Local People's Assemblies are popping up everywhere - here’s some guidance for setting one up in your area - based on the experience of local assemblies so far
The People’s Assembly Against Austerity has raised the game in the fight against cuts. But one event in London does not a movement make. It’s time for the People’s Assembly movement to spread to every city, town and village in the country.
There have already been local assemblies in Nottingham, Manchester, Bristol, Sheffield and other towns and cities and all have been resoundingly successful. So I know what you’re thinking, you want to run one in your town. Here’s some guidance based on the experience of local assemblies so far. It’s far from exhaustive but it’s a start.
Planning your event
The first thing to do is to contact the national office for the People’s Assembly and let them know you want to do an assembly in your area. They can help with speakers and put you in touch with people who can help in your area.
If you’ve been involved in campaigning before you may already know people nearby who can help you organise the event. If so, call them together for a meeting with any other contacts the national office have provided. At the meeting you should decide the date, venue, theme and speakers you will invite, and who you will ask to support the Assembly. Give yourself around 6 weeks to organise and promote your People’s Assembly.
Look at venues that similar events have used. Good choices are: Friends Meetings Houses, Mechanics Institutes, Community Centres, university and college rooms, churches etc. try to find one close to the town centre and with easy access by public transport. You should also ensure that the venue is accessible for disabled people.
Financing your event
Raising money for your assembly will be vital. You may not need a lot, particularly if the venue is not too pricey and you use the web to promote it. Trades Councils can be of great help in promoting your event, but may also be able to help finance it, either directly with a donation, or by writing to affiliated unions on your behalf. You can find a list of Trades Councils on the TUC site, this directory of trades councils has contact addresses and emails for every trades council in the country.
When approaching the council, ask if you can speak at their next meeting. At the meeting you should ask them to support the event, to donate if they can, and to write to other unions recommending they support the Assembly and donate too. Remind them that the People’s Assembly is supported by lots of national unions including Unite, UNISON, NUT and CWU.
Unite the union have a community organising programme and there should be a dedicated full time community organiser in your area. As with Trades Councils you should approach your local Unite Community group as early as you can about getting their support and asking for donations. You can find a list of active groups on the Unite the Union website.
And a list of the regions, each of which will have a full time Community Organiser. Try phoning the numbers and asking to speak to the organiser, or get her contact details.
Promoting your event
So you’ve got a venue, booked your speakers, and are ready to tell the world. Where do you begin?
The first things you should do are as follows:
- Tell the national people’s Assembly about your event and get all details on their website
- Design a flyer and poster and begin circulating them by email. If you have raised some money you should get them printed.
- Create a Facebook event and invite people. Ask them to invite their friends too.
- Write a press release and send it to your local paper and TV stations
After that, think carefully about who might be interested in coming. If you have a speaker on the NHS for example, you should contact local NHS campaigners (Keep Our NHS Public, 38 Degrees etc), Patient participation groups (via GP surgeries), health unions (Unison, Royal College of Nurses, Unite, etc).
Good publicity makes an event much easier to promote, and marketing research indicates that the more often someone sees your event publicised, the more likely they are to come. Thanks to the internet it has never been easier to promote an event, but that comes with its own problems. You have to make sure that your web-based publicity is seen by the people you hope to come, and is backed up with old-school leaflets and posters.
Keep publicising. It is said that for an event to be a success you should do something to promote it every day. Send emails, update the Facebook and Twitter, phone people, and anything else you can think of. Let us know if you have any good ideas for promotion.
Facebook have established a limit to how many people a user can invite to an event. For those with thousands of Facebook ‘friends’ this is a pain, but to the event organiser it can be an opportunity. Instead of sending out thousands of invites yourself, why not encourage friends and colleagues to send out invites to your event? This means your event can go ‘viral’, and the more people who send out invites the more popular it will be and the further the event will reach. Remember to set your event privacy level to ‘public’.
Money: raisin’ it and spendin’ it
If your event is going to be big, or if you have raised a lot of money towards it, you should keep an accurate record of spending. If for no other reason than that you don’t spend too much. Your costs will probably include printing leaflets and posters, paying travel for speakers, and booking the venue. Keep an excel spreadsheet, or an accounts book, and enter all income and expenditure.
When you receive a cheque from a union or other sponsor, write or email back with leaflets and posters and ask them to distribute them among members, friends and family. They will feel a sense of ownership of the event, having donated, and will want it to be a success.
Below is a list of Unions that may be able to help with funding. Remember to write to them early on in the planning of your event as they probably meet monthly and cannot make donations without having discussed it at a meeting.
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