Message from Steve Wyler – Locality CEO
As you may have heard, Locality has been selected to run the national community organisers programme.
As we said to the government ministers when they interviewed us, we see our task as liberating community organising from government, and grounding it firmly within community, to become an independent force. We will do this by selecting host community organisations – settlements, development trusts, and other respected groups – who in the coming months and years will recruit and support 5,000 capable local people for the task. Already we have the first ten ‘kickstarter’ host organisations lined up. You can find out more, and indeed register interest in becoming a host, here http://www.dta.org.uk/whatsnew/hottopics/communityorganisers
I can’t pretend it will be easy. We have capable partners, including community organising specialist Re:generate. But the truth is that there are risks. Against the background of cuts, we will have to contend with inevitable and understandable anger and cynicism. But the discipline of community organising does give us a means of working with anger, to challenge power, to mobilise community activists on a big scale, to ‘ignite the impulse to act’, to create positive change, across the whole country.
Community organising has its roots in to the 1960s and 1970s work of Saul Alinsky in the United States and Paulo Friere in Brazil, but our approach will be to create a modern indigenous English version of community organising. This is what Jess Steele, who is leading our partnership, wrote in our bid document: “We believe community organising has the potential to establish a new and much healthier social contract between people and power. Community organising, grounded at local level, provides the means for people – above all those who are most excluded from the inner circles of power and privilege – to combine and be counted, to discover their ability to identify those changes which will mean most to them and, on their own terms, take action to tackle vested interests. Through community organising the realisation of individual potential and the creation of self-determining communities go hand in hand.”
In Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky said “As an organiser I start from where the world is, as it is, not as I would like it to be. That we accept the world as it is does not in any sense weaken our desire to change it into what we believe it should be—it is necessary to begin where the world is if we are going to change it to what we think it should be.” He opposed all dogmas except one: a belief that “if people have the power to act, in the long run they will, most of the time, reach the right decisions.”
I will finish with a few more words by Alinsky which I particularly like for their humanity and exuberance: “Life is an adventure of passion, risk, danger, laughter, beauty, love; a burning curiosity to go with the action to see what it is all about, to go search for a pattern of meaning, to burn one’s bridges because you’re never going to go back anyway, and to live to the end.”