[COMM-ORG] Discuss: Community Organiser of the UK Government

Discussion list for COMM-ORG colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Sat Jul 23 17:07:29 CDT 2011

 [ed:  Thanks to Mark and Jean-Robert for contributing to the discussion.]

From: MARK PARKER <mark.parker1 at virgin.net>

Hi Michael and list

In January, I wrote about this development in the UK.  Here is my text
from that date:
News from the United Kingdom

In a move that has raised eyebrows across the community sector, the new
Conservative-led Coalition government in London will announce on 24
January 2011 a four year contract with a National Partner to train 5,000
community organisers across England, “a new generation of community
organisers and support[ing] the creation of neighbourhood groups across
the UK, especially in the most deprived areas” as part of its pledge to
build the Big Society. The contract from the Office for Civil Society in
the Cabinet Office will pay for training grants of £20,000 ($35,000) to
about 500 "high-level" organisers who will then in turn be responsible
for training the other "middle-level" organisers at local level. The
government requires that the successful applicant for the contract
provides a support network for the organisers and has committed to
endowing a UK Institute of Community Organising at the end of the four
years. The successful applicant is required to develop a model of
financial self-sufficiency for the training after the contract
concludes. The tender invitation names both Paulo Friere and Saul
Alinksy as expressing the core principles of the training!

This forms a key part of the new government's flagship policy of
promoting The Big Society. David Cameron (Prime Minister) and Nick Clegg
(Deputy Prime Minister) have been strong in affirming their intention to
deliver a smaller state infrastructure to free up the inate energy and
good sense of communities. This of course comes at a time when the
government is also laying the axe to much of the local state to reduce
the overwhelming deficit caused by the banking crisis. State
institutions at all levels are being cut to the bone and are shrinking
rapidly. The results for excluded and marginal communities is the
withdrawal of vital services. This makes The Big Society concept highly
contested and often deeply divisive. Organisers will have an uphill job
to gain credibility in poor communities when they will come with
apparent government backing and no budget to pay their salary or any
operating expenses.

The programme is the culmination of years of work in the background by
Citizens UK with all political parties at Westminster. The form of the
invitation to tender has been shaped by politicians' views on organising
and has led to complex debates amongst Citizens UK members. The decision
to bid for Citizens UK's first government contract was made on two
grounds. First, Citizens UK long-term goal of establishing a national
Institute of Community Organising would be achieved. Secondly, if
Citizens UK were not successful in winning the contract, someone else
would become the de facto lead on organising in the UK and that would
bring very substantial problems for Citizens UK's profile and growth. We
await the decision on the government interviews currently underway.

To update with developments since then:
Finally in late February, the government awarded the contract to
Locality, a new organisation formed in April 2011 from the merger of two
national networks of community-based development agencies: the
Development Trusts Association and the British Association of
Settlements and Social Action Centres. Locality committed to deliver a
21st century UK version of community organising training based around
the programme of the ReGenerate Trust, a training agency little known in
the UK. They have pioneered an organising approach 'Root Solution -
Listening Matters' based on the work of Paulo Friere and Saul Alinsky.
Locality recruited eleven local hosts from their membership to act as
KickStarters to get the programme underway in a short timeframe. They
will act as the pilot sites with more hosts being recruited through an
open process from the autumn / fall.

Organiser recruitment will be ongoing with about 100-150 paid organisers
being trained each year over the four years. The paid organiser training
will take place two or three times a year over a three day residential
followed by mentored, distance learning sessions for a further six
months and some specialist events covering key additional material. The
500 paid organisers will be responsible for recruitment and training of
the additional 4,500 volunteer organisers in their local areas.

The programme has been delayed due to negotiation with HM Treasury about
the employment status of the paid organisers. In the end, against
Locality's wishes, the government has insisted that the paid organisers
be employed with no additional income to compensate for the tax
implications. Locality has decided to employ all 500 themselves at low
hourly rates to avoid the hosts having to pick up the additional burden.
This will mean that locally at least the paid organisers will be
independent of their host and able to act autonomously within the
community. The Locality hosts are now beginning to recruit their paid
organisers and training for the first group is planned for 28-30
September 2011.

Locality (Declaration: I used to work for bassac) combines the
Development Trsuts Association who have been growing a network of
community enterprises across England with bassac, the home of the
Settlement House movement in the UK. bassac certainly comes form a
community development tradition but Locality has managed to retain some
fine radical spirits from the bassac staff who are very much in line
with a community organising tradition. However, it is true to say that
the government's choice of Locality to lead this programme placed it
into a steady and well-known pair of hands, rather than the
inexperienced (in running government programmes) hands of Citizens UK.
Citizens UK bid too high and Locality performed well at interview.

The motives of the Conservative leadership in seeking to implement a
government-sponsored community organising programme remains unclear.
Some sympathetic commentators suggest that it reflects Tocqueville's
nostalgic vision of many independent associations being good for
democracy. Other more cynical souls suggest that Cameron sees organisers
as disruptive of comfortable local government elites and that he wants
to shake them up to allow space for his plans for radical downsizing.
Others still see community organisers as part of a hegemonic attempt to
cover over the catastrophic cuts to public services and to give the
British public the impression that Cameron (and his neo-con Chancellor
Osborne) care just a little.
Mark Parker
+44 (0)7956 370 676


From: Jean-Robert <jeanrobertprimeau at videotron.ca>

Hi !
Isn't CO supposed to help empower the poor and dominated ? Now it's
going to help governments pursue liberalism which is proven to
impoverish people en enrich the rich. :(

Jean-Robert Primeau
Retired co.
Saint-Lambert, agglomération de Longueuil

On 7/18/2011 8:38 AM, Discussion list for COMM-ORG wrote:
> --------
> This is a COMM-ORG 'colist' message.
> All replies to this message come to COMM-ORG only.
> --------
>  [ed: this is an important discussion question about how the UK
> government defines community organising.]
> From: "MiRo" <michael at rothschuh.de>
> A central theme of the UK government of Conservatives and Liberal
> Democrats, is the establishment of "a big society" with less state money
> and more responsibilities for voluntary services and communities. To
> improve “big society” they are planning training and employment of 5.000
> community organizers (500 full time, 4.500 part time). The Conservative
> PM Cameron talked explicitly about Alinsky and Obama as models for it.
> http://www.conservatives.com/News/News_stories/2010/03/Plans_announced_to_help_build_a_Big_Society.aspx
> Neil Jameson (Cizitens UK, IAF affiliate) said May 2010,18
> “We are pleased to be part of launching the Big Society vision, and at
> the recognition the Government has given to Citizens UK and London
> Citizens. We are delighted that community organising is seen as having a
> key role in rebuilding confidence in politics and in our
> neighbourhoods”.
> http://www.citizensuk.org/2010/05/citizens-uk-to-play-key-role-in-building-%E2%80%98big-society%E2%80%99/
> Two organizations have applied for the 15 Mio Pound program:
> 1. Citizens UK, the IAF affiliate in London.
> 2. Locality UK citizens
> CitizenUK had not awarded the contract, even though Cameron had been
> impressed by CItizens UK (see Video: Citizens UK General Election
> Assembly , May 2010
> (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25Kv6i-ekYQ&feature=player_embedded)
> .
> “Neil Jameson, executive director of Citizens UK, said: 'Our principle
> for the past 22 years has been never to apply for government money, but
> this contract looked like it was written for us so we abandoned that
> principle and bid for it'. 'We were surprised not to have won it, but I
> think this was because our bid was too expensive. It's damaging for the
> vocation of community organising that the government has gone for a
> cheaper bid, rather than one from an organisation with experience'.
> (http://www.sen.org.uk/news/locality-wins-%C2%A315m-community-organisers-programme
> )
> See also:
> http://thirdsector.co.uk/news/Article/1058293/analysis-why-alinskys-supporters-lost-out/
> : Analysis: Why Alinsky's supporters lost out )
> The government has commissioned Locality
> http://www.number10.gov.uk/take-part/your-neighbourhood/community-organisers/
> , which is in my impression more engaged in volunteering than in organizing.
> Is there any discussion in the CO-Scene about this, I think, “Community
> Organizing of Her Majesty’s Government?”
> Michael Rothschuh, Hamburg/Germany,
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