Reporting back from our ERS members’ workshop

Lizzie Lawless, Membership and Digital Officer

Posted on the 4th March 2021

Following the 2019 election, we set about revising our campaigning plans for the new political situation in Westminster. As with everything over the last year, the process was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, but we can now report back on our progress. 

We’ve been talking to MPs, academics and activists, as well as listening to membership. The support of our members is key to the work we do at the ERS. Their contributions support our team’s work in parliament, in the press and online – making the case, and backing it up – for how we can fix Westminster’s broken system.

We conducted a survey for all members to feed in their ideas, then followed up with a zoom workshop, in which we invited a small diverse group of our members to have further discussion on how we might campaign over the next few years.

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We are incredibly grateful to all of the members who have contributed to this process so far. We’d particularly like to thank everyone who came along to the zoom workshop.

Following the workshop some of the ERS members who attended took the time to give us an insight into their experiences.

Ailar Hashemzadeh:

“I very much enjoyed attending the ERS workshop to discuss priorities for the next 5 years. I’d never attended a meeting with other members so I was unsure about what to expect. 

It was great to hear from members across the country about their ideas for how we progress the cause of electoral reform. I was delighted that my group decided to focus on an issue that I suggested, engaging young people. Movements such as Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion have shown that young people are engaged on the issues that they care about and we know that electoral reform could be one solution to reaching their goals of a greener, fairer and more equal society. 

Our discussion was enriched by having members from a variety of ages and backgrounds, and I enjoyed hearing their perspectives and challenges on how exactly we could propose electoral reform as a solution to these issues. 

These unique perspectives will give the ERS team lots to chew over, and to think up strategies to engage younger voters on the benefits of reforming our electoral system. I will certainly be carrying these ideas through in my own political work.”

Charlie Norman:

“Giving stakeholders a voice in the direction that any organisation moves in is a fundamental of democracy, and the workshop that the ERS held with us demonstrates that this is not just an ideal or an obligation, but should and can be a valuable process, where ideas can develop through conversation and debate. 

That finding was at the core of not just the workshop itself, which was a great opportunity to bounce though off like-minded but diverse people in a friendly but critical environment, but also in the conclusions many of us came to about the direction the ERS should take in their advocacy. We felt that electoral reform should be an opportunity, part of a package of reforms that can help provide solutions to many of the policy challenges we face today. 

Electoral reform can help to give people a voice, not just a stake in policy but a chance to improve it as well. Electoral reform should be part of tackling COVID, climate change, race issues, inequality; not a divisive, political issue, but a positive change that the ERS should make clear is much less frightening than a continuation of the status quo!”

Rachel Parker:

“I was so nervous before attending. I strongly believe in Electoral Reform, but couldn’t possibly imagine what I could bring to the session. This changed when the ERS sent round the responses from the membership survey. Reading through, I found myself saying things like, ‘that’s such a good point’ and ‘hmmm I’m not sure about that’. I realised I did have valuable insight and opinions, I just needed something to trigger them. 

The session comprised rapid presentations dispersed among group discussions in breakout rooms. I was glad to have an ERS facilitator (whose name I shamefully can’t remember) in my breakout room group – I know from experience that meeting with a group of strangers can be painfully awkward, but this was not the case at all.

My group was excellent, and I enjoyed my discussions with them very much. They were patient and had fantastic thoughts. I was still nervous each time I put forward an idea, and possibly wasn’t the most coherent in my delivery, but my points were met with nods of approval from the others, and returned to throughout the discussion, ensuring I felt that my points were valid.

I needn’t have been nervous. The session was inclusive, enjoyable, and of course, incredibly valuable.”

Laura Wilson:

“How can a big, disparate group produce useful commentary for ERS, in less than two hours? 

From those present, we’d agree now the answer is more potential directions, analysis of assumptions and smart objectives than you might ever imagine. 

The plenary looked daunting, a screenful of boxed faces, the worst of Zoom. Not to worry, the session moved fast. We discussed in small groups with a narrow focus and short timescales. This cut the waffle. It also brought forward big ideas. 

Skilled facilitators gave us time for introductions and to agree a culture. Our group decided we were all on an equal footing, we’d be open and accepting of views. Others fed back similar values as we came back for further instructions. 

On the climate for ERS’s work, our group highlighted the challenging political context, the need to be flexible, anticipatory, not reactionary. We saw opportunities to connect with different communities.

We asked ERS to seek out more BAME groups to improve representation and to look at a social media strategy for wider public awareness. We asked for ambitious targets, too. 

This review session felt meaningful and hopeful. And wow, does PR have committed, engaged champions, all across the UK.”

Stig Brautaset:

“In the 2017 UK General Election, the First Past the Post system gave the Conservatives 21% more MPs than Labour, with just over 6 percent more of the votes. The SNP got fewer than half the votes of the Liberal Democrats, yet got nearly three times the MPs. And the DUP got ten times as many MPs as the Greens, with little more than half their votes.

Since then I’ve known we need electoral reform, and I leapt at the chance to partake in this ERS workshop to help them decide where to focus their resources. I enjoyed meeting people (over Zoom) with different ideas and background, joining their focused discussion. 

At times we also split into small groups, brainstorming ideas and strategies; each group aided by an ERS representative. It was interesting hearing all the different experiences and perspectives.”

If you want to join Ailar, Charlie, Rachel, Laura, Stig and thousands of others supporting the team in making the case, and backing it up, for how we can fix Westminster’s broken system, become an ERS Member today.

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