Strategic Plan part 4 – connect

4.0 Connect

“Only Connect”
EM Forster

“By emphasising the network form McLeish argues that the flows of information and interaction between groups and individuals are more important that (sic) the points of convergence. The ‘nodes’ – the points at which multiple flows connect – may represent a key moment during a movement’s history but have a tendency to create ossified traditions, incapable of reacting to changing political opportunities. ‘Organisers thrown up by events, who find themselves serving or surfing these waves of history narcissistically imagine themselves their authors. Last year’s bright creative movement becomes a fossilized bureaucracy or an inert ritualistic subculture.’”
page 279 of “Meaning in Movement: An ideational analysis of Sheffield-based Protest Networks Contesting Globalisation and War” by Kevin Gillan.

We are NOT trying to turn everyone into a full-time activist. We believe in “Legitimate Peripheral Participation.” We believe that it is the responsibility of activist/campaigning organisations to make sure that busy people can be involved, and feel involved, without having to be at soul-suckingly boring meetings once or twice a month.

4.1 Who are we connecting ?
Individuals with other individuals who live nearby to each other, or are interested in the same topics
by running meetings with this explicit aim, by encouraging meetings in people’s homes etc.
Civil society organisations to other civil society organisations

Individual constituents to their elected councillors, by encouraging readers to attend their elected representatives’ surgeries to discuss climate and sustainability.
via asking readers’ postcodes and therefore being able to alert them to when their councillor is involved in a climate-related meeting at the City Council or AGMA level

4.2 Connecting civil society organisations and individuals with each other
Reporting on the actions of groups, supplying websites, emails, phone numbers and dates of next meeting. Always asking – and reporting – “how can people get involved?” and “what can a volunteer/new person expect to end up doing?” when covering stories.
Creating a map of who is doing what.

We will try to give comprehensive coverage in MCFly and its calendar of events happening in Greater Manchester.
When we write articles about organisations taking action on climate change, we will include websites, emails and – where appropriate – phone numbers, so readers can get directly involved without having to go via us.

When we encounter, in our foragings, information that would be of use to individuals and campaigners, we will email them directly, rather than waiting to put it into an already over-packed weekly bulletin.

We will try to connect readers who live near each other, without breaching their confidentiality. If we notice two readers are close, we will write to one saying “we noticed that there’s someone with a postcode very close to yours. Can we email you both, giving your email address to them?”

Encourage MCFly readers to hold an “open house” in their living rooms, and invite their climate-concerned/interested friends and neighbours about what can be done in their immediate area. We would publicise the event, and – if invited – attend, either as participants or to run a workshop/give a brief opening talk (but no “sage on the stage”

Via MCFly book club (first Monday evening of the month, in the Waterhouse, Princess Rd). The book club will discuss novels and factual books that are accessible to a general reader. It will be structured in a way that encourages participation from the less confident.

Write letters for publication on a weekly basis to the Manchester Evening News and the South Manchester Reporter, and encourage other readers to do the same.

4.3 Connecting civil society organisations and the City Council/public sector
4.3.1 inform people about what the council is (and isn’t) doing
via the coverage of council meetings, reports on website, twitter account and paper magazine
encourage readers to engage with their elected officials on a regular rather than spasmodic basis, via emails, surgeries and public meetings

4.3.2 Encourage council to improve how it engages with (rather than talks at) the general public

4.3.2.1 Council documents
MCFly will run annual award for the best and worst council documents. Based on readability, frequency of weasel phrases and jargon.
We will run official documents through a “grading system” for what level of education is needed to understand them.
Where a document scores particularly poorly, we will write a translation, and encourage the relevant councillors to ask the authors to write more clearly in future.
Encourage the publication of all minutes of EAP, ESPB etc meetings in a timely fashion, and in an easy-to-find place

4.3.2.2 Communication from Councillors
Encourage Exec Member for the Environment to maintain a weekly blog (the Leader has a one)
The Executive Member for the Environment blogs about upcoming and recently passed events that he attends in his official capacity, with hyperlinks to documents on the Council’s website where appropriate (this would include EAP, ESPB, full Council, Executive and relevant Overview and Scrutiny Committees, as well as conferences and events he attended.)
Encourage the Leader to write more frequently on environmental issues

4.3.2.3 Encourage bi-monthly meetings between relevant councillors and officials and members of the public at a bi-monthly or quarterly public meeting.

4.4 Culture change to tackle climate change

Most meetings suck. They suck time and energy and motivation out of individuals. Instead of coming away informed, inspired and connected, a significant proportion of people come away even more isolated, alienated and dispirited.

4.4.1 Via a “Meetings charter” and related activities, MCFly will try to change the culture and expectation of public meetings in Manchester. It will try to move away from a default setting of ‘“sage on the state” followed by Q and A’ towards genuinely participatory processes that inform, inspire and connect.

4.4.2 In the first half of 2012, running or supporting workshops on “how to run decent meetings,” both for organisations already running meetings, and for those who would like to. To then review the changes that do or don’t occur in the second half of 2012 via the MCFly website and monthly publication.

4.4.3 Holding organisations that run “Forums” to their word, making positive suggestions that these organisations can adopt or ignore as they see fit.

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