Friday, 14 November 2014

What is Yes In The Community up to?

Since the referendum we have learned that the Police Scotland investigation we won into Glasgow City Council malfeasance has yet to lead to a prosecution.  We are disappointed in this, but are continuing to seek redress, as testimony continues to pour in about malpractice in Scotland's largest, Red Tory run Council.

We have organised to send over 6000 personal submissions to the Smith Commission, arguing for 100% Home Rule.  We are building a Home Rule Covenant, which we are extending across Scotland with a number of mass signings planned outside institutions which have a hand in delivering 'The Vow.'  We also organised a mass signing of the Home Rule Covenant outside the Labour Party's Glasgow HQ.  This followed a march around locations in Glasgow connected to Lord Smith which won press attention and which we sent a write up about to Lord Smith and his Commission.  We are hosting another mass signing event outside Lord Smith's fracking HQ at the Weir Group in Glasgow 2 days before Lord Smith decides whether we are are to get powers over energy and the ability to stop fracking. 

[See facebook event for forthcoming mass signing:]

We began preparatory work to build a local social movement to help bring Johann Lamont to account.  Between the end of the referendum and her resignation we had organised several canvass sessions in her constituency.  She chose to fall on her sword as Labour leader before her community could bring her to account.  We remain confident the people of Glasgow Pollok will pay her no special sympathy vote in 2016, however.

We have held a conference to discuss our strategic direction, meeting in Glasgow's YES bar.  Out of this conference we are launching a week of action, from the day Lord Smith publishes his report on how he believes 'The Vow' should be honoured.  This week of action will ensure jobcentres across Scotland are canvassed, and those who we signed up during the independence campaign to the electoral register are asked if they indeed got their vote.  We will ensure that publications spelling out just how important voting again in the UK elections in 2015 is to kicking out the Red Tories, and how that's connected to devolving powers over welfare to Scotland for ending the humanitarian crisis.

We have been meeting with rally and protest organisers across the country.  There is a task to be done in bringing the YES movement together.  In the past YES HQ had named contacts who were 'organisers' who they spoke to regularly.  This was what ensured continuity the most.  In the absence of this basic infrastructure many people are reinventing the wheel, replicating work that is going on elsewhere or not otherwise benefitting from economies of scale.  There is a need to bring people together thru relationships and networks, and so we are engaged in an ongoing 121 campaign meeting as many people as possible face to face.

One of the things we intend to be doing much more of over the coming few months is extending social movement organising training on a cost basis to the movement.  We know that there is a real hunger for engagement in this great movement of ours.  We think this engagement would be greatly more effective if it was informed by social movement organising methods and disciplines, and we believe the movement would be much much more powerful than it has been till now.  If you would like to book a training or find out more, please get in touch.


The YES movement and social movement methodology

Where we are?

During the referendum Scotland's mass movement for democracy and commonweal had a single task - to convert support for its goals to votes in a ballot box.  Today the tasks of this same mass movement  - the largest Scotland has seen in perhaps 400 years - are much more varied, as the fight for commonweal politics and democracy will not be won with just one vote on the horizon in the immediate future.

The YES movement is comprised mostly of people who have never been politically active before.  As a result it is not overly skilled at social movement organising.  What it lacks in skill it makes up for in raw numbers.  During the peak of the YES campaign the YES movement saw 1 in 8 adult Scots become a participant.

Keeping supporters motivated, keeping leaders participating, and connecting the immediate needs of communities suffering the effects of Westminster cuts is a strategic challenge.  Connecting those struggles which emerge locally to a wider picture, informing those who made a mistake, and battling right wing propaganda and Unionism is a tactical and logistical challenge. 

The danger of resignation.

One of the strategic concerns for the YES movement (continuing) is whether it will continue to be able to command the support of 1 in 8 adult Scots in some level of participation.  1 in 50 adult Scots is now in the SNP and 1 in 45 is now in a YES party, but this represents roughly a third of the most politicised layer of people who participated in the YES campaign.  Many of those who have not joined a political party will continue to be active at a local level, but there is a real concern that absent infrastructure and institutions with short, medium and long term goals many comrades will wonder what the point is of their continuing participation.  This is particularly true of that part of the movement which indicated its support and made our movement so democratic and visible, but which was not the 'go to meetings, sort out the leaflet run, chap doors' component.

Relationships matter.  Without the ongoing relationship between the leaders of this movement (those chapping doors, and organising things), and its base, forged by its connection to bread and butter concerns, much of this base will find it difficult to stay motivated.  Life, the weans, the shitey jobs market, poverty, whatever else - ideals are great, but what brought this enormous base to life and so rocked the British state to its foundations was that 1 in 8 people in Scotland were actively campaigning for *immediate* social change.  There is no reason that absent independence their hope should become resigned apathy again, or that they should stop campaigning for *immediate* social change.  If we can't connect our longterm aims to their immediate concerns hope will become resignation.  We need the tools to build the relationships to turn the dial the other way - to turn up the volume on hope. 

What social movement organising is?

Social movement organising aims to use the force of people, principally thru physical turnout, but also thru turnout at public actions, to influence decisions and the popular narrative.  Typically the goal of public action is to enter into negotiation, and to win concessions towards your programme.  Any victory confirms to the participants that they have power.  In Scotland in most of our communities and in most of our workplaces people don't feel that they exercise very much power.  That's why hope became so catalysing. 

How can social movement organising help our movement?

Social movement organising which we are all (by dint of the now protracted campaign for democracy and commonweal) involved in, is a studied discipline in building power.  In trade unions paid organising staff have a specific job to do, which builds power and solidarity at work and in the union.  They follow a methodology in doing this.  In a number of communities across the UK professional organisers ply their trade for various NGOs and community based institutions, to build power and solidarity in the community.  These techniques, Issue based organising, styles of 121 conversations, mapping, pushing and power analysis are all areas of social movement organising in which the YES movement remains weak.  These methods, central to successful social movements which exist for the long haul, and not just the short great lowp, can be trained fairly successfully.  Wherever they are implemented they give leaders the skill and confidence to connect with their base and to catalyse it to action, and therefore power.  Hope needs to lead to change.  That's what power is.

This massive base of people we have in our movement is a tectonic plate in society.  As we have seen from 'The Vow' when this plate shifts, even empires teeter.  Imagine if this plate could move as readily on something that didn't immediately cost the enemy quite as much as its own annihilation?  If it could move for living wage powers?  If it could move for land reform?  If it could move for welfare justice powers to end foodbanks?  If it could move for job creating powers?  If it could move for a YES movement victory in 2015?  If we can do even some of that, we will have turned hope into demonstrated power, levelled the political landscape, and left the forces of reaction living in fear of more earthquakes.  It's comin yet for aw that.


YES in the community is committed to providing training in social movement organising for YES groups and activists on a cost basis.

Our lead organiser previously worked for London Citizens as a professional community organiser.  Our team includes several former and current trade union organisers, as well as decades of years of explicitly social movement activist and leadership experience.

Our trainings are 4 hours or 16 hours in length, and suitable for any active participant in the movement. They consist of elaboration of concepts, roleplay, and real world planning. Issue based organising, styles of 121 conversations, mapping, pushing and power analysis are the main themes that we focus on, altho there is scope in 16 hour sessions to discuss the differences in methodology between the Organising model, the Alinskyist model and the Freireist models of leadership development in social movement organising and where these connect with marketing, behavioural and people management techniques widely used in the private and third sector.  All trainings come with course notes, and we commit to extending advice and support on an ongoing basis.

If you would like to book a session please get in touch below.  Ideally we don't want people paying more than a fiver, as this is about engagement, so we recommend you get at least 5 people coming for a 4 hour session, and at least people 20 coming for a 16 hour/weekend session.

4 hours (£30 + travel + any room hire)
16 hours (£120 + travel + any room hire)

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