- The Policy Units structure and plans
- What exactly is a think-and-do-tank?
- Introducing the Academic Board
- How to get involved in the Common Weals policy work
by Katie Gallogly-Swan
16. 10. 14
The team has been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and sheer number of people who say they want to get involved in Common Weal locally. There are various ways to do this, and we want to provide support. Here's a guide to setting up your local Common Weal Group:
1. Set-up your local facebook group/page: In Inverness, North Ayrshire, Angus and more Common Weal volunteers have already set up their local facebook group/page, which can be the starting point for getting your group organised. Before starting a new page, check to see if there is a group for your local authority or town. If you set one up, get in touch by emailing email@example.com and we'll provide support to properly get the group established.
2. Want to talk first? Fill out the Get Involved form: If you want to speak to the team first before setting up your local group, or if you want to find out what other Common Weal volunteers are in your area, the best thing to do is to fill out the Get Involved form on the website, clearly stating that you'd like to be involved in setting up a local group in your area. We'll gather the details of everyone in your local area, and get back to you as a group.
3. Establishing your group - organise a meet-up: The team plans to go to every local area and speak to local Common Weal groups. But we would encourage you to get started by setting up an initial meet-up of people in your area. It's good to find out who's keen on Common Weal, how they think they can apply Common Weal to their local circumstances, and what ideas they have to properly launch Common Weal in your area.
4. Launching your group - a Common Weal public event: We're keen to hold Common Weal events in every local area in Scotland over the next few months with at least one person from the team attending. We want to explain how the Common Weal is going to work in the new phase of the organisation, and we want to get your input into that process too. Once your groups established work out a launch date with our community team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. What does a Common Weal local group do? Once you've launched, what is the function of a Common Weal local group? First off, the Common Weal local group is YOUR group. All groups should stay within the principles of Common Weal, but it is run by you, organised by you, plans are concocted by you, decisions are made by you. We have the confidence that you will know best how to apply the ideas of Common Weal to your political, social and economic context. We already have examples of what local Common Weal activists can do: one group has, for example, set-up a reading group where they read one chapter of the Common Weal book and then discuss it together. In the upcoming weeks we'll provide more information, ideas and support on how to 'do' Common Weal in your local area.
6. What's the relationship between the local group and The Commons venues? We will have a blog update on The Commons venues/café's soon, but some people have already asked about how they relate to the local Common Weal groups. The key word here is flexibility. In some areas where Commons are launched they will be tightly interconnected to the local Common Weal groups, and we would always encourage Common Weal groups to meet in The Common if one does exist. In other areas setting up a Common will not be an option and that is fine – whatever set-up is applicable to your local circumstance. If you are interested in setting up a Common venue or if you know of Yes hubs that would be interested in converting to Common hubs then get in touch at email@example.com.
Common Weal is an idea that belongs to everyone, and not all local groups will have the same goals or activities. It is for your local community to decide on how Common Weal works for you, and for the team at Common Weal to help and support you in your work.
by Susan Evans, Policy Unit Director
11. 10. 14
Last week, the Common Weals new Policy Unit came into being, and we were immediately inundated by offers from academics and practitioners across Scotland, keen to be part of building better policies for a more just, prosperous, innovative, and environmentally sound nation. A nation in which citizens are empowered to seek out and experiment with creative, humane solutions to societal and environmental challenges. We are frankly overwhelmed by the enthusiasm, and ready to get to work.
So how do we plan to channel all this human energy that will power our organisation over the coming years? In the next week or so, we will set out our vision as well as more specific plans in a series of blog posts. In this, our first post, we would like to introduce the Policy Units overall motivation and vision.
The last year has thrown two features of Scottish society into sharp relief.
First, the vast majority of people care about politics. They care enough to vote at a minimum, and to get actively involved in many casesif they believe their votes and other actions can make a difference. The myth of apathy has been dispelled, and politics needs to change to recognise this. The time for dumbing down policy debate is over: from the town hall movement and the lively conversations at political stalls, to the politically-charged creations of the artistic community and the huge followings for intelligent political blogging, there is ample evidence of a great appetite for active citizenship. More people, from all walks of life, must be included in generating ideas for solutions to our societys problems on a regular basis. This is how we will progress.
This is the first part of our vision: keeping up the momentum in civil society. We will do this by providing opportunities for people to debate, learn, access experts and channel their ideas to change society.
Second, there is a gross imbalance in who controls information in the public sphere and has most influence on policy. For an idea to take hold and be adopted as policy, efforts must be made to convince the public of its merits (traditionally through newspapers and TV, though now increasingly online); and to convince the policymakers directly, through lobbying. Corporations and interest groups recognise this, which is why a large, highly experienced and effective PR industry existsto ensure that those with the financial means can get their message across to punters and policymakers. Those without the means must rely on the strength of their ideas and attempt to engage with the system as best they can, with limited resources or personal networks. Picture a small environmental NGO with no media team or professional lobbyist trying to pursue its well-informed and well-intended interest, in the face of a large, well-funded and well-organised oil and gas lobby (which may even have former colleagues employed in the relevant government department), for instance. Clearly, the situation is severely distorted in favour of those with the most money and personal influencenot those with the best ideas to benefit society. This has to change.
This is the second part of our vision: redressing the information imbalance and promoting progressive left ideas to the mainstream of public and political discourse. We will do this by being a platform for our policy network of talented academics and practitioners to connect and promote their ideas, through our publishing, media and policy engagement capabilities.
This is not about us. Its about us giving you a voice.
Upcoming blog posts from the policy unit will cover the following topics:
10. 10. 14
BY LIAM O'HARE and MICHAEL GRAY
In recent times the political and civic landscape of Scotland has undergone a seismic transformation. Talk of political apathy was shattered as we witnessed an unparalleled level of engagement in the independence referendum. Voter registration has sprung up to 97%. Turnout was nearly 85%.
But the numbers alone do not tell half the story.
Thousands of people in Scotland became activists. New networks of communication were created as isolation was replaced with participation. Suddenly, people started to scheme and plan with each other again.
How can we maintain this democratic wave following the referendum to create a better society?
This is a really important question as people remain committed to engaging in politics.
The enthusiasm for Common Weal since the referendum has been inspiring. Over a thousand people volunteered over just 10 days to support Common Weal projects locally and nationally.
This mirrors the new energy across many other organisations. The Scottish Green Party conference this weekend is oversubscribed, with the party membership tripling in size to over 6,000. Other parties and campaign groups have enjoyed a flood of similar responses. The SNP would fill Murrayfield stadium. Women for Independence brought 1,000 supporters to Perth, whilst the Radical Independence Conference has been moved to the Clyde Auditorium. A multitude of different media projects have emerged, as well as new campaigns for 50/50 gender representation in Parliament.
All of these exciting, diverse organisations bring their own strengths and ideas to democracy in Scotland, and many receive the support from individuals who are independent and decide to support individual campaigns or events.
These groups worked together for a common purpose and now they will reform for challenges in the future – local projects, the general election and the 2016 election to Holyrood.
Whilst exactly what will emerge remains uncertain, post-referendum Scotland poses many questions. Foremost amongst them are;
1) How can we have a media in Scotland that creates accountability and engages with important issues?
2) How do we build a sustainable network for the vast numbers of people who want to support political change in Scotland?
Common Weal will be setting up the CommonSpace online platform to help answer these questions.
CommonSpace will have two main elements. The first will create a hub for news and ideas. Common Space will be careful not to replicate any of the excellent content and comment that already takes place online. Instead it will focus on sharing Common Weal's strengths in creating new policy reports and bringing people together to organise. We've already held discussions to make sure this happens.
The second element is to provide an open platform for connecting, organising and sharing for those interested in the full range of progressive politics in Scotland. This will be a space for people to get together, have debates, and join or even start campaigns around various issues.
We are already working with the design agency Tangent, Scottish digital group Kiltr and a programmer to set up the platform by early December. This is one of several Common Weal projects that is developing at an impressive rate.