Briefing:Organising Branch Activities after Lockdown From: efoody For attention of: All Party Officers Published: 27th October 2021 Last updated: 28th October 2021 Printed: 16th May 2022 Other formats: Print With the easing of lockdown restrictions taking place across the UK, we wanted to update officers on our plans for local branch activity in the coming months. Although we haven’t been able to get together in the traditional ways over the past year, we’re proud that we have all risen to the occasion with hundreds of online meetings, conferences, campaign sessions and events organised by all levels of the Co-operative Party. These online events have enabled us to stay in touch during the lockdown and give members an opportunity to learn more about the Party and help shape our work. So thank you for all your hard work and adapting quickly to the challenges of organising online! Feedback from our members We asked members to share their experiences of Party activity through a survey and drop-in sessions. This allowed us to hear more about their thoughts and what they would like to see in the future. Members shared how the move to online meetings removed many of the barriers caused by in-person meetings, making it easier and more accessible for them to get involved. This includes those who are less mobile or have caring responsibilities that limited their ability to attend in-person meetings. Other members stated that online meetings were more practical for them to attend, as they were easier to fit around a busy schedule of home, work and other meetings. It also meant that members didn’t need to commit time (and money) to traveling to meetings as they could take part from their own home. 93% of members have had a positive or neutral experience of our online events – a strong endorsement of the great work done by branches across the country. Although 7% of members reported that they had had a negative experience, that’s half the number who said they had had a negative experience at an in-person meeting (14%). This shows that while we still have some work to do, online meetings are much more likely to be positive, open and welcoming spaces than traditional branch meetings. Members also reported that part of the reason they enjoyed online meetings was because they allowed high quality speakers to join the meeting in a way that wasn’t possible if they needed to travel to the branch. Finally, we asked members what they would like to see happen in future. Just 13% of members told us that they want to go back to the traditional model of only in-person meetings. Everyone else asked for some combination, where many meetings take place online, but that there are also opportunities for people to come together in-person. Future programme of events Now’s the time to consider this feedback and your own experiences as we seek to plan our activity with restrictions having ended. An important part of this will be a balance of online and in-person meetings, helping to make sure our events are open and accessible, and everyone can take part. Below are some of things you should start to consider. The majority of meetings should stay online Co-operative Party guidance is that you should aim for most of your meetings to be online, this digital first approach will make it easier for you to organise your events, and also makes them more accessible to a wider group of members. Branches aim to have four meetings per year covering a broad range of topics – we suggest three should be online and one take place in person. Think about your programme We’ve all missed being able to meet up and share a cup of tea or a pint with friends. However, branches should not revert to holding all meetings in-person only. Members have told us they value online meetings, that they are more accessible and that they want them to be an important part of local activity in the future. Every area is different, and you should develop a programme that works best for you and your members. We strongly recommend that the majority of your meetings take place online. A good place to start is to think about the types of events that you want to run and work out what is the best method for members to take part. For example, if you are planning a policy debate and want to invite external speakers then that may work best online; or if you are organising a local campaign as part of Unlock the High Streets you might find it more useful to do an in-person planning meeting. Making sure everyone can take part We want to make sure that no member is left out, particularly if they don’t have access to the internet. We have also seen a significant increase in the number of our members who are online and have improved their digital skills. 96% of our members have emails addresses, and most of those that don’t have given us their phone number. That’s why we recommend that online events should take place on Zoom as it means that those members who are not online, can still take part using their phone. When inviting members to attend your online event, you should give a call to those not on email and let them know the details to join by phone. Your approach should not be to avoid doing online events because some members can’t take part, but to speak to those members to see if there are any measures we can put in place to facilitate their participation. National Events There are important things for all levels of the Co-operative Party to learn from our work over the last year. That includes activity organised by Head Office. Online events such as Co-operation Live will continue to be an important part of our programme. We will be sharing our plans in the coming months and will be listening to the feedback from members and officers about making sure we have the right balance between online and in-person events, and that we continue to improve our online events so that they are meaningful opportunities for members to get involved in our work. Help with your events The Party now has an Organiser covering every region and nation who are here to help support your local member and branch activity. If you would like some support in using our Zoom account, arranging a speaker or not sure how to hold a meeting online, please get in touch.