Locality to launch Institute for Community Organising

Locality to launch Institute for Community Organising

Tania Mason , Civil Society


Locality is planning to set up an Institute for Community Organising as part of the £15m community organisers programme it is running on behalf of the government.


The institute formed part of the government’s brief for the programme and will be expected to take over the role of programme lead by April 2015.


Jess Steele, who is managing the programme at Locality, emphasised yesterday that the institute will not be owned by Locality or hosted by an academic institution, but would be a mutual owned by organisers themselves.  


“We haven’t yet written the business plan but we hope in the long-term that there will be an Institute for Community Organising which would provide solidarity and ongoing CPD for organisers, but would also be their own business. 


"Those that own it will not just be those that come through this programme but from the many many organisers that already exist and that will continue to be trained and developed by other organisations.”


Organising will be ‘truly bottom-up’ 


Steele said that the programme was about “unleashing community resources at a very local level”.


“That doesn’t mean unleashing it to volunteer in the library, or unleashing it to do work the public sector has always done in the past, it is about unleashing it to do the things it wants to do. 


“There are several fundamental principles of community organising, it is truly bottom-up. The idea of the organisers is that they bring no messages.  They do not come from somewhere and tell local people what to do or what to talk about, they come listening.”


Steele said the approach Locality had chosen for the programme would see the organisers “hosted”, that is, recruited and supported, by local community groups. “Those organisers will seek no specific outcomes except grassroots, ground-up development of powerful communities taking effective action”. 


Locality will shortly be seeking up to 200 partner organisations to act as hosts for the organisers. “We’ve started off with a set of kickstarters, who we identified before putting our bid in, but we will be looking for 100 to 200 hosts around the country.  These hosts are not employers for the organisers, they are a learning base, providing a learning environment for the organisers to work from.  


“We hope those hosts will be as transformed by the process of organising as the communities and neighbourhoods around them.”


Not just more capacitybuilding


The kind of ‘effective action’ referred to would also be different to traditional definitions, Steele added. “Let’s not just rely on the moral high ground which we’ve been occupying for so long. We have to get more effective at the actions we want to take, whether that’s actions to change the powerful or actions to do things ourselves, set things up ourselves, find DIY entrepreneurial solutions – we will do both on this programme.


“It will not be about capacitybuilding to deal with the culture of the powerful, or to be able to cope around the regeneration table, or to be able to read the minutes and absorb all the board papers and know what the jargon means.  It’s not about that, we’ve had plenty of that and we probably will need some more of it, but that’s not what organising is.”


Steele concluded with a message for the government: “I think that when government supports our work, supports what we want to see happen, we say they’re doing our work rather than us doing theirs. They’re backing us rather than us backing them, that’s a crucial point. I hope we can maintain that point, that they can continue to back us even when we don’t back them, which I think is likely to happen quite often.”


Steele was speaking at the ‘Reality check for Big Society’ event organised by Our Society Network.  For more on this event click here. 


Separately, New Philanthropy Capital has just published Community organisations: A guide to effectiveness, a practical guide to help community organisations ensure they are as effective as possible. The paper covers six areas—activities, results, leadership, people and resources, finances and ambition.  The report can be downloaded for free from NPC’s website.