From the TUC

Online Organising: the future?

05 Apr 2011, By Guest

My first posting for the Stronger Unions blog since starting at the Director of the Organising Academy and what choice I’ve had to write about since joining the TUC!  We’ve had the fantastic March for the Alternative which saw 500,000 ordinary people say there is an alternative to the devastating cuts, a new cohort of students on the Diploma in Organising plus the excellent Roundtable on Collective Bargaining .  All of these have cemented, to me, the need to innovate the way to organise and gain better conditions for working people.

In the last ten or so years that I’ve been organising, I’ve seen the growth of online communications and social media as a tool to campaign and organise.  A self confessed geek, I would often find myself trawling the web for great examples of interaction and engagement.  Nowadays, it’s hard to move for great examples of online organising and for discussions on ‘what is online organising’ or ‘using new social media’. 

So, I took the opportunity at the Young Members’ Conference to put together a session exploring the use of ‘online organising’.  Enter the practitioners and reps who have first hand experience of working digitially or with experience of the affect of online campaigns.

Matthew McGregor (International Director for Blue State Digital) came to us via Skype to deliver the lessons of Wisconsin for UK trade unions.  You can see more of Matthew’s take on his blog posting.  We also had Lorraine Adams (President, Prospect’s Forestry Commission Branch) who talked about her experience of the ‘Save Our Forests’.  Both contributors gave some real food for thought, and here are the lessons I’ve taken away:

Tweets don’t win elections

It’s all very well tweeting, facebooking and blogging, but this activity only takes us so far.  There has to be a point to what we’re saying, what we’re getting out there and ultimately it’s about getting people to move away from their sofas, desks or wherever they work to physically do something.  Both campaigns showed the need for engagement and getting the message out there by social media, but ultimately it’s the personal relationships and the demonstration of people that makes the difference.

An authentic message

Online campaigning is like traditional door-to-door, workplace by workplace campaigning – the message has to be one that resonates with experience on the ground.  Try to manufacture a feeling and the campaign won’t be as successful as it could be.

Don’t forget email

Emailing may now seem as the grandparent of social media, but it is still the most effective way to get out information and ask people to be active.   In our rush to talk about Twitter and Facebook, we’re forgetting this still underused resource.  We need to explore ways to use email to its fullest capacity if we are to succeed in campaigns in the 21st century.

And, my current favourite campaigning website?  I am real fan of the False Economy website.  I love it’s interactivity, it’s use of video and just how clear everything is.  A real winner for me.