Through the Cracks

Through The Cracks

Written by Peter Macfadyen

The Coronavirus has taught us much about what is really valuable, both as individuals and communities. At a local level, the response to the pandemic has enabled some people, who have never done so before, to come forward and shine. Some will have identified and enjoyed finding their capabilities and gained recognition within their communities, while others will want to return to “normality” as quickly as possible.  

The State is moving fast to ensure that it gives just enough to satisfy those who have started to recognise their own capacity and the dire limitations of the political system. Eventually, some new bike lanes will emerge, although not enough to dent the power of the car, and some grass will not be cut, so we feel better about insects. But where are the initiatives to build on this burgeoning community engagement? 

The pandemic has highlighted how some local organisations can play key roles in their society, while others have failed to respond in ways that are fit for purpose. With Mutual Aid and other groups emerging to provide crucial support throughout the UK, the past few months have clearly illustrated the need for a massive change in the way these local councils operate. Many councils have proven to be totally inadequate during the pandemic. More than ever, at the town level, it is crucial that well-functioning local councils work in genuine partnership with these community groups.

This is the time when these newly engaged and empowered people, who have come to know where they live and what is needed, can step forward. Not just to prop up the creaking structures and systems of local government, but to get elected to fundamentally change them to provide truly participative democracy. What this means is changing the way local councils and the councillors operate. They can and must be constantly looking for how to truly engage and involve the people they live next door to – exactly as has happened in the past few months.
 

Change has to come from below. Central government has never really been interested in community – it’s too distant and lacking in ego. But if citizens insert themselves into the arcane structures that exist at a community level and rebuild them for this century, not just in one town but in every town, then maybe we can build a viral movement that swamps the oligarchs from below.

In any community there will be groups working together for their common good. People acting as “citizens.”  In most countries of the world there will be a group who have been elected or selected to represent views of others: local, parish or community councils of some kind. In my view, these are almost always misunderstood and underused, not least because the systems they operate under are not fit for this century. But they can play a vital role, if they can be untangled from the party politics which has poisoned much of our capacity to tackle the critical issues we face. Their time has come.

site and contents © 2020 Flatpack Democracy | built by EightySix Design

site and contents © 2020 Flatpack Democracy | built by EightySix Design

Is building change from below our best chance of some sanity?

IS BUILDING CHANGE FROM BELOW OUR BEST CHANCE OF SOME SANITY?

The Coronavirus has taught us much about what is really valuable, both as individuals and communities. At a local level, the response to the pandemic has enabled some people, who have never done so before, to come forward and shine. Some will have identified and enjoyed finding their capabilities and gained recognition within their communities, while others will want to return to “normality” as quickly as possible.  

The State is moving fast to ensure that it gives just enough to satisfy those who have recognised their own capacity and the dire limitations of the political system. Eventually, some new bike lanes will emerge, but not enough to dent the power of the car; some grass will not be cut, so we feel better about insects, but where are the real initiatives to build on this burgeoning community engagement?

The pandemic has highlighted how some local organisationscan play key roles in their society, while others have failed to respond in ways that are fit for purpose. With Mutual Aidand other groups emerging to provide crucial support throughout the UK, the last few months have clearly illustrated the need for a massive change in the way these local councils operate. Many councils have proven to be totally inadequate during the pandemic. More than ever, at the town level, it is crucial that well-functioning local councils work in genuine partnership with these community groups.

This is the time when these newly engaged and empowered people, who have come to know where they live and what is needed, can step forward. Not just to prop up the creaking structures and systems of local government, but to get elected to fundamentally change them to provide truly participative democracy. What this means is changing the way local councils and the councilors operate. They can and must be constantly looking for how to truly engage and involve the people they live next door to exactly as has happened in the past few months.  

Change has to come from below. Central government has never really been interested in community – it’s too distant and lacking in ego. But if citizens insert themselves into thearcane structures that exist at a community level and rebuild them for this century, not just in one town, but in every town, then maybe we can build a viral movement that swamps the oligarchs from below.

In any community there will be groups working together for their common good. People acting as ‘citizens’.  In most countries of the world there will be a group who have been elected or selected to represent views of others: local, parish or community councils of some kind.  In my view these are almost always misunderstood and underused, not least because the systems they operate under are not fit for this century.  But they can play a vital role, if they can be untangled from the Party Politics which has poisoned much of our capacity to tackle the critical issues we face.  Their time has come.  

Flatpack Democracy 2021 is a small group of us who have experienced the potential of local councils to work with and in their communities.  We are here to encourage and support others to do so.  We believe that we can catalyse people who now recognize that central government does not share our agendas, and take back power at a local level.  A ‘movement of movements’ with sufficient breadth of experiences from the grassroots can expose the farce that purports to represent us.  We look forward to your company.

site and contents © 2020 Flatpack Democracy | built by EightySix Design

site and contents © 2020 Flatpack Democracy | built by EightySix Design

The Launch of Flatpack 2021

THE LAUNCH OF FLATPACK 2021

The Corona virus has taught us much about what is really valuable, both as individuals and communities.  It has brought out the worst and the best in people and communities. 

Working with their community in response to the pandemic people, who have never done so before, have had the chance to come forward and shine.  Some will have recognised and enjoyed finding their capabilities and recognition while others will want to return to ‘normality’ as quickly as possible.  My current interest is in how we keep the potential activist on board as the tide of temptation removes the opportunity for change.

The State is moving fast to ensure that it gives just enough to satisfy those who have recognised both their own capacity and the dire limitations of the political system.  Eventually some new bike lanes will emerge, but not enough to dent the power of the car; some grass will not be cut, so we feel better about insects, but where are the initiatives to build on that new community engagement?

The pandemic has highlighted how some local organisations can play key roles in their society, while others have failed to respond in ways that are fit for purpose. The last few months have clearly illustrated the need for a massive change in the way some local councils operate. Too many councils have proved to be totally inadequate during the pandemic. while groups like Mutual Aid have emerged to provide crucial support to their communities,. More than ever at the town and parish level it is crucial that well functioning local councils work in genuine partnership with these community groups.

I believe our focus must remain on the local, to what is happening closest to our homes . It is there that lies the greatest potential for us to make real changes  Now is the time when these newly engaged and empowered people should step forward.  Not just to prop up creaking structures and systems, but to get elected themselves and fundamentally change their councils so they can provide a truly participative democracy.  This will mean changing the way many local councils operate. Councils can and must constantly be looking for ways to engage and involve people – exactly as has happened over the last few months. 

Change has to come from below – from you and me.  Central Government has never really been interested in ‘community’; it has proven time and time again that its main aim is to centralise, to take power for itself.  However, I believe that if citizens insert themselves into the arcane structures that exist at community level they can then rebuild them as fit for this century. Not just in one town, but in every town and village then maybe we can start a Movement that creates real change from below based on what the people want and need, not what a few people at the top tell us we want. 

From today the Flatpack Democracy website is much changed, along with the various Flatpack groups and pages on social media. A small dedicated band of us have set out to support groups of individuals who want to work together to stand in the May 2021 elections. Our support is based on the last decade of experience in Frome and a plethora of new ideas from new councillors, and others from around the country who are working get this crucial layer of democracy functioning better. 

If you, or anyone you know, wants to get involved – and why wouldn’t you – have a look at our website and share it with others.  Occupy the system.

site and contents © 2020 Flatpack Democracy | built by EightySix Design

site and contents © 2020 Flatpack Democracy | built by EightySix Design

Flatpack Democracy 2021 – Campaign Vision

Flatpack Democracy 2021 - Campaign Vision

In May 2021 there are several thousands of council elections across the UK. We believe that these councils should be run by local communities, for local communities. That’s why we’ve launched a campaign to get thousands of independent community councillors elected.
Our big goal is that every council election in May 2021 is won by an independent community-led group. And we need your help!

“People are waiting to be asked to do something big to win something big”.
Big Organizing (a book about the volunteer-led Bernie Sanders campaign)

The  Campaign Vision:

The Big Picture

We need to do this. We need structural change and community self-reliance due to social and economic inequality, a broken democracy, and the global climate crisis. Local elections are accessible and achievable opportunities for genuine structural, economic and political change. Community-run councils can do amazing things! They are also more effective at providing local support in times of crisis (pandemic, food crisis, ecological crisis, and financial crisis).

We can do this. Town / parish councils are easy – and fun! – to reclaim with a bit of local organising. District and county are more difficult, but it’s totally possible if we come together. We just need to get the “how to win a local council election” know-how to the people who are already active in their community. This is a campaign to do exactly that in a big way.
“I’m not aware of anyone who’s tried to do this at parish level and hasn’t been successful”
Pam Barrett, Be Buckfastleigh (Independents group in Devon)

Putting mentors in touch with mentees. Peter Macfadyen, author of the Flatpack Democracy book, is already supporting people interested in running an independents campaign. We’re onboarding a larger group of mentors from reclaimed councils who can provide a similar service, linking them up with new campaigners in the same area/region.

This is the perfect time. In light of COVID-19 communities have come together like never before, forming mutual aid networks to support themselves. Many of these community groups have found their councils difficult to work with – why not take them back?

A New Way of Doing Politics

People not parties. Pro-independents, anti-party politics. “Beyond left and right” (because this allows us to achieve more, through community-led participatory democracy – unlike our broken representative democracy). This also means welcoming people from all backgrounds (political, cultural, economic, religious) if they buy into the ethos and methods of flatpack democracy.

A new way of doing local politics. Promoting democracy in UK councils through community engagement, participation and deliberation.

Bringing life, humanity and humour back into politics. It doesn’t have to stuffy, dead and boring. We want our councillors to be real people who understand our everyday lives as the people of the UK.

Councils can do so much more and the flatpack pioneers have proved it. We want to shift people’s perception of what councils are for and what they can do. We want to show them what’s possible when the community runs the council.

Promoting and supporting flatpack (i.e. democratic party-independent) campaigns at all levels of government in May 2021 (town, parish, district, county, mayoral, police & crime commissioner).

Power to the people. Communities are filled with talented and intelligent people who understand what is broken and how to fix it – far better than any party politicians. We want to put those people into power as our councillors. We want to give them the knowledge and support to win local elections and to transform the way their councils are run. Helping people realise “If they can do it, we can do it”.

We have no agenda but your agenda! We trust the people to address the issues that matter to them and to make them part of their campaigns.

Promoting general engagement and participation in local elections.

Principles and values.
We’re using the values to make sure we’re supporting groups of people who are on the roughly same page about the positive change we need. Preliminarily these are:

Participation / Democracy,
Non Party Politics – supporting independents,
Diversity and Inclusivity (empowering marginalised groups through local democracy and election to local government)
Collaboration – working with what’s there via existing groups and organisations
Local community empowerment
Humour – keeping it light, fun and enjoyable
We are ludicrously ambitious.

Inclusivity and Diversity in councils. We want to support all councillors to challenge and deconstruct the systemic oppressions of racism, sexism, classism. We want to see more women, BAME and working class councillors. And we want to empower and support these people to make real changes in local politics once they’re elected.

How are independents going to beat established parties in local elections? Our winning card against powerful political parties is the authenticity of local voices and our ability to organise en masse, quickly and democratically (i.e. in ways where every voice is heard). Volunteer-led digital organising is a key piece here.

CAMPAIGN STRUCTURE

A campaign of campaigns: the aim of the national digital campaign is to help 1000s of regular people/communities to launch and win their own local elections campaigns. Updates from local campaigns feed into the national campaign, and the national campaign promotes and supports the local campaigns.

A volunteer-led campaign. The core team have created a scaffold (communication channels, resources, media outlets etc.) that now allows many volunteers to easily get involved. Volunteers are directed to a list of simple ways to get involved. They are encouraged and empowered to self-organise and to take initiative – everyone is a leader. We recruit/identify regional organisers of the campaign who can take up the task of helping activate campaigns in the up-for-grabs wards.

Collaboration. Working with existing indie councils/councillors, national organisations and community groups to get the Flatpack know-how to the communities who can use it in May 2021. So this campaign is not contacting voters directly. We’re letting locals do that themselves with their local council election campaigns. We’ll do the work contacting the community organisers, mutual aiders and regular people who will actually want to kickstart local campaign in the first place, and helping them get off the ground.

Media and Messaging. Use Facebook, Twitter, Trust the People, to promote the campaign and share the resources. Using press (national and local level) and media to generate publicity. Stories about campaign successes will be central to the messaging; all volunteers are invited to share these through the campaign media channels.

Advise and support communities in running their first campaign. Putting mentees in touch with mentors (people who have experience in reclaiming their council).

site and contents © 2020 Flatpack Democracy | built by EightySix Design

site and contents © 2020 Flatpack Democracy | built by EightySix Design