Francis' Report - November 2021 - The First Month
By Francis J. Thomas
I'm Francis, Political Assistant to the Green Liberal Democrats and our first full time staff member.
I wanted to talk a little bit about who I am and the work I have been up to this month, in the first edition of my montly report as part of our pledge for greater transparency.
For my background; I'm a recent graduate from a Masters in Public Policy. In October of this year I completed my dissertation on the role of sustainable Local Authority procurement and planning in efforts to reach net zero, which is currently (fingers crossed and following edits by those more capable than I) anticipating journal publication in the new year.
Whilst at university I worked in Public Relations for employability charity Shaw Trust, developing partnerships with local industry to provide voluntary and paid employment opportunities for disabled and long term out of work individuals.
In applying and interviewing for the role, I believe I made it clear that my experience within community action and academic foundation of sustainable local government would prove useful for the transition that our executive outlined in moving beyond 'saying what is going wrong', to 'showing what can be done right'.
That moves us neatly onto my work in the last month. A lot of this will be covered in greater detail in the new monthly email we are launching next Tuesday, but we wanted to demonstrate why it is that the Green Liberal Democrats felt it necessary to invest in a human resource.
As you may recall from our Crowdfunding Appeal earlier this year, the intention of the employment programme is to professionalise the approach of the organisation. What that looks like in my daily duties has varied significantly, but this article will chart some of our projects this month.
Report for the month of November
If you would prefer a bulleted summary over a diary, just scroll to the bottom of the article.
Leaning on my academic foundation, I produced two Green Liberal Democrat council motions for developing more sustainable Local Authorities in partnership with ALDC. In response to the Sewage Scandal in my first week I drafted and delivered a 'Motion to Save our Rivers'; providing a means for councils throughout the country to call on the Westminster government to properly fund environmental protection and regulatory agencies, open dialogues with their regional farmers unions on best practices, and engage with local utility companies to address their role in the crisis.
I then had the privilege to attend COP26 after just 8 days in post. It was a most valuable opportunity for the Green Lib Dems to network, build contacts for publications, potential event speakers and industry partners, and to explore the multitude of policies and approaches presented to us.
The conversations in Glasgow were unlike any, and I am most grateful to Councillor Pippa Heylings for allowing me to hold her captive on the Climate March whilst I ranted and raved about the potential for more sustainable procurement through the Social Value Act.
Only 2 days later, Pippa would be on the floor of the Blue Zone compelling the UK Presidency to include local government in the Glasgow Climate Pact. Whilst I cannot assume any credit for her advocacy, my vicarious pride at a colleague's successful advocacy for something that I feel most strongly about in such a is a high point of my career thus far (all 37 days of it).
In the first week back from COP26 and in light of the successful inclusion of 'multilevel cooperation' within the Glasgow Climate Pact, I produced and delivered a motion and press release to Lib Dem Councillors calling for coordination between authorities sharing a geographical remit and national government. Parish, town, city and county councils must operate across partisan and administrative boundaries to deliver Greener, Cleaner, and Healthier communities, and I was proud to provide material to open those dialogues.
On that note, I conceptualised and copywrote the aforementioned Greener, Cleaner, Healthier campaign platform for the May 22 local elections. You may have seen some of these graphics on social media. We want to demonstrate that Liberal Democrat climate action delivers intersectional benefits for communities beyond the decarbonisation that we so urgently need. Local campaigns are fought over a local vision, and Greener, Cleaner, Healthier encapsulates that of our councillors and candidates throughout the country.
I've been drafting potential templates for candidates along with my colleagues at ALDC, and will be opening consultation with candidates in early December to put our best foot forward in the new year. May will be here before we know it, and as Lib Dems we should campaign all year round.
I've been producing a range of content for our Twitter resulting in a record month for engagement, and new followers, with around 17x more impressions in 28 days than an average month in 2021, at 250,000 as compared to 15,000. In that time the @greenlibdems account has been retweeted by the main @LibDems page, the Local Government Association, many of our partner AOs and SAOs, as well as a great many of our supportive members. Graphics have been performing especially well, and I'm working with our brilliant communications volunteers to develop a more consistent online 'voice' for the Green Liberal Democrats.
One of our best weeks on Twitter was that of the negligent 2021 Budget. Rishi Sunak's inability to even utter the word climate was not unnoticed, and I wrote a brief article covering three of the most egregious climate failings within the treasury proposals.
In that same week, we organised many of you to attend marches, with one of my biggest personal wins coming through leveraging our network to arrange a Suffolk to Norwich rideshare for a member facing inaccessible rail replacement services. I produced a poster that many of you downloaded, and shipped large scale copies to many groups from Hull through London and beyond. It was rather affirming to see something I had questioned every detail and pixel of standing out in so many crowds throughout the country, representing our brand faithfully and proudly.
But a majority of my work has of course been in the background of our processes, in efforts to lessen the administrative burden on our executive. You may have noticed several changes to the website with regards to legibility and aesthetic, and we are working with our host to improve the user experience and membership integration.
On membership; I have been addressing some of the errors and oversights within our database, mailings lists, and working on a new customer journey that provides a better experience for new and existing members, including a physical welcome pack and green Libby's. I've opened dialogues with the federal party on integrating our membership to the party data platform Lighthouse which will be of great benefit to our processes and your interactions with us.
With respect to the federal party, I have begun work on a Climate Justice motion, with the intent to partner with fellow AOs and call on Conference to recognise the inequalities inherent to the climate crisis and the opportunity that climate action presents us to address global, national, and subnational disparities. We are exploring further motion topics and will be reaching our to our members for their Spring Conference priorities and input.
This week I launched consultation with our membership on our approach for 2022 in light of observations from many that we may have operated in relative isolation. I am most grateful for all of your responses, which have been collated for our executive committee to discuss. I hope it marks the beginning of a much more collaborative and democratic approach to our organisation and campaigning. If you haven't had a chance to complete the brief survey, be sure to check your inbox - your suggestions are never too late. Just search your inbox for 'Green Liberal Democrats Strategy' or firstname.lastname@example.org and you should find the tick-box form right there.
Now that I'm fully embedded in the team, next month should prove even more productive, but our plans for December will be better presented in next weeks newsletter.
- Produced and delivered council motions in light of sewage scandal and COP26 agreement
- Attended COP26 and built the foundation of relationships with a variety of actors
- Conceptualised, copywrote and launched new campaign platform for 2022 local elections
- Drafted templates and resources and opened consultation with candidates
- Brought about record month on Twitter for engagement and new followers by professionalising our approach and generating visual content
- Opened dialogue with the Federal Party to better integrate membership
- Created Climate Action Now poster and shipped to members
- First draft of 'Climate Justice' Federal Conference motion
- Lessened the administrative burden of membership for the executive
- Surveyed membership on their priorities for our 2022 Strategy
- Followed up with all 2021 lapsed members on their experiences
From the Chair
And a final word from me as Chair of GLD and Line Manager to our new Political Assistant. We had to be nimble on our feet to get the advertisement in place and get the interviewing done in time to get our first professional on board in time for COP26 and I am delighted that we managed to do that and we're lucky to have found such a capable person to fill that role.
Francis' consultation with lapsed members identified that many reported having not received any communications from us for some time. This concern has been at the forefront of much of our work as a team. You should know what we are doing, why we believe this work to be important, and how you can help.
On that note, we move to a request. Francis has had a busy month, and we have had some brilliant feedback - especially from councillors who have been taking advantage of our motions to increase the local green platform of the party. I know some of you reading this have already made a donation over and above any membership fee you have paid to GLD.
We want to ensure that we can continue to fund the employment programme, providing talented individuals an opportunity to advocate for green liberalism, and continuing our efforts to transform the party into one recognised for its environmental credentials in communities throughout the nation.
If you want to support our work in a very practical way, then please, donate here.
Keith Melton, Chair Green Liberal Democrats