Watching the Labour Leadership and Deputy Leadership elections as an interested observer, I’ve been blown away by the gruelling schedule all the candidates put themselves through in the attempt to get themselves elected.
There feels like there’s been hundreds of hustling events and even more smaller scale events organised by them.
One of the candidates for the deputy leadership was Stella Creasy. Though she was ultimately beaten by Tom Watson, I thought she had a really interesting approach to her campaigning. It was entirely consistent with her desire to involve the members more in policies of the Labour Party and really push for the party to be a movement as well as a party political machine.
These events were known as Campaign Fight(Back) Clubs. I love the cultural reference to Fight Club, though the idea of referencing the “nihlistic rejection and destroying institutions” in the book/film did make me smirk when thinking about the challenges facing Labour.
Though knowing a little about Stella’s sense of humour I couldn’t rule out her picking up on that as well.
The events were obviously a good excuse to travel around the country and meet activists. They also offered to help members of the labour party work together to develop their campaign ideas together in collaboration.
Here’s how they were billed on Facebook.
“The first rule of Campaign Fight(back) club is….helping develop the campaigning skills of our young members so that they can lead their own campaigns and involve their peers in our fight for social justice as well as taking on leadership roles within Labour, is crucial to our future as a movement.”
Though I didn’t attend a meeting myself, from what I was able to observe from Social media in a couple of hours, relying on nothing more than piles of post it notes, sharpies and cake, the party members worked together to develop campaign ideas and then present them back to other attendees.
Why I find these events interesting.
Now there’s obviously one great outcome of this.
Dozens, maybe even hundreds, of campaign ideas brought into existence collectively and shared with like minded participants.
Secondly, the experience of those attending. I’ve not been a member of Labour long but that type of collaborative, creative and fun approach to problem solving seems to be the exception rather than the rule when it comes to CLP meetings.
Each of those participants is going to be a better campaigner but also an advocate for what I think is a better way of conducting local politics.
But the outcome I’m most interested in the the process. A process tested all across the country with lots of different participants from different backgrounds and experiences of campaigning.
I love the process.
In my day job I find myself frequently in a room with a sheet of blank paper, maybe a whiteboard, half a dozen people and a brief to come up with some creative ideas for a marketing campaign.
That blank sheet doesn’t do anybody any favours.
It’s too open ended.
Over time I’ve found a number of approaches that can help me open up, then explore, then close down and refine ideas.
Most of these were stolen from GameStorming, a book designed to help people with Brain-storming.
“Creativity and invention has long been seen as a “black box.” As business people, we don’t typically try to understand this process. We fully expect that when designers, inventors, and other creative people go into a room with a goal, they will come out with more or less creative discoveries and results. Although when we watch them at work, we can observe some combination of sketching, animated conversations, messy desks, and drinking. But the fundamental nature of what happens in that room remains mostly a mystery.
It’s easy to leave creativity to the creative types, and say to yourself, “I’m just not a creative person.” The fact is that in a complex, dynamic, competitive knowledge economy, it’s no longer acceptable to take this position. If you are a knowledge worker, you must become, to some degree, creative.
That may sound a bit scary, but the fact is that successful creative people tend to employ simple strategies and practices to get where they want to go. It’s not so much that they employ a consistent, repeatable process that leads to consistent creative results. It’s more like a workshop with a set of tools and strategies for examining things deeply, for exploring new ideas, for performing experiments and testing hypotheses, to generate new and surprising insights and results.
So we set out, much like the brothers Grimm, to collect the best of these practices wherever we could find them, with a special focus on Silicon Valley, innovative companies, and the information revolution.”
It’s fair to say that the book had a profound effect on how I personally, and when working in groups, manage the process of coming up with ideas.
The reason the book was so useful was because the approaches contained within the books had been battle-tested, well explained and freed up the participants to just participate rather than worry about meeting structure or who was meant to do what.
I reckon Stella’s experience hosting these sessions explicitly in a political environment could have a transformative impact on future brainstorming sessions for Labour (and other parties).
I know from the Policy Network Fringe event at the conference there are plans Stella has with the Co-Op Party to share some of these experiences which I cannot welcome enough. I really hope the process is shared and taken on-board by local branches across the UK.
Of course it’s no silver bullet.
I know approaches like this aren’t silver bullets, they’re only as valuable as the ideas they generate.
I wouldn’t expect an approach like this to work in every environment, but local parties are volunteers, they have a diverse sets of skills and experience but it’s naive to assume they all have extensive experience of facilitating an idea generation session.
I do it a lot in my day job and even I’d struggle to transfer that experience to my CLP.
Let’s not lose that experience, let’s use it to generate and refine great local policies that will uphold labours values and really connect with local residents. That’s what local politics is about and something I think we all should do more of.