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Citizens UK, the national home of community organising, which brings together over 350 diverse civil society institutions including churches, mosques, synagogues, schools, universities and community groups, has launched its response to the snap general election.
Citizens UK is calling on political candidates to engage with civil society in their constituencies and pledge to build a relationship to work together for the common good with an aim to make Britain a more just, inclusive and welcoming country by 2022.
Local leaders from the community organising movement will be meeting with prospective parliamentary candidates in at least 100 constituencies across England and Wales. Citizens UK leaders will be organising private meetings with PPC’s, hosting round-tables and Citizens Assemblies as part of their strategy to develop lasting and useful working relationships with politicians.
Supporting people to be involved and engaged with the democratic process is a core element of Citizens UK’s work. Its Community Organisers are also training 195 leaders in 13 educational institutions, with a target of reaching 16,700 people, explaining the voting process to young people and encourage them to register to vote in the 2017 General Election.
Revd Tim Norwood, co-chair, Citizens UK Council said: “Whilst the snap election may have taken us by surprise, as civil society leaders we see this as a great opportunity to build relationships with those people looking to represent us and our communities.
“We want to work together with politicians to create a more just, inclusive and welcoming country; and that can only happen if we engage with the political process.
“Citizens UK brings together people of different ages, ethnicities, those of faith and no-faith; and by listening to each other we find the common issues that unite us. Civil society institutions have more power when they join forces. We’re looking forward to meeting hundreds of prospective parliamentary candidates over the next few weeks.”
Sister Ita Keane, Director and Sister of Mercy at St. Mary's Convent in Birmingham, said: "St Mary's Convent is the home of community organising in Birmingham. Together with other diverse communities we have worked hard to increase local people's participation in democracy & voting. Being involved in the Citizens UK general election effort is one important way of practising Catholic Social Teaching."
Citizens UK has developed several high profile, successful national campaigns such as bringing about an end to child detention for immigration purposes; creating the Living Wage Foundation which to date has accredited more than 3,200 employers who all voluntarily pay a wage rate that’s based on the real cost of living; and establishing Safe Passage to ensure safe and legal routes are made available to child refugees and vulnerable adults, reuniting families torn apart by war and conflict. Alongside these national campaigns, Citizens UK groups have won hundreds of local asks by working together for the common good, with everything from new road crossings being installed to community land trusts building affordable homes.
Sarah Holtam, co-chair, Citizens UK Council said: “At a time when apathy and discontent with the political system seems to dominate headlines, and voter turnout is disappointingly low, it’s essential that civil society plays its part to encourage people to get involved. We’re working to help people understand how they can vote and register on time.
“Importantly as leaders and members of civic institutions we don’t think problems should be solved by government alone, we also have to take responsibility and support government to make improvements. That message is at the heart of the conversations we will be having up and down the country when we meet with the prospective parliamentary candidates.”