2011: A year in organising
It’s been a year since I started here at the TUC. And what a year for organising it has been.
2011 saw the largest trade union demonstration for a generation, 500,000 working people and their families marching for the alternative to this government’s slash and burn agenda. It saw the biggest day of industrial action undertaken in decades by public sector unions to defend pensions.
Where has the Academy fitted in with all of this?
Well, for me, the backdrop for all this action has been teaching the Diploma in Organising. Over the course of 2011, our group explored what it means to organise, how to construct campaigns and develop teams in the workplace. But, it’s all very well being in the classroom talking about organising and learning about theory, it’s what you do with it that counts and from the work that we saw, our Diploma group got out there and made a difference.
March 26th saw the group come back to the classroom, eagerly talking about and showing how they had identified new activists during long coach journeys, branch meetings and conversations with members.
After November 30th, we heard about increased membership, even more activity and success in using Anger Hope Action in union communications all thanks to our organisers work.
We heard about campaigning against Government cuts, Academies and keeping jobs for Bombardier workers and Derby families.
We even went to OccupyLSX and explored how the union movement and other progressive causes can link together. In short, it’s been a full year which has demonstrated the need for unions to campaign on the issues that members and their families care about and to be an integral part of their communities.
Lessons to take away from 2011? This is what I would say to union organisers:
Plan, plan, plan. Make sure you know what you want to achieve and how you can realistically go about getting it to happen. Don’t leave gaps in your research, if necessary go back and do more. Nothing should be left to chance.
A good organiser thinks strategically. Take a step back, react when necessary but be proactive in the work that you are undertaking. Set the agenda. Also, don’t think of actions as the plan, they’re a means to an end.
Communicate. 1-2-1s remain the most powerful way to communicate with activists and members so make sure you do it as much as possible. Take the time to listen. If you need to communicate by means other than face to face, ensure you’re employing the same principles.
Evaluate and celebrate. Don’t be afraid to be honest and take the time to look at what worked and what didn’t. Equally, celebrate the success that you have in your campaigns, it does wonders for building and maintaining engagement.