1 May 2018

Behind the successful assemblies are great leaders and organisers

In the past few weeks, I have had the privilege of attending accountability assemblies across London organised by fellow Citizens UK Community Organisers and the community leaders they are working with. This was organising at its best. Fellow citizens holding politicians to account.

To see politicians being thanked for their achievements as per the promises they made last time around and being held to account for what they did not deliver was a good experience for many. That is what makes these assemblies different from hustings. It is all about organised citizens doing organised politics. The asks for the next term in office if the candidates were to be elected continue: Will you do this? Will you work with us? Will you meet with us? Tell us why we should vote for you? All sorts of properly crafted asks done in an organised and disciplined way in front of a big audience. Tough to say no in front of organised citizens.  

The assemblies are not only about what the politicians have done or should do if elected, but about leaders developed through the process, the turnout and its diversity, the music, the razzmatazz and whether it was fun to be part of. Hence organisers and leaders have a lot to plan, lots to worry about and run around to see their hard work through.

One of the assemblies I attended was the Lambeth Citizens Assembly on Thursday 26th April at Kings College. The assembly was very much organised, fully packed and led amazingly from the stage.  All being said, there was a moment which was exceptional and phenomenal for me. That is because I love stories. I believe stories change people’s hearts. They are especially great when told by those who own the stories. Hence that moment when we heard stories of welcome from a Syrian mum. A mum who a few months ago was in a refugee camp; a mum who was only resettled in Lambeth 2 months ago. Yes, that great and inspirational mum who had the courage to share her stories with humour. It was simply heart-warming to see her on stage. As soon as she was on the stage, she was gracious and full of smiles. The Syrian mum said, “Thank you Lambeth. Thank you for bringing us 2 months ago. It is my first time to speak in front of big audience….” That very inspirational woman has touched the hearts and souls of many. That was why she was accorded big rounds of applause, big cheers from the many community leaders that gathered from across Lambeth and of course a standing ovation. She should be proud of her English, should be proud of her achievements and should be certain that there are many people who really care and who are welcoming. It was a joy to be at this amazing assembly and hear such a moving story of welcome. Kudos to Lambeth. Yes, Lambeth welcomes.

Another great Assembly I saw in action was the Tower Hamlets Citizens Assembly. An assembly that was full of energy. Leaders willing to go extra miles to deliver. Community leaders ready to channel anger into action. Yes, they are ready to welcome and integrate a new family through the community sponsorship scheme. It may take time, but we will one day hear stories of welcome through community sponsorship in Tower Hamlets. Till then, folks are ready to organise themselves and do their bits. 

It was a joy to be part of these assemblies. It is also a joy to know the assemblies in different parts of London were successful and exceeded expectations. One thing for sure, behind all these great assemblies are talented organisers and passionate and hardworking leaders.  Keep organizing; it is democracy in action.  

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