Local Groups: Spotlight on Devon

Compass Local Groups are a big way of empowering our membership to take our ideas and campaigns into their communities, and in turn they shape our national programme. They create a forum and a platform for progressives in your area to connect, talk, and organise and they’re one of the best ways to get more involved with Compass in a practical way.

This blog is an update from our newly established Devon Group, and originally appeared in the East Devon Green Party Newsletter.

I have previously talked (enthusiastically) about Compass “working for a good society through ideas, actions, and events” and whose campaigns include the Basic Income Conversation and #BuildBackBetter. The excellent series of Tuesday evening online Zoom discussions have become a welcome fixed point during this unusual and unsettling summer. These are now available to listen to as podcasts and indeed the live discussions continue – you can sign up from the same webpage.

Compass is also developing a network of local groups so that members can take the ideas and campaigns into their own communities. While a local group still needs to demonstrate Compass’ core values, each group can define its own aims, objectives and priorities according to the character of the local area and the interests and expertise of its members. To this end, I have been setting up a Local Devon Compass group along with fellow Compass member Joe, based in Exeter.

So far we have held two meetings both via Zoom – which has made it easier to cover such a large area as Devon. In the first meeting in late June, our founder members explored what our role might be – including mapping/networking the organisations in Devon with overlapping aims. The Regenerate Devon online summit took place shortly after this meeting which demonstrated the vast number of groups (not-for-profits, social enterprises, movements) in Devon (and further afield in the SW) all working towards a better society and to a some extent already doing what we were proposing. What was very evident throughout the several days of the summit was the fact there was very little engagement in politics – so a focus on Compass’ desire to renew our democracy e.g. via electoral alliances, another suggestion from our first meeting, could be a focus for Devon Compass.

In our second meeting in early September, we had two invited speakers: Madeleine Greenhalgh spoke to us about the Devon Green New Deal, part of the Green New Deal UK organisation, and Pam Barrett spoke about her experience transforming Buckfastleigh Town Council and subsequent work with Flatpack Democracy.

We’re still in the very early stages of developing this group. For inspiration, we can look to other local Compass groups.

There are currently 7 local groups with more in development: SW Surrey (since 2015), Calderdale, and Brighton & Hove (since around 2016 galvanised by Brexit), Manchester (since autumn 2019) and Bristol and Leicester also established local groups at the same time as Devon this summer. Basic information and contact details for all the local groups are on the Compass website, here. The three longer established groups have made some impressive achievements:

  • SW Surrey ran a very successful progressive alliance campaign from 2017 – about which they have published a book “A New Way of Doing Politics” Edited by Steve Williams, Susan Ryland, Penny Rivers and Louise Irvine
  • SW Surrey have an impressive website and also produce a regular newspaper (online only due to lockdown restrictions, but usually printed and distributed in the community)
  • Manchester held a meeting with Manchester Major Andy Burnham over the summer and are hoping to collaborate on some upcoming projects
  • Manchester have also organised several successful events, most recently one around Build Back Better and are setting up Research & Action groups around the themes that came out of that
  • Brighton & Hove are instrumental to holding together the Progressive majority on the local council through a Build Back Better campaign they started – follow the action on their blog

This is our welcome message to new Devon members:

Welcome to Compass Devon! We want to connect with other Progressives in the area, so we can talk and think together about how we can organise and act locally in ways that are constructive, collaborative and non-tribal.

Use this group to:

  • link and connect to other like-minded groups / organisations / individuals
  • share relevant events and campaigns and opportunities for action
  • request and provide help / support / advice on relevant issues and campaigns
  • suggest actiivities

If you are interested and would like to help shape the group please email me, Sarah Vaughan, and I can add you to the Google discussion group which is how we communicate.

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