Campaigning as a charity

A place to discuss the issues relating to the proposed change in the national CTC’s structure.
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Campaigning as a charity

Postby admin » 14 Jan 2010, 5:50pm

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Simon L6
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Re: Campaigning as a charity

Postby Simon L6 » 8 Dec 2010, 2:55pm

Campaigning – is it all over?

I attended a meeting of the London Region CTC last weekend. I’d not intended to go, because these occasions always inspire a degree of melancholy, brought on by a feeling that the LR CTC is a bit of a lost ship in an ocean of LCC activity, but the Midnight Dash to Bognor was iced off, and her nibs was away, so I braved the non-accessible stairs down to the dank cellar of the Fabian Society and re-acquainted myself with the faithful keeping the CTC flame burning in the capital. The second I walked in, my heart lifted – the LR CTC is home to people I count myself fortunate to know.

The ‘high’ point of the agenda was a presentation of the CTC’s campaigning strategy by Roger Geffen. I’ll tell you straight away that I gave Roger a hard time for about two hours. But, when you read the following, you might think he had it coming.

Roger told us that he’d consciously concentrated to what he called ‘national campaigning’ for the last eight years, but, with the demise of Cycling England and the Coalition’s ‘localisation’ of transport policy, the CTC would find local campaigning ‘very difficult’.

Now some of you will already have been bored to tears by my presentation to the CTC Council in January 2006 in which I wittered on about the third sector’s ability to mesh professional work with voluntary work. Drucker was called to mind. And some of you will realise that this meshing is something the CTC doesn’t do. Which, as I pointed out to Roger, is a pity, because if you want to campaign at a local level you need to be able to harness volunteer effort, expertise and knowledge. I admit I got a bit Lady Bracknell when suggesting that losing one RtR liaison officer might be unfortunate, but losing two in six months might be seen as careless, and all the more so because they both quit in search of meaning rather than mindless admin, but the general case I made is incontrovertible – the RtR network has been kept pretty much on a drip feed, and relies on the good intentions of John Meudell and the zeal and energy of a few good souls like Stephen Kinsella. And......the connection with local groups hasn’t been good, but with Adrian Lawson deciding that he couldn’t take it anymore, and the appointment of a part-timer with other responsibilities, it looks like we’ll be lucky to get membership lists, let alone help, advice and inspiration on campaigning.

I made the point in 2006 that the CTC was in the knowledge business. Campaigning depended on knowledge, and we had to ‘build’ knowledge by researching and sharing. Fat chance. We know next to nothing about urbanism, despite having experts in our midst. We know next to nothing about planning policy, despite having experts in our midst. Hundreds of councils up and down the country have written their Local Development Frameworks and we haven’t been involved. There’s been a re-writing of the Code for Sustainable Homes that was a massive step back in that it removed transport from the criteria, and we weren’t involved. In some London boroughs LCC reps comment on every single application of any size, and have, bit by bit, shifted planning policy to reduce car parking, and make transport strategies a requirement. They’ve harried TfL on junction works and shopping centre redevelopment. If any of this happens in the CTC it’s because a few individuals in Southend and Malvern take it upon themselves to learn themselves up, and not because there’s a fund of CTC knowledge and expertise to be drawn from.

There was some talk of cascades and structures. I’m afraid I got a bit shirty. Cascades don’t work outside of the Catholic Church. Knowledge doesn’t come down the mountain on tablets of stone – it’s a mix of theory and experience, and in campaigning it will move laterally if the means of moving it is there. Best practice – now that’s a different thing. Filtering for relevance, buffing up presentations, checklists – all can be built up and distributed from the centre, although, again, cascading is preposterous when you can send something out to 100 people just as quickly as you can send something out to 10 people.

I’m not optimistic. Roger places a good deal of faith in to the new website, which may or may not happen (it was due, I think, in May 2010). He says that it will take time to establish which RtR reps are still active, and didn’t seem to fancy my suggestion of turning the whole Council correspondence thing in to an open database, allowing people to pick up stuff as and when they wanted – but then again, we don’t do free-flowing information in the CTC.

It’s a few years since we had a ‘hit’. The 11,000 letters to MPs on the proposed revisions to the Highway Code was the last. Since then we’ve tried to tack ourselves on to the back of the 20’s Plenty and come up with a couple of catch slogans such as Stop Smidsy.

I’m not saying there isn’t purpose in lobbying, and I know Roger gets stuck in to the DfT via House of Commons committees, but the LCC has shown that you can make a big difference to towns by sustained local campaigning. Time and time again I go through towns and think ‘how the **** did this go so disastrously wrong?’ and wonder whether, just maybe, the CTC could have made a difference. It would be nice to find out, but I’m not counting on finding out for a long while.

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Re: Campaigning as a charity

Postby meic » 8 Dec 2010, 3:05pm

I just checked out my local RTR rep on the website.

I was a bit surprised to see that he is still active as he unfortunately died at least two years ago.
Yma o Hyd

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Simon L6
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Re: Campaigning as a charity

Postby Simon L6 » 8 Dec 2010, 3:09pm

meic wrote:I just checked out my local RTR rep on the website.

I was a bit surprised to see that he is still active as he unfortunately died at least two years ago.

testament to the revivifying effects of CTC membership!

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Re: Campaigning as a charity

Postby meic » 8 Dec 2010, 3:25pm

He must have taken out 3 memberships then as he is in fact 3 of my 6 local RTR reps.
Another one of my local RTR reps, I recall reading his resignation letter which could be paraphrased as "why I now hate the CTC", again at least a year ago.

Oh I do hope I have a copy of it just in case any body things that I am exaggerating.

He is of course now supporting cycling with other groups instead
Yma o Hyd

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Re: Campaigning as a charity

Postby thirdcrank » 8 Dec 2010, 5:22pm

I understood from something I had read - possibly on here - that there was some sort of specialist - password-protected - forum for RtoR reps? Am I wrong?

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Re: Campaigning as a charity

Postby manybikes » 8 Dec 2010, 6:20pm

SimonL6
I have the impression from reading previous posts, speaking to some members (and a councillor), and hearing of a number of RtR resignations etc that within the CTC campaigning is very heirachical with Roger (a professional) at the pinnacle. Therefore the grass routes upward approach is doomed. Do I have a reasonable interpretation or have I got it all wrong?
Anyone wanting to increase membership and volunterring should have a gander at the National Trust I suggest -they seem to be gaining ground al the time.

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Re: Campaigning as a charity

Postby thirdcrank » 8 Dec 2010, 8:56pm

Simon L6 wrote: ... Roger places a good deal of faith in to the new website, which may or may not happen (it was due, I think, in May 2010). He says that it will take time to establish which RtR reps are still active, ...(my emphasis)


Having re-read this post, I find this bit worrying. It sounds as though nobody really knows what's happening locally.

I know from experience (both as a paid-employee working with them* and more recently as a volunteer for several organisations) that volunteers can be seen as a nuisance and even a threat by professionals. In my now far-off CRN / RtoR days, a former HQ staffer wrote an anonymous piece in the CTC mag. I'm quoting from memory but it was on the lines that at conferences he received complaints from transport professionals (AKA highwaymen) about all the grumbling they got from local CTC volunteers and he thought we should change our approach. I sent a letter to Godalming sharpish suggesting among other things that if this happened to him again he should tell these people that if they did their (paid) jobs better, they could then expect a better response from cyclists. I'd like to think that when my letter was opened the effect was on the same lines as Fergie's hairdryer.

Are we saying that the RtoR network is moribund, in spite of the efforts of the volunteers? :? (I can imagine that Honk is out there somewhere, doing a lot of excellent local campaign work now he's riding a bit less and he sends Baz's regards to anybody who remembers him but I'm not asking about individuals, rather the state of the network and the support from HQ.)

* It has elements of my tale about the special constable who was putting on his uniform to be able to play away, without his wife being suspicious. Could have been the subject of a Helms cartoon. "I'm worried how many of these Right to Ride meetings last most of the night, dear. You must be missing a lot of sleep." "Yes dear, I've got them to arrange a fortnight's residential session next year. I'll be able to spend plenty of time in bed."

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Re: Campaigning as a charity

Postby Simon L6 » 9 Dec 2010, 7:27am

I'm sure that individual RtR reps are doing great stuff, and that resolute individuals like Stephen and Anthony are spreading the word, but there's a lack of communication and inspiration from National Office, not least because the two of the brightest sparks that NO has employed in the last year of so have jumped ship after finding that their job as RtR liaison officer was 80% admin.

Now........all this can be fixed, but it's going to need a lot of perseverance, and, no doubt, a fair amount of time. It's a question of will and organisation, accepting your losses (Meic might reasonably expect a PM from National Office asking for details) and building up from a low level. Given the recent loss of the local groups liaison and the subsequent gap that Karen refers to, I'm not completely confident....

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Re: Campaigning as a charity

Postby Si » 9 Dec 2010, 9:16am

Simon L6 wrote:I’m not optimistic. Roger places a good deal of faith in to the new website, which may or may not happen (it was due, I think, in May 2010). .


Perhaps you are optimistic - I believe that it was March not May wasn't it?
I mention it only because 1/ it has caused me some agro recently, and 2/ as said in another recent post: if we want to go play campaigning with the big boys then we really do need to organise ourselves better: what chance have we if we can't even get a simple* website up and going.


* OK, fair enough, there are bits of the web site that are far from simple, but an implemented delivery strategy could have seen some key sections up and running ages ago, including the support for the RTR network.

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Re: Campaigning as a charity

Postby thirdcrank » 9 Dec 2010, 9:35am

I got a lot off my chest at a Leeds Consultation meeting, when yet another opportunity had been missed to cater for cyclists in a scheme. This was admirably summarised by a cycling officer along the lines of "The Council has a fine policy for promoting cycling, but when individual schemes are implemented, special circumstances are generally used to justify not implementing that policy."

It wouldn't matter if somebody from CTC HQ was invited to join David Cameron on his daily cycling photo oportunity to bend his ear. In the end, it's not the fine words but what happens in real life that counts. This is why the cycling parsnips remain fat-free.

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Simon L6
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Re: Campaigning as a charity

Postby Simon L6 » 9 Dec 2010, 9:51am

thirdcrank wrote:I got a lot off my chest at a Leeds Consultation meeting, when yet another opportunity had been missed to cater for cyclists in a scheme. This was admirably summarised by a cycling officer along the lines of "The Council has a fine policy for promoting cycling, but when individual schemes are implemented, special circumstances are generally used to justify not implementing that policy."

The trick, TC, is in having the kind of expertise up your sleeve that enables you to bend the Council's highways engineers to your will. And, as those of you who have met highways engineers will know, this is as much a question of having the language at your disposal and the means of conveying an idea as it is having the experience that cycling affords. The thing is......that expertise, that language, that means of conveying an idea, and, of course, the experience is there, within the membership of the CTC, well able to be used. At the moment it's not.

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Re: Campaigning as a charity

Postby Simon L6 » 9 Dec 2010, 9:54am

Si wrote:
Simon L6 wrote:I’m not optimistic. Roger places a good deal of faith in to the new website, which may or may not happen (it was due, I think, in May 2010). .


Perhaps you are optimistic - I believe that it was March not May wasn't it?
I mention it only because 1/ it has caused me some agro recently, and 2/ as said in another recent post: if we want to go play campaigning with the big boys then we really do need to organise ourselves better: what chance have we if we can't even get a simple* website up and going.

There is, apparently, a sweepstake doing the rounds at National Office. And Phil Benstead has baggsed May, but he's not saying if it's May 2011 or May 2012.

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Re: Campaigning as a charity

Postby Simon L6 » 17 Jan 2011, 2:23pm

(with the indulgence of the moderators, because I have allowed my CTC membership to lapse)

What I didn't know when I wrote this stuff back in December (and what Roger didn't tell us) was that a full time Campaigns Officer left in August and hasn't been replaced. And, apparently, won't be replaced because services are being squeezed. All credit to those of you still paying your subs!

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Re: Campaigning as a charity

Postby Karen Sutton » 17 Jan 2011, 5:16pm

Simon L6 wrote:(with the indulgence of the moderators, because I have allowed my CTC membership to lapse)

What I didn't know when I wrote this stuff back in December (and what Roger didn't tell us) was that a full time Campaigns Officer left in August and hasn't been replaced. And, apparently, won't be replaced because services are being squeezed. All credit to those of you still paying your subs!



I thought you didn't have to be a CTC member to post on this Forum?