Below are the end of term reports submitted by the 2016 committee
Clare Keogh – Co Chair
I was somewhat involved in LYG prior to standing for committee and the difference I have seen over an 18 month period is fantastic. This years’ committee was made up of passionate, creative and clever activists and I hope those of you who can stay on for next years’ term, do so.
Over the last year I had hoped I would learn to organise internally and think more strategically. I’ve campaigned for years but it has always been very on the ground and face to face with the public. Working behind the scenes is very different and I think we need to do much more to make sure we have competent strategists and organisers throughout the party.
Early in my term, following the infamous debate in Parliament over airstrikes in Syria, I organised a meeting to discuss the situation and Western intervention in conflicts more generally. I was pleased to have CND and Stop the War attend, along with Caroline Russell for a great debate- though I learned that an event which takes place immediately before Christmas isn’t likely to pull in attendees unless there is a huge amount of publicising!
In early spring, amid the furore around the Junior Doctor’s contracts, I tried to pull together a campaign around the NHS and getting organised in Trade Unions. I designed graphics and wrote a blog post about the issue, which was published and shared at the time the main wave of strikes began. Alongside this I tried to put out a call, in partnership with the Green Party Trade Union Group, for activists to attend their local picket lines with cups of “SolidariTEA”. In Kingston, we managed to pull together a good turnout more than once and it worked very well.
As the dispute continued I arranged an event to talk about unions and the crisis facing the NHS. Incredibly, I managed to get a Unite the Union worker on the panel and I’ve since heard he had a telling off at work for it. Nonetheless, these are the sorts of links we need to be making.
In keeping with the “Get Organised” theme, I arranged an LYG trip to the Durham Miners’ Gala with Durham Green Party kindly offering our activists free accommodation for the weekend. Though, at the last minute, this had to be cancelled and I was incredibly disappointed, those links with Durham Green Party have been made and they have said they would be delighted to host activists next year. I also learnt some important lessons about getting people to commit to events- for trips away I think deposits are a great idea!
The LYG action days during elections this year have been fantastic and we have really built up a good reputation across London. Every one that I attended had a great turnout and there was always at least one new activist, which is a brilliant achievement.
In terms of what can be done better in future:
- Delegation: There is a tendency, especially with more experienced committee members, for individuals to hold on to tasks and try to cover lots of different committee roles at once. The work needs to be shared, firstly to avoid activist burnout, but also to make sure that people who want to learn and develop skills are actually able to do so.
- Accountability: There should be action points following every committee meeting and these should always be chased up at the next meeting.
- Training: I think we should ask the party for specific training for committee members, for example in event planning, co-ordination and PR.
LYG is a fantastic group and I hope it continues to go from strength to strength over the coming years.
Joseph Harmer – Co Chair
My work as chair of London Young Greens in 2016 has been dominated by electoral campaigning. There were two major votes affecting London this year – the Assembly and Mayoral elections in May, and the EU referendum in June – as well as numerous by-elections. Previous LYG efforts in election campaigns had been ineffectual, with action days poorly attended, and my first priority was to fix this. For the London elections, past electoral and demographic data was used to develop a strategy of where to focus limited resources. I developed an effective template for bringing more activists to action days, under the banner of “Paint the Town Green”. As a result of this, London Young Greens delivered the most effective electoral campaign in the history of the Young Greens movement in the UK. Similar results were achieved for the EU referendum campaign.
I have also developed the international connections of London Young Greens. As part of the EU referendum campaign, I arranged a visit from the Young Greens of Paris, who supported our campaigning and stayed with London Young Greens. In addition to this, I organised a trip to the European Youth Event in Strasbourg – crucially, I was able to secure sponsorship from Jean Lambert MEP, enabling a large group to attend. In addition to the above, I organised events on issues such as a panel on COP21 and drinks with Terry Reintke MEP.
The major challenges encountered were a high turnover of committee membership, the pressures of near-constant election campaigns, and lack of funding.
Looking forward, London Young Greens faces some serious challenges. Foremost is the loss of Development House as a regular venue for events and meetings. Venue hire is extremely expensive in London, and finding a permanent replacement will be a key objective for the incoming committee. This, combined with a declining membership (following the overall reduction in the Green Party’s membership) means that without a major commitment of energy and creative ideas from the committee, it is likely that the London Young Greens will struggle to maintain a high level of activity and broad scope of operations.
Victoria Elliott – Non-Portfolio Officer
I made the decision to run for committee last year the night before the AGM when I saw someone post in Young Greens Women encouraging more women to run, and I’m so glad I did. I’d been a member of the party for a while, involved in a few ways but hadn’t had much to do with London Young Greens.
This year through LYG I’ve felt so empowered and inspired to get involved more and more with the Party and in campaigning generally, and I really believe that as a group we’ve had an impact on the city. This is mostly down to the amazing organising and commitment of other members of the committee, as I could definitely be more proactive at times. But we’ve definitely all supported each other in our own ways – well done and thanks everyone!
In terms of personal highlights, I organised an event on queer politics which was really exciting for me. Peter Tatchell, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants and Green Party member Sahra Taylor spoke and it was a really interesting evening. I also organised a pub quiz which raised £158 for us – I’d love to do some more fundraising and come up with some fun ideas next year.
As a group, the highlight has definitely been our action days. We got really good at organising them and always had a great turnout of both old and new members. Phone-banking was really good as well, and it would be good to keep that up and be more strict with each other about doing it – I definitely struggled to motivate myself to get it done at times but it was really rewarding when we all did.
I’ve really enjoyed being part of this team – and I think we’ve been a great team in the face of losing and gaining committee members and really difficult times in national and global politics. I actually feel like a huge thing I’ve learned from being on committee was to work and communicate so much better in a group than I had before – so thank you everyone!
Sara Gill – Non-Portfolio Officer
I stood for Committee at my first ever Green Party meeting – the 2015 London Young Greens’ AGM. And what a year it’s been! We’ve had LOADS of elections and by-elections, the Referendum and some great events ranging from drinks with German MEP Terry Reintke to hosting a Panel on animal rights at Lush Oxford St.
Things we’ve achieved:
- Number one – TEE SHIRTS!! These are great and defs think LYGs should do them again.
- We’ve done some brilliant Action Days for elections (particularly for the London Mayor/Assembly one in Hackney, Lambeth and Kingston). LYGs has become a bit of a status symbol – local parties love having us at things and we’re able to bring enthusiastic, skilled people to actions which is brilliant.
- Partway through the year we started a stricter social media ‘strategy’, taking a day each, and this seemed to work pretty well until we all got really busy (see below!)
Things we could do better/tips for future committee:
- Better communications etiquette! Think about getting a Slack so that issues aren’t all discussed and lost in a big old thread. Also bear in mind everyone’s other commitments like work/family etc.
- Social media/general comms: we could’ve stayed disciplined but unfortunately things all went a bit awry. Having loose agreed ‘rules’ was good and I’d suggest it’s really important (this also comes from doing social media for Hackney’s by-election campaign).
- Take minutes of all meetings with clear action points to hold us all accountable. I know there were a few things I didn’t do.
- Phonebanking was awesome, keep it up.
- Better connections with local parties would be great. The Borough Reps Scheme could be so good! As a group we need to figure out how to make it work better.
- This year had so many big things happening that I don’t think we had time/energy to create the space for ‘just’ discussions. I think that’s important and maybe just a regular get together, without any big actions, might be nice for members to develop their Green politics.
Personally, my highlight was probably the work I was part of for the London Mayor and Assembly elections back in May. I’d never campaigned for a political party before and was pretty nervous about it but after some training I felt more confident and organised a training event before the first of our Action Days in Hackney. Spreading the Green message on doorknocking and leafletting sessions has become something I actually enjoy and have continued to do so on a personal level that was brilliant. I’m so pleased with how many LYGs got involved in the elections too – we became a bit of a force and I’m really proud of that. Also our election result was brilliant, so great work all!!
Overall I’m really glad I stood for the Committee a year ago – it fulfilled my need to be more involved in “IRL” politics and I’ve met some brilliant people who I count as friends. At times I struggled to make the time to be as involved as I wanted to be, through working fulltime and having quite a busy year (summer was weddings/festivals/30th birthdays EVERY weekend), so beware of burnout, budding Committee members! But I think now more than I’ve ever known before it’s important to have that solidarity and motivated in being politically active.
A big thanks to everyone else who’s been on the Committee or been involved this year. You’ve made getting involved easy, fun and really worthwhile. I’m sad I’m officially an ‘old’ Green now, but I’m excited to see how the LYGs continue to develop so keep up the good work!!
Aaron Parr – Non-Portfolio Officer
I was co-opted into London Young Greens in early 2016 having helped to establish the Queen Mary Young Greens university society. My first task in the role was to co-organise a social for London and South East Young Greens at Spring Conference. Since then, we’ve been very active as a region in the midst of a referendum and the London Mayor elections.
For the local elections, I created the London Young Greens campaign video that was shared over 100 times. I also increased the online presence of LYG by applying my social media skills with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I also learned a lot by promoting LYG, and it encouraged me to take social media further into a cats-for-the-EU campaign, mEUw, and now professionally.
For the EU referendum, Sara and I co-ordinated the LYGs event with Lush Oxford Street, ‘what the EU does for animals?’ We invited the South-East Green MEP and Spokesperson for animals, Keith Taylor, and the leader of the Animal Welfare Party, Vanessa Hudson. The event got over 30 people along, despite having been delayed and reorganized as EU campaigning stopped after the tragic death of Jo Cox.
After the previous highly political months, London Young Greens didn’t slow down. We continued to do ‘Paint the Town Green’ action days, and we began to get more organised. Two particular projects I spearheaded were student outreach and the committee phonebanking scheme.
The student outreach project aimed to attract new members by creating and re-establishing old Young Greens university and college groups. We created a mail merge to reach out to members who we believed were students and created a social media presence to show LYG will offer support to new groups. The difficulty was our membership data wasn’t always up to date and it was hard to mobilise without a political momentum that comes in the run up to big elections.
When joining London Young Greens, the active societies were: Queen Mary, Brunel and Kings. Since then, Brunel and Kings have dispersed, but Kings is re-affiliating. SOAS and Royal Holloway are beginning to be established. We are also hoping to develop Goldsmiths, Greenwich, and UEL in the future.
The committee phonebanking scheme saw the committee phonebanking new young members in London to talk about why people joined the party and what they could get involved with. It was my responsibility to allocate the members to be called as well as calling people myself. The committee decided to do this because we felt there wasn’t enough engagement with all the members and we wanted to reach out more. Although having some positive conversations with some new members, and several were informed of our events and came along, the scheme was not as successful as I would have liked and we haven’t seen a dramatic increase in active members. It would have helped if everyone in the committee took the scheme seriously and called their members having initially agreed to the concept. However I really appreciate everyone who played their part and deserve utmost credit.
I have learned an incredible amount being part of London Young Greens, through my role and from my fellow committee members. For the most part, we worked well together and I’m pleased to say we appear to be the most active regional group in the country. Having been elected as the Young Greens Senate Co-Chair, I can see how London has been neglected from discussions in the past, which is a great shame since London Young Greens has a lot it can pass on to other regional groups that do not have the same organisational capacity.
In particular, I want to commend Sara Gill on her contribution to London Young Greens. As a another non-portfolio committee member, you put in more into this society than you had to and I am very appreciative of your help running the EU event, picking up the slack wherever you could, and being an emotional support throughout the year.
At times, London Young Greens has been a source of frustration. For some time, we have not had the structure necessary to achieve everything we wanted. Some committee members certainly gave more to their roles than others. There was also a lack of delegation that I found difficult, which sometimes became detrimental. We should have had scheduled meetings throughout the year and more of a long term plan. It was hard to have input from an organisational point of view having been co-opted and not knowing who was supposed to do these key elements. Because we did not have regular meetings, organizing through online chats became stressful. Sometimes I would not get any responses to valid questions or requests, and I would also get no confirmation when things were done. There was also no way of holding people to account when communications shut down. For someone who considers themselves neurodiverse, communication is really important, and I think the co-chairs could have been better communicators.
I am standing for re-election as there are somethings I have not achieved and somethings I want to continue. So looking onto the future:
Student outreach: continue setting up societies since London is such a student hub.
- Phonebanking: make sure we are committed to calling up new members since this will be a great investment in the long run.
- Events: there are some events that I would love to co-ordinate, such as events on: neurodiversity, the green economy, and what is a councilor and what young people can do in local elections?
- Structure: making sure we have monthly committee meetings and a yearly calendar.
- Snap election: preparing ourselves just incase the worst happens