Posted by: John | December 23, 2008

Lib Dems: Must do better

There seems to be a consensus that we say the right things and that the technical/sophisticated aspects of our policy making have never been stronger.

There are also strong signs that we are pushing forward in the methods of campaigning – and new people are joining us because of our ideas/policies.

The main problem we have (as do all voluntary organisations) is one of upskilling and the contract between party and activist. Of course most people are happy to do their job and do leaflets – yet what are we offering the newly unemployed, retired or young activists. Could we not do more than just giving them a round of leaflets?

The Party needs to start thinking smartly and using people-shaped innovations tailored to individual requirements. The way forward in these recessionary times will be for organisations such as ours working out contracts with individuals – ie `you work that polling district and we’ll teach you telephone canvassing` or `you learn Page Plus 11 and you create the leaflets`.

It’s about investment, it’s about trust and giving that individual something to add to for a CV.

Before this new year is out I shall be emailing the good baroness with a few ideas:

1) A central `ideas bank` – that individual can even present their case if the relevant committee thinks it good enough. It would be a central email for ALL ideas.

2) Leaflet design – our leaflets are usually good – sometimes brilliant yet are we really being as imaginative as we could be. Do we have a team of designer activists that could give their time for free just on the design of something more eye-catching or innovative. Let’s create a splash!

3) Skills bank – putting individuals who know one thing with someone who knows something else – ie a leaflet designer with a telephone canvasser – even to whole groups.

4) An academy – a kind of qualification based system basic to advanced – people actually sitting down and learning like a university. They could then have a qualification in training that they could use to train others.

5) Policy ideas – Isn’t it time this was streamlined so that those with little time can be mentored with a policy idea so that they `own it`. It could be fast-tracked through regional conferences etc.

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Responses

  1. Now there’s an interesting idea, John. You’re right: someone who’s active in the Lib Dems can pick up all sorts of skills useful in the wider world of work and selling that as a benefit of getting involved could encourage more people to get involved.

    CQ

  2. “There seems to be a consensus that we say the right things and that the technical/sophisticated aspects of our policy making have never been stronger.”

    I agree, but it might be that the message is even too sophisticated for those, who don’t actively follow politics, to understand. There should be some kind of “Lib Dem policies in one minute” version, perhaps about ten sentences on a card, where the Lib Dem policies would be summarised.

  3. Yes, interesting ideas about investing in our people.

    Skills bank is a good idea. I’d add to that skills such as photography and website design. And, not forgetting “enabling” roles such as childcare. (I’m a mum of four children, and without childcare, my activism would be very restricted.)

    Worth having someone in each local party keeping an eye on training and encouraging people? Either linking them to courses at Conference, or if there’s sufficient demand, liaising with the Region to bring sessions out to the local party.

    Or make it an explicit part of the role of Membership Development Secretary? (I write this as one who’s just launched a skills audit in my local party…)

    I know there’s a lot of untapped talent out there, and I’ve been keen to stress to my members and supporters that I want them to get the most out of their involvement. As ever, it’s a two-way street.

  4. It is really important that local constituency parties don’t take member for granted and get everyone involved. The Get Involved page ( http://www.libdems.org.uk/get_involved ) on our national website lists some of the many ways you can be active locally. When I went on the Kickstart weekend in Birmingham I learnt about all these different techniques neccessary for winning elections. It’s important that we show to members and supporters what they can do. There are supporters out there that might be interested in becoming members, but obviously handing them 300 leaflets and sending them out on their own to somewhere they’ve never been to, is going to send them away instantly. But asking them in what way they might be interested in helping us, can get them involved.

    The title of this entry is correct. The LibDems aren’t doing well enough, we are in a unique position that we should be doing well in. Labour have messed up the country, the tories aren’t offering a good way out of a reccession and we have brilliant plans of how to better spend the money used for the VAT cut, and to cut income taxes for poor and middle classes.
    But of course, people aren’t flocking to us, and we’re not getting the message out.
    Our membership may be low at 60,000. But if these members were motivated, and had their skills used effectively, we would be doing extremely well. I think the Federal Party has been neglectful of the importance of membership. Also if the members we have a motivated, then membership will grow naturally.

    You make some really good points. I guess if we take action on these things we will have a Liberal Revolution. (I love the name of your blog!)


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