In the last week of February we gathered together in a proper pub in Huddersfield, had a beer or three, laughed a lot, pinned on some more of our homemade badges and shared our thoughts about We’re Not In Westminster Any More.
One of the reasons for our gathering was to reflect on how we might summarize the event that we held on 7th February 2015. We know that lots of you have been waiting patiently for an overview. But our conversation quickly became less of an event debrief and more of a debate about what’s ahead of us – it didn’t take very long before somebody said “so, what’s next?”
The best way of summing up We’re Not In Westminster Any More is to say that we have started something. We always meant to. But we actually did – and everyone who participated in the event (or who supported it) has helped to make that start. We thank you for it.
So instead of telling you what happened on the day (you can have a look at our blog roundup to hear reflections from the participants, including us) we wanted to share our current thoughts about the experience that we’ve come to know as #notwestminster.
It’s not an event – it might be a movement
There was an undeniable amount of energy that seeped out of our event, onto the streets of Huddersfield and along the train tracks as people journeyed home. Many of us went away feeling like something had changed and we talked about it on our blogs, in our neighbourhoods and in our workplaces. The challenge now is how to sustain that energy. We asked: if it were a movement, what would it do?
If we are a movement, what shall we do?
What happens to the ideas?
We put a lot of focus on encouraging our participants to come up with new ideas for doing local democracy. Our workshop hosts bravely accepted the challenge and we ended the day with 48 ideas being paraded at our Ideas Bazaar. There’s huge potential in those ideas and we feel a lot of responsibility for them. We talked about our role as facilitators, helping to forge connections between people. We want to strengthen our spirit of collaboration so that we can support each other with developing those ideas.
It needs to live in the real world
We had some great conversations at #notwestminster. We set out to involve a wide range of people, from activists to academics and digital makers to councillors. This mix of participants made for some interesting discussions on the day, and made all of us look at things from other perspectives. Some of the most interesting moments were discussions that brought the real world firmly into the room, such as the pigeons of nearby Springwood which made a memorable appearance in the open data session. The pigeons brought our discussion right down to earth. These moments made us want to just get out there and try things. What practical, small scale experiments could we get on and do right now?
The times they are a-changin’
From the outset, we thought of We’re Not In Westminster Any More as a bit of an experiment. We tried some different things and we weren’t sure what would work – but much of it did. If we organise another event in the future, should we do something completely different? If we change things radically, do we risk chucking away all the good stuff too? For us there’s an element of being completely open to innovation but also not wanting to undermine our principles. If we are a movement, what are our principles? We probably know this, between us, but maybe we haven’t really voiced it. There’s a task in there somewhere…
We inspired each other – we should keep doing that
We gained so much from bringing people together. We know there’s more to be gained by doing more of the same. We all have networks of people who we trust and are inspired by. What if we each brought just one new person to the #notwestminster mix? Where might that take us?
Should we all go and ask someone: We are #notwestminster – are you?
Our three commitments
Based on our collective thoughts, and in the #notwestminster tradition of creating three new ideas in every conversation, we’re now going to make three commitments to you:
- We will gather at LocalGov Camp in Sheffield, in six months’ time (11th & 12th September 2015), to share the outcomes of our work together so far. We invite you to join us to plan for the future.
- We will organise at least one more #notwestminster event, in 2016. It may (or may not) be something like the 2015 event. It will definitely be an experiment.
- We will continue to make and strengthen connections between people who have something positive to say about local democracy and who have ideas about improving it.
How you can help
All of us are doing local democracy in some way, and are open to finding new ways of making it work. We know that many of you have already started putting the ideas generated at We’re Not In Westminster Any More into action. We’ve created an online version of our Ideas Bazaar to help that work continue – and we hope it will encourage more people to get involved.
We want to make sure that we keep track of all the good things that are going to come from this. Please help us by letting us know about anything that happens as a result of We’re Not In Westminster Any More.
Please keep using the #notwestminster tag on twitter to make it easier for people to get involved and to keep sharing ideas. Do you know someone who might be interested in this work? Please point them in our direction and help the #notwestminster movement to grow.
And finally… if you are #notwestminster, please wear your badge with pride. You earned it.
Diane, Carl, Andy, Spencer, David, Aggie & Andrea