One of the things I like most about organising is the scale of the ambition of it, and the fact that it starts with a single conversation. We're building an organisation that can take on any issue the membership want it to - income, how much we pay for things, national policy. But to do that we start with, and always come back to, knocking on doors and having one to one conversations with people - finding out what's important to them, and how we can get the things they want.
Kat and I are setting up ACORN Newcastle this year, and this week we've have been down in Bristol doing training on both sides of that - how ACORN campaigns, builds branches, negotiates with targets and gets results. And we've been out knocking on doors in Redcliffe ahead of the launch meeting there.
Organising in Yeamans
I always find it a bit of an adrenaline rush when I'm knocking on the first door in a doorknocking shift – who's going to answer, what they're going to say, how they're going to respond – are all up in the air. But it's always fine, and usually pretty fun. People get what we're trying to do, and they want things to be different. At the very least no-one minds being asked their opinion on things....
The Yeamans tower block is where we've been out this week. And we've had three days of really positive responses. People have been really welcoming, honest, funny and interested, and quite a few members signed up.
When we're dooknocking we're looking for a few things:
- Issues we can campaign on
- People who want to join the organisation
- Commitments from people to take action
- Possible leaders- people who want to get more involved in making it happen
The issues that matter
So one of the main things is the issues that are important to people – what they're fed up with and would like to see change. In the Yeamans block there's been three main issues coming up again and again:
- Lack of consultation on maintenance work – a lot of people have said they don't have much voice in how the money gets spent, and would rather see more spent on security than paint and re-tiling. Quite a few people have wondered about the door-replacements making the locks harder to use, and roof repairs that seem to have left water still coming in.
- Parking – quite a few people have mentioned that a lack of free parking permits makes it harder for friends and family to come visit, which is especially hard for people who need support and care. There's a lot of places where it's free to park, so some people have said it feels like a tax on living there
- Safety and youth services – a lot of people would also like to see more invested in support services and youth clubs so people have got a place to go and be part of things.
Getting members in
I've also signed up my first members this week, which has been really positive. I know all the reasons why it's important, but it's new for me to explain that clearly and get used to asking. And people totally get it – we welcome support but we don't want to have rely on government money or companies because we want to take on whatever issues people want us to, and we want branches to be accountable to their members and no-one else. So it's been nice for me to get those first few – helps you realise how much is possible, and how much people want to make this happen.
Next steps: There will be a big ACORN meeting in Redcliffe, Bristol on the 8th April, 6.30pm in the Community Centre next to the Methodist Church, and first campaign to get wins from.
For me and Kat it's back up to Newcastle and starting organising up there.
If you want to join ACORN and be a part of it, become a member here.