As a grassroots organiser my vision is for a car-free-cities campaigner in every city in the UK, crowd funded by the people and groups who live in that city, and whose role it is to represent community interests with respect to sustainable transport, run projects to promote the car-free ethos in their city, campaign for better sustainable transport and for more traffic free measures, and to do anything else that they think appropriate as freelance community organisers.
Car-free-cities aside, there are big benefits to communities and to society at large to crowd funding independent grassroots organisers in their neighbourhoods, towns and cities. Such organisers bring cohesion to an area, can represent an area better than any politician, can fight for and campaign on local issues drawing upon their extensive experience and connections, and provide a useful alternative to standard political systems of governance and representation, alternatives that we need much more of.
We live in a world where the direction of society seems totally out of our hands, and in the hands (or pockets) of big business, big government, and most of all, big banking, all of whom have a track record of not acting in the interests of the common good, but for their own selfish and often short term interests. Supporting a national network of decentralised community organisers in the manner in which I am suggesting provides a much healthier alternative to counter this trend, and which can immediately start to push society in a direction that is more democratic and grassroots.
Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) such as charities and funding bodies have long been critiqued for the fact that they represent the status quo, and are incapable of achieving any real and lasting change. They are generally accused of diverting impulses for change that would otherwise manifest as a real grassroots movement into channels that act to pacify it and render it neutral or far less effective, but which accords with what is acceptable to the system. NGOs and charities act in this manner because they are dependent upon the system for their funding, and so cannot veer too far from the mainstream if they are to remain within the legal requirements that they are bound by. In addition, if they start to fund real transformative movements, then they will threaten the financial interests fo the powerful groups that fund them, and that funding is then likely to dry up. You rarely see chairites or NGOs with any powerful or radical critique of the system for this reason, and like I said, all too often they seem to act to divert real impulses for change down avenues for which they can get funded, rather than avenues that are effective. This is known as chasing the money, and it is the norm rather than the exception.
None of this is the case however for a local grassroots campaigner who is crowd funded by their local community. Such a campaigner is freed from the yoke of having to please the bankers, political class, and the authorities, and can act in a manner that can really support effective and radical change, the kind of transformative change that we so desperately need. This is perhaps the biggest advantage of this system I am proposing over the existing model of NGOs and funding bids. If it takes off, then it represents a real game changer.
So I would like to start this ball rolling by organising grassroots car-free-city campaigners across the UK. This involves setting up a website in your area. In Swansea where I live, this would be a www.car-free-swansea.org website. Publicise the site through stickering and flyposting the area, and also approach local community groups and organisations who might be interested. You would be asking people to make a commitment in their area to a car-free future, and to do so by making a monthly standing order. That money would then be used to pay for a local freelance campaigner, one who has no boss, and no overriding directive, but rather who is free to campaign and run projects to promote a car-free future for their town or city, the kind of projects and campaigns that I have outlined in the campaigns section of this website.
One of the key aspects of crowd funding like this is to ensure that your project has a clear vision, one that will draw people in and get them thinking that they really want to be a part of a car-free future, and that supporting local grassroots organisers to organise in their area is crucial to this happening. These are the people who are going to make a long term commitment to the project, which will basically amount to ensuring that the car-free-cities campaigner is funded for a minimum of 3 years and 3 days a week. That is roughly £50 – £100k depending on salary (£100-200 per day). A less daunting way to look at it is to get ten organisations to make a standing order of £100/250 a month for three years. Do that, and the car-free-cities project is up and running.
One of the key jobs of the car-free-cities campaigner will then be to draw up project ideas and funding bids in order to ensure that they have resources that they can work with to achieve their aims. Because they are a freelance organiser, rather than a legal entity, they are not so heavily bound by legislation, and have a lot more freedom to organise independently. The overaching car-free-cities organisation can provide the vehicle through which funds can be channelled, or alternatively another local body could be utilised if one is available.
That is my vision for the car-free-cities campaign that I am aiming to get established. If that is something that interests you, either as a funder or as a grassroots campaigner, or simply as a supporter, then get in touch through the contact page and let’s talk car-free-cities.