This week will be my last as Networks Coordinator, I am truly gutted to be leaving Common Weal!
But I do have one final chance to say just how ace the team are. I’m hugely thankful for the support I’ve felt being part of the squad. I’m taking a minute to highlight some of the work currently being conducted by staff. It strikes me we’re not always so open about this and I think in part it helps tell the story of Common Weal; which is to say its guiding principles.
Everyone in the Common Weal team understands that politics might be rough from time to time but despite this they also get that the only way to reflect the type of Scotland we want, is through direct engagement with people, warmth and empathy. I hope you supporters out there are aware of that when you come into contact with us. In times when politics can feel completely uncoupled from everyday reality, Common Weal at least conducts itself with integrity and we have a laugh too.
The second thing to say of course is ‘policy’ everywhere gets a bad name as wonky or technical or controlled by elites. You really only ever hear about legislation in the news. And then of course you are only really ever discussing it at the dinner table when it’s too late – your rent’s just gone up or you’ve got a letter saying you need to replace the fire alarms etc.
So there is a sense that decisions are being made, but you really have no idea how far down the line you are headed before you feel the impact. And everybody feels disconnected from the process in general.
So thank you Common Weal for trying to do something about this.
What I’m continually impressed by is Common Weal’s ability to critique the current state of policy, to reveal the processes and then in simple, relatable language put forward new proposals. The ideas at the centre of our discussions are relevant to people and connect to their experience. But it’s never as simple as just writing articles, reports and books and leaving it at that.
One thing I’ve learnt is that people get a sense of what Common Weal is about, -its driving principles- not through one single encounter with the organisation but instead through reading something, then reading something else, then going to an event, meeting someone or seeing our ideas being picked up and shared elsewhere. This practice promotes thinking.
It’s a sort of process of osmosis. So describing the Common Weal project can be tricky. It is always pro-independence and left of centre, but in a way it is as much about policy so much as describing what kind of society we could build. The story of Common Weal therefore becomes about describing the future, this effort shapes what the organisation becomes. There must be many moving parts in order for the story to continually generate and regenerate.
So let me remind you what some of the team are doing behind the scenes just now, it might be a useful insight.
Rory who handles our Social Media, is busy growing the audience using a variety of different approaches to offer a taste of what Common Weal is about. Rory also remains incredibly alert to a range of different trends in society, politics and beyond. You get that impression from his his recent pieces on the urban environment and on the rise of the far right in Europe. He is keeping his eyes open constantly.
In terms of telling the Common Weal story our Social Media has been raising the bar. And much of this is thanks also to the incredible animations produced by Cristina and Illustrated by Charity May.
If you ever wondered how a left-of-centre organisation maintains such a strong branded ‘look’, you should know Cristina and several others in the team, have a strong skills in design. As well as filming interviews, running events and producing rad animations (which are well sought after), Cristina is also operating our entire shop, constantly including all our deliveries. Anyone who’s ever been involved in making a book will know there’s a great deal of pride goes into that form. Well Cristina manages the stock of books and merchandise with pride because she knows together they chronicle the history of Common Weal as well.
One of my favourite recent shifts was packing up copies of SORTED alongside colleagues the day the shipment first arrived. The image for this piece was taken on that day. Cristina was coordinating, Robin cooked us lunch and I was joined by Nicola and Kaitlin for the task.
Check out Kaitlin’s most recent offering Common Weal Re:Creates (you can sign up to it here). This is a brand new monthly newsletter that comes from our work on ‘Recreation’. Basically the newsletter draws together many threads about avoiding a consumer lifestyle and instead makes the call for more active participation, more cultural and community activities where we live. This weeks episode talks about Skateboarding in Scotland and Community Arts initiative the STOVE Network, amongst its features. Kaitlin was also instrumental in organising our recent call on Reforming Drugs Policy in Scotland. In this way she’s helping us move into new territory with our policy work each week.
Similarly, Nicola has been managing our working groups I’m really pleased to celebrate this part of the common weal structure, because to me it shows how our wider supporter networks not only influence what we do, but also play an integral role in forming the ideas. You may not realise this but much of our policy work gets developed thanks to voluntary participants who come from professional or other backgrounds of expertise. Nicola’s been pulling together ideas contributed by the Health group which will form a major report to come on: what next for the NHS in Scotland. So keep a lookout for that.
As a staff team, we all go along to events and meet with supporter groups. With all this going on it isn’t always easy to campaign on a broad set of policies simultaneously. It is with a diverse team keeping the cogs whirring, that Common Weal can maintain ongoing campaigns. And these cover really important policy areas even while we release major new works. That’s why Craig Dalzell does such a tremendous job, he’s regularly speaking at events keeping the baton lit for a National Care Service, Our Green New Deal, a Circular Economy and crucially Economic Reform amongst many more areas. In each of these cases just think what would happen if critical voices weren’t being persistent in driving forward alternative views. We can no longer drop any of these. Oh…and he also keeps on top of consultations and the podcast each week. Both of which are calling for your help so don’t forget to get in touch!
Robin has the quality of an ‘initiator’ that means he often gets the task of telling the Common Weal Story and he does it well. But just as I set out at the start of this piece; his approach is not to make the story one of simply legacy. Basically, Robin would say Common Weal exists because it gives others hope but it has to be incredibly adaptive in order to offer something to people. Life just doesn’t sit still. So each major piece of policy work is made in response to what the current need is amongst society. This for Robin is a major preoccupation and why his work ethic is about crafting something really useful for others. His speech at the launch of SORTED was about cooperation above all else. The independence movement and in fact every movement combatting inequality in Scotland needs to listen up and take that very seriously. Robin’s got some big ideas to profile in the coming tour so you’ll all hear about that soon.
You might think, while reading this, that I’ve been insincere about Common Weal colleagues. Well you are wrong. I’m blowing the Common Weal trumpet enthusiastically and I do not have Stockholm syndrome or a gun held to my head. I could have dedicated this article to all of you supporters out there. Since you are indeed a significant part of this Think and Do Tank. But I’m instead celebrating a great team while I have the chance. And quite frankly, we wouldn’t function as a team were it not for Amanda who looks after everyone with an enormous amount of respect and diligence. Amanda does so much grafting behind the scenes at Common Weal I wouldn’t even know where to begin. But far from just looking after the functional stuff, I suspect many readers will know her because she doesn’t shy away from building relationships and making time for everyone and I admire that as well.
Common Weal will still be putting its networks first. However there are lots of ways you also can support the team. Firstly, please donate if you can, get yourself to events, offer to volunteer, say yes if we’re looking for people to join working groups. Or just get in touch if you think there is something useful you have to share with us; an idea, a bit of local knowledge -whatever it might be keep in touch!
In any case you haven’t seen the last of me yet. Expect an article or two from me in the future, and I’ll be along to Common Weal events I can cycle or jump on the train too as well so count me in.