Listening to Loughborough

Winning for Loughborough

sachin Tuesday February 6 2018

I met We Can Win over a pretty insane six weeks — the 2017 General Election Campaign. During the campaign we scrambled around working with progressive groups to collectively pull off one of the biggest political upsets in British History.

I saw them up close running ‘Barnstorms’ with Bernie Sanders organisers where hundreds of volunteers in a room would sign up to get involved, canvass and campaign, despite having never done anything like it before.

After hearing about their work winning unprecedented elections in the City of London and winning campaigns for cheaper public transport and safer schools, I knew we had to get them to work their magic in Loughborough. They agreed and came down in October to run a community organising training session for Loughborough progressives.

What is community organising?
The clue is in the name! It’s about nurturing and organising communities who together can be strong enough to make a difference in Loughborough.

The Training Session
We met at 11am at Fearon Hall, an incredible space just around the corner from the town Centre. The We Can Win trainers, Dan and Sotez, were joined by their fantastic colleague Kahra and after the remembrance day silence we got straight to it.

A picture of the group in Loughborough receiving training
The room was packed with 40 people

I kicked things off by asking everyone to introduce themselves and tell the group why they came.

There were some really powerful stories which people bravely told the room about unemployment and the dehumanising nature of the jobcentre.

After getting to know each other, we started to think a little more deeply about Loughborough.

We scribbled issues on the board, collating the issues we thought there were in the town based on on our personal experience.

Anti-unionism, a political apathy, food banks, rogue landlords and even the Nicky/Jonathan Morgan political dynasty was discussed

Then we started to think more strategically — who had accountability for the issues in the town? Who would we need to lobby to effect change? Who had power?

A flip chart showing a brainstorm of some of the people with power in the town
Some of the people with power in the town

Noting down who held power in the town was a good way to begin thinking about who we would target our campaigns at. We often think that it’s just politicians and businesses that hold power, but there’s also other interesting people like the head of the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, the Kinch bus service CEO, religious groups or different communities.

The Listening Campaign

A picture of a We Can Win trainer speaking to the room of activists in Loughborough

After we had sketched out what we thought the issues were in the town, We Can Win trainer Sotez worked his magic and somehow convinced all thirty of us to head into town for 45 minutes to chat to people about the issues important to them, and to see if we could pull anyone passionate into our campaign. We went with some basic forms which asked what people thought of Loughborough and what they thought the issues were. We had around 60 conversations in this time before heading back for a cuppa.

A picture of a man and woman laughing over a cup of tea A picture of two ladies from the Loughborough group making tea

We then discussed the issues that came up in our conversations:

  • Not enough mental health facilties
  • Housing issues with high rents, lack of affordable housing, absent landlords
  • Traffic issues, including students taking up all the parking spots!
  • Immigration
  • Drug abuse
  • Businesses closing down

Some of these issues were things that we didn’t know about or hadn’t thought of. So to get a real representation of the issues in Loughborough we decided to collectively talk to 500 people over the next four weeks so we can get a real grasp on the issues that Loughborough faces.

Then we’ll all come back, uncover the issues and start to build a local manifesto which we can use to build campaigns to start making some change in Loughborough!

If you’d like to get involved in the campaign in Loughborough, you can volunteer using this form, or add  your voice to the listening campaign via the online survey.