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  • Kathryn Perera reflects on the week at Movement for Change

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    Organising for Women's Safety in Brixton

    Yesterday the Telegraph revisited our organising work on women’s safety, two years on from its inception. Emma Barnett’s piece highlighted the success of a Movement for Change project which saw Lambeth Council recognise that ensuring a night club is a safe space for women should be part of the licencing conditions for all bars in the Brixton area.

    Yet the context of the piece was alarming: the serious assault of a young woman who’d dared to confront a man groping her at the Notting Hill Carnival last weekend. Emma explored the ‘chilling effect’ such stories can have on women, on their confidence to take part in public debate and to lead constructive actions for change. She asked how women should react when faced with violence and abuse.

    Since our Brixton work, Movement for Change has developed a number of other organising projects focused specifically on building the skills and confidence of women to use their personal experiences as a catalyst for taking action in public life. Sometimes the issue has no evident link with the fact that they are women (such as the young mums in Swansea who took on the payday lenders and won). Sometimes their sex has been key to understanding why they’d be motivated to speak out. Our training partnership with Women for Refugee Women, which led to the founding of the London Women’s Refugee Forum, is a good example (you can learn more about that work by watching this short video).

    Our latest project has seen a group of women develop into powerful community leaders combating tacit acceptance of domestic abuse in Barrow, Cumbria. As Movement for Change organiser Charlotte Smith described in a New Statesman blog this week (“From surviving to leading: the women changing how we look at domestic abuse”), the group’s listening campaigns recently culminated in a formal negotiation between women who’d experienced domestic violence and Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner. This led to the launch of a funded pilot on positive relationships at a local state school. In the process, the women secured the backing of local politicians, third-sector organisations and service providers. They are now preparing to present their work at our annual Showcase in front of national media.

    The premise is simple: build people’s (women’s) skills and confidence to lead and they can address for themselves most issues that affect them. Then watch the ripple effects that follow in their capacity to take further action in public life.

    Yet there must be more. We wouldn’t be Movement for Change if we didn’t prompt our activists to draw the link between public action on the ground and the levers of formal power. This brings me to the Sex and Power Report 2014, the annual “pulse-reading” of sex (in)equality in the UK produced by the campaign group Counting Women In. It’s sub-titled “Who Runs Britain?”

    And its first recommendation? That all political parties should take immediate action to increase the number of women candidates at all levels, and to draw those candidates from as wide a variety of backgrounds and communities as possible.

    I believe that organising projects like the ones I’ve mentioned have a central role to play in making this recommendation a reality. Their very purpose is to identify people who don’t think of themselves as leaders and ‘call them out’ into public life. Once that happens, we (professional Community Organisers) have a further role to equip those women and men who want to take part in public life as representatives with the knowledge and networks to do that.

    The women in Brixton who worked with us two years ago? Two of them are now councillors; several now work in the wider Labour Movement; and one serves on our National Committee, directing our organising strategy to find the next cohort of “alternative leaders”.

    So who, indeed, runs Britain? I believe we’re only just seeing the potential of how organising can shift the answer to that question.

    Kathryn Perera is Chief Executive of Movement for Change

    Sex and Power: how organising helps shift the balance

  • Social organising in the workplace

  • By Mike Payne 

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    St. Mellons Action Group: Our Journey

    11 months ago, in response to the refusal of a landowner to do anything with a derelict retail site that he owned in St. Mellons, a handful of local residents, supported by Movement for Change arranged a series of public meetings to plan and start a campaign to do something about it.

    At the first meeting it was clear that local residents had had enough of our area being treated with contempt. And they all wanted to get involved in a campaign that would make improvements to the environment in which we live.

    From there, the St. Mellons Action Group was born.

    The owner, Mr Rajani, had form with regards to this type of behaviour with buildings he owned. So we knew that we had our work cut out. For the 8 years that the building had been derelict, the MP, Assembly Member and local Councillors had all attempted to make contact with Mr Rajani without success. He simply ignored all correspondence and phone calls.

    So we took a different tack. I rang and left messages initially, then followed up in writing that our group wanted a meeting to discuss his plans. As we expected, he ignored my efforts. And so my third email gave him an ultimatum- meet us, or we would have to take action. We discovered that Mr. Rajani owned another nearby shop. So we insisted he meet us, or we would picket that shop and lobby his customers to sign up to our campaign. We said we would inform the press, and if necessary disrupt his business.

    Again, we got nothing. So it was time to take action. We put together a leaflet to encourage customers to join us. We also had a petition which we were planning to take to the authorities. We arrived on a Saturday morning, ready to disrupt his business on his busiest day. But within 10 minutes of our arrival, an employee of Mr Rajani brought me a telephone and asked if I would speak to him.

    He apologised for not contacting the group. And he said that in return for a cessation of our action, he would meet with me on the following Monday – just two days later. Of course, as we were there to get him to recognise us and meet us, we agreed to call our activists and tell them to stay home.

    A few days later, I met Mr Rajani. At that meeting I told him that we were fed up with being treated with contempt, that we were not going anywhere, and that unless he took responsibility for developing the Kwik Save site we would keep taking action.

    Following that meeting, we have made something happen. He agreed he would develop the site. And, what’s more, he agreed he would consult with the community, via the Action Group, to ensure they have a say on what happens.

    Several months on we have been told that outline plans are ready to be presented to Cardiff County Council’s Planning Department. And development on the site is planned to commence within the next six months depending upon the decisions of the Planning Committee.

    The owner planned to have a garden centre in the building, along with a café and a small convenience store, after our Action Group advised him that the local people want somewhere to get their bread and milk.

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    Beyond our local campaign, the Action Group decided to petition the Welsh Government to request that the Planning Bill currently passing through the Assembly was re-drafted to ensure it had sufficient powers within it to deal with landowners like Mr. Rajani. We acted for our community, but we want to ensure no communities are held to ransom like we have been, by wealthy business people with no interest in what their actions have on local people.

    We presented our petition to the Petitions Committee of the National Assembly for Wales and have received cross party support for our objective of providing support to communities across Wales.

    During all this action, we formally established our group with a committee, a constitution, and an action plan. St. Mellons Action Group, which is now 150 strong, has begun looking at "what next".

    Most likely, our next campaign is to challenge the local Tesco to change its pricing policy. Our local Tesco is the highest priced Tesco in the country, despite St. Mellons being relatively less well-off than many other areas. Without any competition nearby, this is a cynical policy that has to change.

    But it’s not all about the action. We want to ensure St. Mellons Action Group has some fun too. So we have put our focus this summer on a community fete that will bring people together and give people something to look forward to each year.

    The Fete will take place on the 30th August and already we have, 25 stalls confirmed, 10 5-a-side adult teams to take part in a tournament, a Community Education Youth Bus, and local services providing information for residents.

    We intend to make this a day for the community to remember and to look forward too each year. 

    Our group has come a long way, and the 12-strong committee is doing a fantastic job of continuing to use community organising to bring our community together to give people power and pride in the place in which they live.

    For more on Movement for Change's work in Wales, take a look at the local site.

    Power and pride in the place we live

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The Movement for Change Showcase 2014 at the Labour Party’s Annual Conference in Manchester saw senior Shadow Cabinet figures such as Yvette Cooper MP, Rachel Reeves MP, Jim Murphy MPAndy Burnham MP and Emma Reynolds MP commit to real changes on big issues in response to movements built by the people directly affected.

Chairing the event after touring the streets of Scotland in the Independence Referendum campaign, Jim Murphy MP said "There is a sense that politics changes nothing: you've proved today that it can, and you can."

The packed event showcased ordinary people already changing lives and changing the country. Hundreds of community activists from across the UK came together to do politics differently:

  • Young people from an area recently shocked by extremist recruitment were joined by Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper MP. She praised their work on the ground to prevent some of the root causes of extremism by giving people a stake in their community. Saeed Ebrahim and Said Abdi spoke about leading the campaign with young people locally and are looking forward to meeting with her in Cardiff.

She said, "I think it is fantastic what Saeed and Said and all of the team in Butetown have done and what it shows really is quite how important and how powerful Movement for Change really is because what starts as a discussion about safety in the community and needles and immediate local safety actually ends up being about our entire national security and the safety and values of us all."

She added: "Nobody should underestimate quite how important this is to every single one of us."

Saeed Ebrahim, Butetown Action Group leader said “The thing we couldn’t ignore was the biggest issue that was facing our young people in Butetown and also in other parts of the country. So we decided, working with Movement for Change, to use our experience and momentum from the needles campaign to help the young people to build their own power to challenge extremism in our community.”

  • In response to the stories of Great Yarmouth's jobseekers, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Rachel Reeves MP announced that a Labour government would end targets on benefit sanctions if elected. She agreed to work with Just Jobs campaigners who feel their job centre looks them out of employment.

Reeves praised the campaign for their confidence in speaking out, and added, "The Department of Work and Pensions under me will end the use of targets on sanctions in Job Centres.”

James Borg, Just Jobs leader added, "The Job Centre no longer feels like a place to get a job, but a place to get sanctioned. It makes me feel ashamed.



Reeves also joined the winner of the winner of the Activist of the Year Award 2014 Serai Hann to celebrate the cap on the cost of credit, a victory for Sharkstoppers everywhere.

  • NHS workers struggling with problem debt shared their stories with Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham MP who committed to working with Movement for Change's national campaign for fair credit. He will meet activists to discuss how the NHS can implement a payroll deduction scheme which allows its staff to save with credit unions

Burnham said, "I would be happy to work with Movement for Change to make the NHS the best employer it can be.

On the payroll deduction scheme he added, "Of course I will meet with the campaign - but let's do more than that, let's make it happen!"

Helen Bradford, NHS liaison & crisis practitioner and campaign leader said "I know that money is tight across the country, so workers need their employers to support them to access fair credit.  I am proud to work for the NHS and I believe that as one of the biggest employers in the country the NHS should be a shining example to employers that if you look after your workers, your customers will in turn be well cared for.”

  • Renters ripped off by lettings agents, suffering poor housing conditions and dealing with rogue landlords negotiated with Shadow Housing Minister Emma Reynolds MP. She laid out her plans for a national register of landlords to help local authorities regulate private renting and agreed to meet Home Sweet Home campaign leaders at least three times before the General Election.

Reynolds said, "This is my first speaking event at conference, and what an amazing event it is. I cannot believe we have this level of turnout at a fringe event, and pay tribute to the work of Home Sweet Home. I saw for myself people directly affected by these issues on a visit to Brighton. I would be delighted to continue to meet with them."

Rob Robinson,  a 48 year old senior manager for a small housing association said "Bad housing and bad landlords aren’t just a student problem. It’s something that affects people across Brighton. That’s what inspired me to get organised and start working with Home Sweet Home."

Lou Petcher from Barrow's Changing the World Together group also took to the stage to talk about experiences of domestic abuse. They celebrated their agenda for education on positive relationships in schools and success in piloting a programme locally after negotiating for funding from their local Police and Crime Commissioner.  



Kathryn Perera, Chief Executive of Movement for Change said: “This packed event was a brilliant example of how politics can be different and better.

“Together, people directly impacted by a diverse range of issues built movements and took action to make change happen. Crucially, they negotiated with Shadow Cabinet figures to make sure that a Labour government will act.

These ordinary people may not have thought of themselves as leaders, but their stories were just too powerful to ignore.”


For more information, get in touch with Jamie Wright, Communications Officer at jamie.wright@movementforchange.org.uk

Changing Lives and Changing the Country: Action on Extremism, Renting, Job Centres and more

  The Movement for Change Showcase 2014 at the Labour Party’s Annual Conference in Manchester saw senior Shadow Cabinet figures such as Yvette Cooper MP, Rachel Reeves MP, Jim Murphy MP, Andy Burnham MP and Emma Reynolds MP commit to real changes on big issues in response to movements built... Read More >


Movement for Change will be showcasing its work at a number of events at the Labour Party Conference in Manchester this year, starting with our flagship Showcase. Find the latest on our events and where we'll be speaking below. See you in Manchester!

Movement for Change Showcase 2014

Sunday 21st September, 1.30pm - 2.30pm

Screen 2, AMC Cinema, Great Northern 16

At last year’s Labour Party Conference we showcased people making change happen in communities across the country at our flagship event. These are the people who may not think of themselves as leaders, but have stepped up to take action on issues that directly affect them. They will once again be centre stage alongside senior Labour Shadow Cabinet members at the Movement for Change Showcase 2014. Find out more and let us know you'll be there.


Trusting the Demos: Does the public always know best?

Sunday 21st September at 7:30pm - 9pm

Premier Inn Manchester Central, Room 2

Debating the role of the public in our politics, Chief Executive of Movement for Change Kathryn Perera joins Simon Danczuk MP, John McTernan, Duncan O'Leary, Joe Twyman and Philip Collins (Chair) at this Demos fringe. Find out more about the line up.


Labour vs. UKIP: Winning new majorities and 'left behind' voters

Tuesday 23rd September at 5.30pm – 7:30pm

Manchester Central Library, Elliot House, 151 Deansgate, Manchester

Chief Executive of Movement for Change Kathryn Perera will be speaking alongside Gloria DePiero MP, Rob Ford, John McTernan, Marcus Roberts, Joe Twyman and Robin Wales, bringing insights on Community Organising and movement building to this Policy Network fringe focused on the UKIP effect.

Movement for Change at Labour Party Conference 2014

Movement for Change will be showcasing its work at a number of events at the Labour Party Conference in Manchester this year, starting with our flagship Showcase. Find the latest on our events and where we'll be speaking below. See you in Manchester! Read More >

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Movement for Change work with people who might not think of themselves as leaders, who have stepped up into public life. We know that politics can be different - and better, and seek to to challenge 'politics as usual.'

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