Locality’s approach to the national Community Organisers programme is that community organisers should be hosted by local organisations. To get us started quickly we selected a set of ‘Kickstarters’ for the bid itself and are currently looking for some further specialist Kickstarter hosts who have ‘reach’ into specific communities and groups where individuals might otherwise ‘count themselves out’ as organisers. The Kickstarters (in Cornwall, Cumbria, the eastern counties, London, Birmingham, Manchester, Hull, Bristol, and Luton) are helping us to shape the programme and rising to the multiple challenges of being pioneers in such an experimental programme. There has been a delay while we wait for clarification from Government of the employment and tax status of the community organisers. The Kickstarters are ready to start recruiting as soon as this is resolved but the initial training has had to be postponed until September.
Future hosts – and there will be at least 100 more from next spring onwards – will come from suggestions from communities and local organisations themselves. We have already had over 170 expressions of interest in hosting through our website http://locality.org.uk/projects/community-organisers/ even without publicising. We will begin to promote the opportunity later this summer and throughout the programme, with detailed guidance and hosting criteria.
The role of the host is to recruit a local organiser and help them get started, provide a supportive learning environment for community organisers during their bursary year and to seek ways to make the role sustainable after that year.
The accountability of community organisers is to their local communities, including the ‘mid-level organisers’ (street-level activists) and the people that are listened to. The information organisers gather in the listening process belongs to that community (not to the organiser, the host, Locality, or the Government). We have not built in structures of accountability because we believe this is best developed locally and through the experience of the first few cohorts. In terms of the quality of their organising, and their continuous professional development, this is the purpose of the ‘institute’ which was a key part of the tender requirement for the programme. Our approach is that this should be owned by organisers themselves and should also have an ‘employers and hosts’ group to respond to the interests of the ‘demand-side’.