In the campaign’s launch calls so far, whenever the question of what these new, non-party political, community councils should do once in power comes up, the response is ‘trust the people’. What does this mean? In this context it’s both advice and an invitation.
First the advice. The flatpack campaign is aiming to be part of systemic change to the social and political culture of the UK. It wants to revive local democracy and transform the nature of power and decision making from the bottom up. It’s going to take more than winning seats to do that. In addition to courageous, collaborative independent candidates, we’ll need an excited, connected community to create the agenda of an independent council.
This is easier said than done. After all, how could you possibly involve everyone in decision-making? And don’t meetings tend to last too long already?
This is where the invitation matters. Trust The People (TTP) is also the name of a UK-wide movement of facilitators, organisers and community democracy builders. And it’s starting to answer many of these questions. TTP is built around a five week course, of a few hours a week, delving into the art and craft of facilitating, organising and connecting communities. It is a vital resource for prospective flatpackers and a key part of the strategy.
Through the course and the community, I have come to learn of wildly courageous experiments in community democracy happening across the country. From mass Black Lives Matter assemblies in parks in London to community discussions in village halls in small rural towns, the tools needed for cooperation are being practiced, refined and shared.
If you’re curious, there are plenty of examples of reclaimed town councils taking participation seriously. Torridge Common Ground in Devon runs a regular Peoples’ Assembly style open meeting. The Haswells Community Party in County Durham based their campaign on priorities set by the community in open meetings and by asking people door-to-door. And Frome in Somerset developed the People’s Budget, where everyone could decide how part of the council’s budget was to be spent.
These experiments have a lot to learn from one another, and a lot to teach a new generation of community transformers.