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How to win elections before they are even called...

Ella Baker School trainers Jane & John give a report back from delivering our new session on community organising and the Labour Party in Birmingham.

" Its Thursday 5 September, and we are off to Birmingham to deliver the first session of our new training unit: ‘Winning Elections before they are even called’. We have had a great response and over 35 people have signed up (but we know not everyone will attend).

When we arrive at the venue, there are already a couple of people who have arrived early and we spend a little time messing with the technology. There are three screens in the room, but the main one does not work, and the projector is operated from the other end of the room to the screen that does, so we will have to move the slide forward for each other). At 6pm there are 20 people in the room, and everyone is keen to learn.

We kick off with an explanation of the background to the school, and the reasons for this particular module. We do a once round as people introduce themselves and explain what they hope to get out of the session. We make a joke about whether the government crisis will make the meeting title out of date before we finish the evening, and it is clear that this is a good humoured (and diverse) group.

The objective of this session is to ensure people understand that we can use community organising techniques to build a strong relationship between the Labour party and the communities they seek to represent and that people’s views can change over time, and we can help them to change. Elsewhere we have had a couple of people who believe that: ‘we do all that already’ (they really don’t). But on this occasion there is clear enthusiasm, and as we close the session bang on time, the one complaint is that we have run just one unit, rather than the full day course.

Highlights of the session: the use of two quotes by Marx stimulated a really interesting discussion about ‘agency’ and the media, the enthusiasm for the break out sessions and the way a number of key points we wanted to explore were raised by the attendees themselves. Great work by Jane meant we managed to avoid going down the contentious rabbit hole of ‘what’s your definition of class’ (the short answer is you know it when you see it).

The feedback is that people want us to run more sessions, and perhaps establish a formal Birmingham/West Midlands network, but we tell them, the training materials are available on-line, if you want more sessions, you will have to organise it yourselves. We work on the tried and tested approach of, ‘each one teach one’. In other words, we don’t mind coming and sharing some learning with you, so long as once we have, you pick up the batten and cascade the learning onto others.


Thanks to everyone who contributed to the session, facilitating it was fun and we learnt loads."


Jane & John

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