Error, youth not found. The missing link in getting young people to meetings

In today’s article, Jake Lewis talks about some of the issues that he’s had with bringing young members together within his constituency and why a better system than MembersNet may help with those problems.

If you’ve ever been involved with the organising and/or leadership of a Young Labour group you’ve possibly been in this position, “how do I get more people coming to meetings?”, “it’s always the same few that come”, “I wonder if those emails actually got through to them?”, “I hope the next meeting gets more people.”

Now this isn’t always the worst sign in the world, it can show ambition and determination to improve your local party at every possible turn. But frankly by this point I feel like it’s starting to reflect my irritation, if not more so confusion, at not being able to understand where the missing link is in young people interacting with the Labour party once they are members.

Just a quick reminder of numbers for you all – In December 2015, the Labour party had 388,000 members. This then boosted to 515,000 members in July 2016, with another 181,000 registered supporters added ahead of the September 2016 election.

[Source: http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN05125/SN05125.pdf]

So in theory, we shouldn’t be doing that bad for numbers within local parties, and we’re not in the majority of cases, however there is a single key issue. That issue is attendance, especially so with young people. Here’s a quick example from where I live, in my constituency we number over 100 young members, on average for the past 5 monthly meetings I’ve held I’ve gotten around 2 or 3 members attending. That, surely, must point out that there is an inherent issue, especially when I am not the only one. After talking with several other members of LYON, including a fellow Youth Officer, I’ve found that it’s incredibly common for local young membership to be high while actual attendance is rock bottom.

From what I can gather there are two main causes for this lack of attendance, first MembersNet- the means the party uses to communicate with its members- is exceptionally difficult to use and second, emails are quite possibly the worst form of communication that there is when first contacting young members.

So first things first, MembersNet. If you haven’t had too much involvement with the Labour party in the past then you won’t have seen this system before, so here it is below.

membersnet

No I have not miraculously transported you to the 1990s technology convention, this really is the system the party currently uses to contact members. It looks like it’s been dropped from an old Windows 3.1 system from 1992. At least, you would think, that it would be pretty easy to use, right? Well honesty, you’d be wrong. And this rant would go on far longer, if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m only talking about young people. See, the issue currently is how complicated it is to use MembersNet to send emails to any member, not to mention how hard it is to format a good one using the system and how hard it is to tell if anything has been sent or received. This often results in Youth Officers being completely without the tools they need to do their jobs.

And of course there’s my first point, when the hell did we, as young people, believe that emails were going to get our comrades attending meetings? Besides our politically active selves, how many people do we really think check their emails, excited, for an email from the Labour party? The reliance on emails as a system, when we just got out of debt, increased funds and when we have all this new manpower we could be using to call members, it’s a genuine shock that constituency parties are not getting more support.

If we want to talk about threats to our party, member apathy may be one that we could confront right here, right now, and we need to if we want to perform even better in elections.

jake-lewis
Jake Lewis

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