Reinvigorating the grassroots
Author: Emily Randall
Published on Feb 11, 2013
On Saturday 9th February the Grassroots Democracy Conference 2013 proved to be a tremendous success with just under 100 people, from across the country, braving the weather outside to take part. This was the first time for a while that Unlock Democracy and the Electoral Reform Society had worked together to hold an activist conference. We were all very excited to come to Birmingham to encourage grassroots activism on democratic reform issues.
Rather than debating policy, the focus for the day was training and development. Our supporters had called for more support to campaign at local level and an opportunity to network with fellow activists from across the country. Of course, democratic reformers never miss a chance to debate policy - but this time we were talking pragmatically about how locally and nationally we can make democratic reform a national debate.
Opening the day, Phil Booth the former national coordinator of NO2ID delivered a fantastic speech on “Why Campaign Locally?”, emphasising a “need for more democracy geeks”, that as local activists we need to “think about the things which influence people who have power like the media”. But most importantly we need to have fun, to enjoy campaigning and be creative with it.
The day was filled with workshops focusing on campaign planning, getting media attention, campaigning online, building a support base and putting pressure on politicians. We very fortunate to have speakers and trainers like Jane Thomas from Friends of the Earth, former MP Martin Linton and People and Planet Activism Manager Adam Ramsey who made their sessions engaging.
Feedback from the day has been incredibly positive with Charlotte Galpin from Birmingham for Democracy saying “It was a great opportunity to meet other democratic reformers from across the country and brainstorm campaign ideas. The day helped me reinvigorate my enthusiasm for democracy campaigning that had started to wane in recent months and I hope to keep this going by starting some new campaign plans”
Ben Lille from London for Democracy agreed “It was great to hear so many different voices talking about how we can achieve a better democracy. Many seemed on the same wavelength and the message was clear that with the correct support these local activists were determined to make a difference. I’m energised for the next year of action!”
The main message of the conference was that there is a tremendous amount you can do at a local level to raise the profile of democratic reform issues which national organisations have no hope of doing alone - even if you are just one lone enthusiast.
Unlock Democracy’s Campaigns and Outreach Officer Emily Randall will be going around the country in 2013 to encourage more local activism. We have a number of activism guides on our website to give you ideas and suggestions about what to do in your area, which we will be continuing to expand over the next few months. And if you have ideas - or even just enthusiasm - for getting more active in your area, drop Emily a line and she’ll get back to you as soon as she can.
We would like to thank everyone who came along on Saturday and helped make it such a great event. A special thanks to Make Votes Count for their financial support without which we couldn’t have made this conference happen.
In the meantime, if you filled in a pledge card at the conference on Saturday, we’ll be putting it in the post in a few months. Keep up the good work!