? They will organise compliance not resistance. They will do this by diverting any enthusiasm into “good works”; e.g. conservation and helping the infirm. Their message will be “we can help you, you cannot help yourselves”.
We organised the roundtable to record stories of success and ideas of how to organise without being co-opted into Cameron’s Big Society. The discussion took place in April, so reflects the situation then. We hope the stories and ideas shared here will be the start of a conversation that helps contribute to our growing movement. Please leave comments, links to your groups, interesting articles etc…
And feel free to email us to get in touch.