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How can everyday people make a real impact on local policies?

How can everyday people make a real impact on local policies?

Through Citizens UK Accountability Assemblies. Let us explain what they are...

Picture this: a student stands on stage in front of 2000 people, explaining why youth violence needs to be tackled. A Rabbi and an Imam from the local Synagogue and Mosque invite Mayoral candidates on stage to respond. The audience is respectful and grateful for their attendance – no heckling allowed. You may think the candidates would have all the time in the world, but they only get one minute each...

Student standing in front of podium, speaking to microphone

...It was vital that the student had a full 5 minutes to tell their story.

As the candidates finish, the faith leaders publicly examine their answers. Community members from across the region cheer in celebration that the candidates said ‘yes’ to most of what was asked. But the cheer grows even louder when the live negotiation happens – not settling for any ‘maybes’, the faith leaders convince the candidates to reconsider their approach.

Two leaders standing in front of podium, speaking to microphone

Sure enough, the political candidates agree to meet with the local Citizens alliance in a few months’ time, pledging to put their words into action.

Five political leaders are seated and holding up green tick signs in agreement

The win is celebrated with electrifying performances of music, drama and dance. Community leaders pile on stage for a ‘roll call’ representing every organisation in attendance. Don’t forget; 40 people on stage and thousands of people in the audience actually means tens and tens of thousands of people whose concerns have been listened to in shaping the agenda for change. (Take Peterborough Citizens as an example – last year they listened to 11,000 people: 5.5% of Peterborough’s entire population).

Packed hall of two thousand people standing up cheering and smiling to a group of people on stage

That’s how people in positions of power are inspired to listen. That’s how everyday people have a say in the policies that impact their lives.

That’s an Accountability Assembly.

Over the last few weeks, thousands of Citizens UK community leaders organised and attended ten local assemblies across regions in a monumental display of people power, and campaign asks were put to election candidates from across the political spectrum.

An accountability assembly is a celebration of the power that civil society can build. They are people-led events that raise a platform for those who do not have their own. Even 20+ years ago it was this kind of platform that enabled low-waged cleaners to transform the real Living Wage into a mainstream idea.

Group of leaders holding up signs saying 'Dignity: A Living Wage'

The hard work happens months, even years, ahead of the event. Not only do hundreds or thousands of people turn up on the night, but everyday people from local alliances of schools, faith groups, charities, businesses and more are continuously involved in shaping the local policy asks that are presented to decision-makers.

Our accountability assemblies have won national, regional and local change. During the 2010 General Election, David Cameron and Nick Clegg heard and supported citizens' calls for a real Living Wage, helping propel the idea into a transformative national movement that has put billions of pounds back into the pockets of low-paid workers. In 2016, Nottingham Citizens convinced the Nottinghamshire police force to start recording misogyny as a hate crime – a landmark win that has given hope to women and girls living in the numerous constabularies which have chosen to do the same. In 2018, Hackney Council agreed to support community sponsorship of refugees, changing countless lives.

This year, thousands of community leaders from more than 18 Citizens UK alliances across England and Wales came together and created a manifesto ahead of the next General Election: the Citizens Agenda.

Together we’re campaigning on seven key areas: mental health, racial justice, climate justice, homelessness, migrant justice, the Living Wage and democracy and devolution.

Change becomes possible when everyday people come together and know they have the ability to shape the world around them.

Leader standing in front of podium, addressing Mayor of London Sadiq Khan who looks out onto audience

Our community organising method provides a way for people to focus on what unites us, rather than what divides us. We do this by listening deeply to the people in our communities, identifying what change we need to make things better and engaging decision-makers to make those changes happen.

Our eighteen Citizens UK chapters have set out seven key issues we are asking the next UK Government to address. This Citizens Agenda focuses on the challenges our communities are facing and amplifies the voices of people who are experiencing the issues first-hand.

Posted by Shazia Begum on 8 May, 2024