I first came across Movement for Change (M4C) when I went along to a community clean-up organised by the team. Our local MP Stephen Twigg and Knotty Ash Councillor Hayley Todd had been working with M4C and mentioned the fantastic work they were doing in communities up and down the country. I along with some other CLP members decided to go along get involved and learn a little more about what M4C was all about.
On the day it was great to see party members taking pride in their community alongside local residents, business owners and elected members. It’s the type of practical politics that just simply works. A problem was identified, a team put together to sort it out and in the process links were made with people in the surrounding community.
The success of the day meant that as a CLP we were keen to receive further M4C training. We wanted to learn how to forge lasting relationships with those outside of our membership and make a real difference in our neighbourhoods along the way.
The training itself was taken by community organiser Ben Maloney and attracted a group of enthusiastic members including our CLP chair, City Councillors, Candidates, Young Labour activists and new members. The exercises throughout the day were tremendously useful. We were encouraged to look back on campaigns we had been involved in and evaluate how successful they had been. Listening to each other’s experiences and strategising as a group meant we were able to get a clearer sense of what works in a campaign. Going through this reflective process was constructive. As a membership that loves to campaign it was valuable for us to pause, look back and realise the importance of campaigning week in week out and the undeniable impact it has on election results.
Liverpool West Derby CLP is one which has been transformed in the past few years. Since Stephen Twigg has become the MP the life of the CLP has been revived, interesting speakers at meetings, political discussion and regular social events are all part of the deal. This winning approach to CLP life means that we are always looking for ways to build on this success and find new ideas to engage our membership and make links with the wider community.
The M4C approach to building CLP power is fresh and interesting. Advice to organise 1-2-1 meetings with new members was something that interested us all. Taking time to discover why someone has joined our party, what motivates them and discussing ways they can get involved in CLP life can be hugely beneficial. Meeting with members in an informal setting and starting up a conversation means we have a greater chance of engaging our new members from the outset. Actions like this can take away the daunting task of walking into a CLP meeting where everyone knows each other. No-one wants to feel like the new kid at school, baffled by Labour Party jargon and the minutes of the last meeting. The face-to-face meetings advocated by M4C take away the fear factor and encourage members to become active on their own terms, they decide how they want to become involved and CLP members can then support them in this. Some may want to campaign, others may want to attend meetings and policy discussion; a few may want to get involved in the social aspect of Party life. It’s our job as members to make newcomers feel comfortable enough to choose what type of members they want to be and how they want to contribute.
Another aspect of the training took us away from our comfort zone and challenged us to think about how we engage with those outside of our membership. Members are hugely important and we always want to attract more but it’s important that we’re not engaging with members and no-one else. If we want to make change in our areas and win future elections we should be making a considered effort to engage with those who aren’t Party members but do fantastic work in our local communities.
During the session we were encouraged to think about people in the community who we should be in dialogue with, including faith leaders, community activists, tenants and residents associations and local organisations to name but a few. Mapping out who we should be talking to and recognition that it’s something that all members should be doing was hugely worthwhile. We didn’t only think about who we should be engaging with but how. Hearing about M4C’s emphasis on voter registration and how this can be incorporated into all campaigns definitely gave us food for thought! I’m sure we’ll all be signing up for further training in 2012!
Lana Orr, Liverpool West Derby CLP