The issue that has, by far and away, put the national gossips in a tizzy has been the award of the £15M community organisers contract to Locality, the pseudo-business quango formed by the merger of Bassac and the Development Trust Association. Expected by all (including Locality) to go to the Citizens Organising Foundation (which at least does community organising), the decision has caused the sector’s blogs to glow red hot.
Discussion is full of the challenges, the excitement, the contradictions and the dichotomies as the 500 ‘senior’ paid community organisers and 4,500 mid-level unpaid community organisers will be unleashed on ‘needy communities’, as the BBC described it. Bold talk of Alinsky and Freire and ‘wresting the programme away from the government’. Jess Steele, the programme’s director had to admit to having to borrow a copy of Freire’s main text from her mum (a noted activist in the homelessness field), who had a copy from the 70s, but she’s clearly up to speed now.
In an embarrassing gaffe, it became public that Locality had invited Ian Duncan-Smith’s Centre for Social Justice to be a partner in their bid for the dosh – an offer which was declined. A Locality spokeswoman said she was unable to provide details of the help that was requested but that it was linked to “learning, policy development or training”. Nothing to do with contacts then.
To their credit, Locality has published their bid and Jess has set up a blog to tell us all how they are getting on – you can download the bid there too. If you want to see what Matt Scott at the Community Sector Coalition thinks about it all, click here. Lastly a critical discussion of the equalities aspects of community organising has been produced by Sue Robson and Jayne Mills: Does community organising empower or oppress?
This is certainly one of the most intriguing developments of the moment and has offered up the prospect of some very weird bed fellows. Alinsky was a technician so pretty well anyone could reach for him as a mentor. Freire was a true visionary and a revolutionary. But he’s dead now.
At the moment Locality looks about as revolutionary as a packet of digestives. Let’s hope that doesn’t turn out to be the case.
This story appeared in our March newsletter.