People, Places, Money and Photocopiers – Staying Independent

Looking ahead to our joint IDYW/NCIA April 26/27 events on ‘The Drive to the Market’, find below a paper written by Penny Waterhouse, which emphasises the critical role of community action in opposing the imposition of the state’s agenda.

How we can resource community action that is fighting for justice and equality rather than delivering the latest government agenda? This paper lays down the underpinning principles and requirements for resourcing community action that is truly voluntary and independent – and therefore likely to be unpopular with the status quo. We hope it sparks debate and ideas.

What is community action?

Voluntary association has historically played a critical part in our democratic structures. Voluntary groups have spotted gaps in community needs, tested out new ways of meeting these and ensured services are made available more widely, usually by getting the state to provide them. Many voluntary organisations continue to play this role although the chances of getting the state to provide services are much reduced in the current context of cuts and the privatization of public services. Voluntary groups are more likely to find themselves competing against each other for contracts to deliver services than joining together to demonstrate the need for services. However voluntary association continues to provide a space for people to come together outside of state control and the pressure of markets to enjoy each others’ company and join in activities, whether simple conviviality, leisure, solidarity and assistance, personal or social change. But there is a third kind of democratic role that is coming more to the foreground as voluntary association is threatened – that is to act as a check and balance to the state and other powerful interests. It is these kinds of voluntary association that that are referred to in this paper as community action.

Read the full paper People, Places, Money and Photocopiers ; Let’s Talk

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