London Citizens

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Organisation Information

Citizens UK ‘organises communities to act together for power, social justice and the common good.’ They focus on building the leadership capacity of their members to give them the power to ‘hold politicians and other decision-makers to account on the issues that matter to them.’ Their objectives are:
● ‘To develop the capacity and skills of the members of the socially and economically disadvantaged communities of Britain and Ireland in such a way that such members are better able to identify and meet their needs and participate more fully in society.’
● ‘To assist by directly promoting the more effective working of local and national capacity building institutions designed to pursue that aim.’ London has a population of 8.7 million and is the most diverse city in the United Kingdom (top five countries of birth for non UK residents in 2011 India, Poland, Ireland, Nigeria and Pakistan). It is a global city with high job density and skilled jobs in the inner boroughs. But equally there is marginalisation and inequality, women face higher unemployment and lower wages and youth unemployment is higher in London than in the UK. Some migrant communities struggle to access the job market Housing prices are extremely high. London citizens started as The East London Communities Organisation (TELCO) at a 1996 founding assembly. This work was preceded by the Citizens Organising Foundation which founded in 1989. This was then expanded to the South London Chapter in 2004, West London Citizens in 2005 and North London Citizens in 2011. TELCO was the first Urban Alliance in Britain.

Neil Jameson founded Citizens UK and has been promoting community organising across London and the UK since 1989 (when the organisation was called Citizens Organising Foundation). He trained with the Industrial Areas Foundation in the USA and from this experience decided to adapt the principles of broad based community organising learnt from the IAF’s Saul Alinsky and Ed Chambers and adapt it to the UK context (Citizens UK 2016).
As of 2016, 220 organisations were part of London Citizens. This network is supported by 26 staff members, of which 10 are directly concerned with community organising in London Chapters. There are then 13 members of staff who work on specific projects and campaigns (for London and Citizens UK).

Each of the four London chapters has a Leadership Group that governs the finances, human resources and operations of the Chapter. Additionally TELCO has a borrow scale governance structure in each of its 5 burrows.

To determine campaigns, each chapter has a yearly (or twice yearly) Delegates Assembly in which each member of an organisation involved with the Chapter can send one representative member to decide on the priorities for the Chapter. Each Chapter also scales up to the National body by appointing delegates to the Citizens UK Council, which brings all Citizens UK affiliated Alliances together to decide on the priorities for UK wide campaigns.

They have thousands of active leaders with leaders being predominantly from Churches and Schools.
There is a rich diversity of issue based campaigns, and in 2016 organisers identified at least 12 active campaigns including - the Living Wage campaign, Refugees Welcome, City Safe, Good Jobs, Housing, Social Care, Together in Europe, PACT, Safe Passage, Diaspora Caucus, Citizens Commission on Islam, Participation and Public Life and Just Money.
The Living Wage campaign was launched in 2001 by two East London parents (and members of London Citizens) when they were invited to discuss the pressures on family life at a local listening campaign. They felt low wages were impacting on their ability to make ends meet, and thus their family time.

The campaign seeks to increase wages to a UK Living wage, which is £9.40 for London residents (as of 2016). The first round of the campaign was where citizens placed pressure on employers (hospitals, financial services, universities and local authorities) to pay a living wage. The campaign has been highly successful, but was complicated in 2015 when the Government introduced its own so called living wage (which was a rise in the minimum wage).
London Citizens was built with inspiration and support from the Industrial Areas Foundation in the US. They practice broad based community organising that seeks to develop the skills and capacities of everyday citizens to advocate for themselves and collectively solve the problems of their neighbourhood, city, country and world. They have internalised the pedagogy of the IAF using the National 6 day training that it is famous for. While Citizens UK is active on social media it seeks the primary method for community transformation as occurring face to face in direct relationship, primarily inside of or between organisations.

London Citizens is aggressively non-partisan, seeking relationships with all politicians and is active across a variety of political and geographic scales - from the burrow to the sub-city region, to the city, to the national and occasionally to the international (eg in an alliance with the IAF following the financial crisis).

Thanks to students from University of Sydney GEOSCIENCES, GEOS 3333 in 2016 for putting together this valuable research.


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