We’re at a very exciting point in the Community Organisers programme. In a few days time I’ll be joining the first 47 organisers at Trafford Hall for their intensive introductory training. They have been recruited by the 11 Kickstarter hosts around the country.
This is a ‘rolling’ programme (at a ‘Rawhide’ rather than steam-roller pace) so we’re already heading into the next tranches of hosts and that’s what I wanted to write about.
We opened up to future host recruitment on 19th July. A month later we took the first of our 3-monthly ‘snapshots’ of the applications received – an astounding 220 in all. Although we were only planning to choose 10-12 for the Tranche 2, we knew we would want to look at them from lots of angles and carry the rest forward for future rounds so I spent a full-on weekend designing and populating and playing around with a MS Access database.
Of the 220 applications, only 180 had supplied the testimonials we had asked for. We began to cluster these around some priorities, such as areas not covered by the Kickstarters (eg the North East) or that we would like to include in every tranche (eg rural/market towns).
The selection panel was formed by the key programmer partners – Locality, Regenerate and Office for Civil Society, with our Learning and Evaluation Advisers observing and reflecting back. Fundamentally we are looking for hosts that are excited by the transformative potential of community organising for their areas and their organisations, that can show how they will maintain their organisational independence and how they will support the organisers without smothering them. The two questions we focused most on were ‘what excites you about community organising’ and ‘tell us about the area’.
The types of organisation varied considerably. Although most were from the voluntary and community sector they included grassroots neighbourhood forums, rural community councils, CVSs, citizens advice bureaux, specialist service providers, as well as the multi-purpose community anchors that make up Locality’s membership of development trusts, settlements, social action centres and community enterprises. We also received several applications from universities (we decided to wait until the lessons emerge from the experience of Manchester Metropolitan Uni before taking on any others) and from registered social landlords (we agreed that more discussion is required to address the potential issues around power arising from the landlord position).
We also have geographical considerations. We want an excellent mix of areas, not blanket coverage but diversity and spread. While the quality of the host will always be paramount, we are building up a pattern in which we will generally aim for at least one in each of: London; the core cities; smaller cities/large towns; targeted smaller towns including seaside resort towns; market towns and rural areas. We agreed to look specifically at Leeds and Newcastle for the next tranche. Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol are all represented among the Kickstarters so we didn’t choose any for the second tranche but will certainly return to these.
The Tranche 2 hosts are now getting ready for their host induction in early October and will then begin recruiting 45 organisers who will start their training with a residential on 7-9 December. The next ‘snapshot’ of applications will be taken on 4th November 2011 for decisions later that month, host induction in January and organiser residential in March 2012. All applications that have been received so far will be carried forward for consideration – as long as they have their testimonials…
There is lots of guidance for potential hosts available on the Community Organisers knowledge hub at http://www.cocollaborative.org.uk.