5 things Labour’s community organising achieved in its first year

Ian Lavery
© Chris McAndrew/CC BY 3.0

I was proud to help found community organising within the Labour Party, and since the team started work a year ago, I’ve been travelling across the country to support its incredible work. It is truly transforming the Labour Party, and I have no doubt it will be a key part of how Labour transforms this country.

While Boris Johnson is busy dividing our country into those that voted Leave and Remain, Labour’s community organisers have been working with those who voted Leave, those who voted Remain and those that don’t vote at all – to build real people power. It is through the community organising team that we can help make sure Labour continues to act on the issues that matter to working-class people, by making sure working-class people are at the centre of our movement.

Today, I’m using my speech at Labour conference to highlight our community organising achievements so far. Here are five key highlights and how you can get involved.

1. We brought over 18,000 people together.

We saw the energy created by Jeremy’s leadership elections and in the 2017 general election, but we can’t afford to wait for elections to come together.

The community organising team’s mass meetings bring energy to our movement in between elections, giving opportunities to everyone from trade unionists to business owners and faith groups to share their stories. At a time when many people are divided around Brexit. We can bring people together from Mansfield to Tottenham on the social justice issues that matter to them -from poor housing to living wages.

Unlike a traditional rally, the team call on everyone to commit to action at the end – from phone banking to door knocking. I know how much excitement and action comes out of these events because I’ve helped to lead them in Crewe, Blyth Valley, Morley and Outwood, Shipley, Walsall, Southampton, Cornwall, Mansfield, Broxtowe, Carmarthen, Vale of Glamorgan, Harrow East, South Swindon and Blackpool. Each time I’ve left inspired.

2. More than 3,500 people received leadership training.

Our movement should be for the many, by the many. So it is the Community Organising Unit’s focus on building the next generation of leaders in every community that is critical to the Labour Party. inspiring, practical sessions to strengthen the skills and leaders in our movement.

I’ve been incredibly impressed to see 70 general election trainings organised in key seats in just by the community organising team. They’re focusing on persuasive canvassing sessions that teach our activists how to have conversations – whether on the phone, on the high street or at the door, that build relationships and win people over – while also getting the data we need to win.

3. Organised hundreds of thousands online.

We’re changing the way we do politics to bring young people on board. Last week I was part of a live video call with 600 young people and speakers like Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Cat Smith, Tan Dhesi, Owen Jones and Ash Sarkar. The call was used as a way to recruit young people to lead voter registration drives – and the first follow up events in Yorkshire, the West Midlands and London brought loads of young people together, rolling up their sleeves to run “Take Boris Down” events.  At one drive, 70% of the young people there had never canvassed before.

The leaders the team build in local communities have powerful stories to tell: from the disabled pensioner in Gloucester experiencing hate crime due to police cuts, to the mum who helps run a food bank, to the former steel worker who wants to lead the Green Industrial Revolution.

These stories aren’t usually heard in the mainstream media, so we’ve been providing digital and social media training. The team have been building relationships with key online communities on Facebook and Instagram – from school strikers to parents.  They’ve also trained hundreds of digital volunteers to make viral videos telling their local stories to spread our messages on social media, reaching hundreds of thousands of people.

4. Built community campaigns.

We don’t have to wait to get into power to win. In fact, winning with people now will get Jeremy into Downing Street.  In London, the community organisers are supporting residents – some who have never seen themselves as political – to campaign against landlord A2Dominion, a housing association that is forcing tenants to live in appalling conditions. We’ve helped residents to win huge victories for their housing block. In Yorkshire, we’ve worked on a campaign to save local bus services with, Andy McDonald, Jon Trickett and parliamentary candidates.

Since launching Labour’s campaign for a Green Industrial Revolution, we’ve organised alongside Rebecca Long-Bailey to bring together local people in Scarborough, Morecambe, Cornwall, Motherwall and Colne Valley to build a national movement. We ask local communities what they want a Green Industrial revolution to look like, bring this to life on the day through art and music and then help them to start their own local campaigns.

5. Delivered election victories.

Some people say that community organising and organising for an election are incompatible. What rubbish. When we have a movement of 500,000 people, if we don’t harness that people power at election time we can’t call ourselves a movement. The local elections showed that in places – like Broxtowe and Gravesham and Mansfield and in the North of Tyne mayoral elections – where we build community power, we built trust, leaders and delivered victories for people that build our political power. That’s why when a general election is called, I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves with hundreds of thousands of members across the country and get Jeremy Corbyn into No10.

To get involved with Labour’s community organising, contact your local community organiser via [email protected]  and follow them on @LabourBytheMany.

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