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Contents | FOREWORD FROM DAVID CAMERON . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 STEP 1: BUILDING A TEAM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 STEP 2: IDENTIFYING A NEED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 STEP 3: ESTABLISHING A LOCATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 STEP 4: ENGAGING WITH THE COMMUNITY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 STEP 5: ACHIEVABLE AIMS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 STEP 6: DELIVERING THE PROJECT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 STEP 7: REPORTING BACK . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 THE LAST WORD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22

Foreword | Social Action is central in our efforts to strengthen the Big Society, based on the belief that by acting together rather than depending solely on the State, we can deliver real and lasting change. Social Action is now integral to our work as Conservatives in our local areas. It’s a new kind of politics, engaging both grassroots members and the wider population – some of whom may never have engaged in politics of any kind – in the value of stepping up and improving our communities. All across the country, Conservatives have taken up the Social Action challenge and are providing sustained local leadership on what we can do with and for our local communities. As well as practical projects we are also running parents’ groups, organising beat meetings with the police, and supporting people who are out of work through jobs’ clubs. Social Action demonstrates visibly and unarguably that locally-driven positive change is possible if people are willing to roll up their sleeves and get involved. This training manual is designed to give all Conservative activists, or just interested local residents, whether they are old hands at community action or completely new to it, the chance to get engaged in Social Action. I hope you find it useful in helping you play your part in building a better society.


Co-Chairman’s words | for people who have dedicated time to serving their communities. In 2007, in the face of a centralised, distant government and a disempowered and disillusioned electorate, David Cameron set the Conservative Party the Social Action challenge. From then on, Conservative members have not only pursued community service in a personal capacity, but the Conservative Party as a whole has dedicated itself to practical projects which put its principles of social justice and community responsibility into action. Social Action projects break down barriers in and between communities and give Party members and politicians a chance to develop their understanding of how government policy affects people on the ground. It is an excellent way to develop real relationships with those communities that were traditionally harder to reach.

SAYEEDA WARSI Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party

Social Action and the Conservative Party Social Action is not something new. It’s a part of the Conservative DNA. Generations of Conservative Parliamentarians, Councillors and local Party members have been active in their communities as volunteers, governors, fundraisers and community leaders and it is upon this bedrock of compassionate conservatism that we have built our Social Action activities. Conservative principles of social responsibility and localism are simply the natural way of life

That is why at every Party Conference and Spring Forum since 2006 there has been a large scale Social Action Project run in the local area, from building a community garden in Blackpool to refurbishing a community centre in Bournemouth. Its why across the country Conservative MPs, Councillors, members and associations have run hundreds of


and Associations.

projects with their communities. These local projects range from the small to the large, from one-off events to long-term projects that continue for years.

For those who are already running Social Action projects, thank you for everything you have done to date in helping put Social Action at the heart of our Party. To help continue and build on your hard work, more resources will become available online and more support will be given through the Voluntary Party. For those who are coming to Social Action for the first time, this is a great place to start.

And its why Andrew Mitchell led the way in establishing the principle of International Social Action with Project Umubano, an annual project run in Rwanda on which literally hundreds of Conservatives have now taken part in educational, health, sports and building projects across that country. In 2009, I led a project to Bosnia Herzegovina to help with refugee building projects, sports and education, and in 2011 Tobias Ellwood MP led a team to Bangladesh to work on education, sports and medical projects – refurbishing a school, rebuilding a football pitch and providing cataract operations to Bangladeshis.

I have been privileged to travel the journey of Social Action with the Party, from leading one of the very first social action projects- a mobile book library in West Yorkshire in 2005, to serving as Shadow Minister for Social Action for three years, during which time we undertook a flagship social action project at every Party Conference, as well as many more throughout the year up and down the country. Above all, I know from my own experience that Social Action works, it is also a thoroughly rewarding experience and I am delighted it is part of the Conservative DNA.

Many local people are attracted to the idea of joining in with projects to help in their community and finding a way to be part of the Big Society. Local Conservative Associations can play an important role, acting as a point of contact and taking the lead on developing Social Action in their area.

So please get online or contact our team to get involved.

We have appointed Social Action Coordinators throughout the UK to help stimulate local activity and act as a resource for local MPs, Councillors,


Introduction | Nick De Bois MP communities in the UK have been robbed of their independence and communal strength through the culture of dependency that grew up under Labour’s Big Government and Social Action is one of the ways you can start to work for and with your local communities to change that. Whether by volunteering your time or expertise (formally or informally), fundraising for or with local charities, serving as a governor or a special constable or setting up your own community group or charity there are a huge range of ways that you can play your part in strengthening your local community and giving the Big Society a boost in your area.

NICOLA BLACKWOOD MP Vice Chairman for Social Action

Social Action can be time consuming, it is hard work and not every project will ‘take off’, but when you have a project that responds to a need in your area it can be one of the most rewarding things you will ever do.

What is Social Action anyway? Social Action is about people working together, taking responsibility for their local area and helping to create the society that we want to live in by doing the little, practical things that together can add up to big social change.

I encourage you, whatever your previous experience or doubts about social action, give this course a go. You will be surprised how much you enjoy it!’

It is also about setting an example in your community that says you don’t have to accept the status quo or wait for someone else to challenge it – if you want to see a change in your area you can make it happen. Far too many


ConstituenCy: enfield nor th

Jobs Fair and Jobs Club success

Position held: Member of Parliament

eCt: soCial aCtion Proj

since 2010

‘jobs Fair’ and ‘jobs



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th 40 businesses er whelming success wi ov an s wa elf its ir’ Fa ub’ is now The ‘jobs or advice. The ‘jobs Cl rk wo ing ek se es de rt local and 1,200 atten nefitting from the expe be e ar es de ten at h, nt running every mo rvices. business support and se


Step 1: |

Building a team Identifying your team

who are there at everything – canvassing, running delivery networks, organising branch fundraising events – and there are others who focus on one thing, perhaps they have a regular delivery round or are really good fundraisers. The best team will be made up of people who have really bought into the project so while a stalwart Party organiser may be persuaded into taking on additional responsibilities because ‘it’s the right thing to do’, think about whether the project goes with the grain of that person’s skills and priorities and whether that person is overloaded with party commitments. On the other hand, there may be other members who have never considered social action before and may need to be approached or who may lack confidence in their abilities. Social Action may be just the opportunity to get involved they were looking for. That way you expand your activist base rather than increase the burden on your existing activists when you start a new project.

Before you can start anything you need to think about building up a team around you. The key to finding the best team for a social action project is exactly the same as finding a team for any other kind of project – you need to find people who are excited about what you want to do (and so are willing to devote precious free time to it!), who have the skills you need, and who can work together effectively to make the project a success. Usually, you will have a core team of fewer than six people who will manage the project and larger numbers who will simply take part in the project as volunteers. While the latter are easier to come by than the former, as anyone who has run any kind of voluntary project will tell you – it is easier said than done.

Building a core team It may seem that the people who are very involved in local Party organisation already are the ones who will be keen to get involved with your project but bear in mind, they might be at volunteering capacity already and moreover, social action might not be the way they want to serve their community. Your particular social action project won’t suit everyone. If you think about your local Association for example, there will be some people

If you think you have identified someone who would work well with you and others in your core team you need to find out what makes them tick. Why they want to be involved and what they want to achieve with such a project. The best and simplest way to find this out is simply to have a cup of coffee, one to one and really discuss what your vision is and

a sense of what issues concern you as a group and why you have collectively decided that you want to set up a social action project. At this point, it is helpful to write down a plan of how you will get from that meeting to having delivered a successful social action project. This plan can be very general but it is helpful to give a sense of structure, accountability and to be clear from the very outset what your objectives are.

listen to what your volunteer thinks and feels about that. Knowing the objectives of team members early on makes it much easier to ensure that the Social Action Project is designed to take them into account and you are less likely to lose key volunteers along the way. Once you have identified and met with the members of your core team, the next step is to get together and start to get

‘We can learn so much as a Party from

working shoulder to shoulder with different communities both in the UK and abroad, using that experience to better inform our politics. Social Action not only helps others but also strengthens our Party.’ ANDREW MITCHELL



Step 2: Identifying a need


What is your local priority?

How will you focus it?

You will find a wide range of social challenges in your local area: homelessness, unemployment, educational underachievement, elderly isolation, struggling single parents, the list could go on. Sometimes the scale and range of these challenges can seem overwhelming and it is necessary to be focussed for your project to have the impact you want. The first challenge then is to prioritise the needs of your area. Talk to voters, community groups, friends and colleagues, surf the web and scan local news and identify the key local, social issues in your area. As you do that, keep in mind that the most effective Social Action Projects are those where the volunteers and co-ordinators are not only passionate about the social challenge they are taking on but where their experience and skills mean they can make a valuable contribution through that project. For example, a local businessman may well be an ideal person to recruit a team of other professional men and start up a mentoring scheme for underachieving boys in the local secondary school.

When you have decided which issue you want to take on, you will then need to identify the needs within that sector. For example, if you decide you want to do something to try and tackle the challenges of homelessness, find out where the gaps in provision are for your local homeless community – is it more shelter, food, clothing, or counselling that is needed and if so when and where? Again the key to this process will be talking to the community you want to support as well as charities, community groups and individuals who are already supporting them. During this process you might wish to consider partnering with an existing organisation. This is a good way of establishing credibility, as well as not re-inventing the wheel in terms of the action you will take. If for example, rather than helping a specific section of the community you want to set up a project to refurbish a communal garden area and keep it in good condition, a good place to start would be to call a public meeting, ask for volunteers and set up a steering group involving both Conservative members and local residents to make sure that the local community feel engaged in the process and have a sense of ownership of the garden for the long term.



Suggested Activity

rovide all attendees with post-it notes, display fold out cork board and ask participants to place a need they identify from their local area on the board. The organiser can then pick at random an example from the board and ask the relevant participant to explain why that is a local need and how they would go about focussing a social action project to address it.



Step 3: Establishing a location The location of your Social Action Project may already be determined by the need you have identified, as in the example of the community garden outlined above, but other projects are less geographically defined.

Is it one place? As you consider the best location for your project, take into account issues such as levels of deprivation and concentrations of the need you are focussing on, locating your project so it complements existing charitable or community projects, access to the project for users and volunteers and the wider impact of doing something positive in harder to reach areas.

Is it many places? It may also be that your project doesn’t have a single geographical location as such, in the case of the example of the mentoring scheme, that could be delivered in the students homes, or at school or at the mentors place of work or any variation of those locations for each mentor-mentee team. In the case of a phone befriending service for the elderly the support may consist of a phone call from the volunteer’s home to the supported individual’s home. In the case of a hospital lift service, the car of the volunteer and so on. It is good to have


one point of information for these sorts of projects however, so a website will be vitally important for projects without an obvious geographic centre (see Step 4: Engaging with the Community). Social Action is not about politics, it is about trying to challenge a social problem in your area, about breaking down barriers between communities and about giving Conservative members the opportunity of getting a chance to fully understand how policies affect different communities on the ground. Make sure that wherever you decide to locate your project you establish, as much as possible, a good working relationship with the relevant local representatives and authorities.


Suggested Activity

rganiser to hand out copies of Social Action scenarios to small groups. Groups to identify challenges associated with that location and what actions need to be taken to facilitate an effective social action project in that location. Organiser to pick at least two groups to present their ideas and discuss with all participants.


Don’t let petty local politics get in the way of your project delivering the help and support for which it is designed.



Step 4: Engaging the community Social Action is about working with as well as for your local community, so do not focus solely on recruiting Conservative activists. Remember local residents are just as likely to be passionate about the issue as you are if not more so.

Contact local interest groups If your project involves young people, contact schools, colleges and youth clubs, and wherever possible try and get them involved in some way, even if just in an advisory capacity. If your project involves homelessness, start with existing charities, drop in centres and faith groups. Not only do you want to make sure that you have their goodwill but you also want to make sure that you are not duplicating or contradicting the work they are already doing – in almost every case it is better to work with the grain of local provision than against it.

Tell the wider community all about it Once you have contacted local providers and interest groups concentrate on communicating with the wider community. Knock on doors, deliver leaflets, try and drum up some local media interest and use social networking sites to announce and explain your Social Action Project and to invite local people to get involved.


Use the whole process as an opportunity to broaden your network of local contacts and to challenge any scepticism about politicians or Conservatives wanting to take action to promote social justice.

Think about sponsorship or endorsement You can also consider the issue of local sponsorship and endorsement. Engaging with local businesses may encourage them to support your project, whether it is through staff participation, finance or publicity – many local businesses are keen to establish their corporate social responsibility (CSR) credentials in the local community and your project may be a way for them to do that. Remember Social Action is as much about the community participating in the project as it is about completing the project itself. If you want to make your Social Action project a regular occurrence then you might wish to document your project into a small booklet offering businesses who donate equipment or funds some advertising in return. The benefit of producing a small booklet or leaflet is that when it comes to raising awareness of the Social Action work you carry out the next time you are to start a project, all you have to do is point people towards your literature.


In the first instance you need to ‘launch’ your project so that people know you are there. For example, at first, to raise awareness, it may be worth advertising in local papers if you cannot get free local media. Depending on your target area, putting up posters in local community centres, post offices, libraries and GP surgeries can be a very effective and cheap way of getting your Social Action Project out there and, of course, a website and targeted use of social media is always worthwhile. In addition, making leaflets/posters available to

Develop a communications strategy Finally, if the project is longer term you will need to have an information point for the project. Some projects which are concentrated in a small geographic area, like a community shop or garden, may be able to use a notice board and local newsletters to make sure everyone is kept up to date but other projects which are not so obvious to the local community need to develop a more creative communication plan.

‘Social Action brings down barriers which

otherwise cause divisions within communities. I firmly believe that there is no better way of showing that we as representatives of the Conservative Party care’ IAIN DUNCAN SMITH


Margot JaMes MP complementary services (e.g. if you are given permission the Benefits Office is a good place to advertise a Job Club) and asking if you can announce your project at the local Parish Council meetings, residents association meetings, churches, mosques, schools etc can be a quick and effective way to let people know you are there as well as, possibly, recruiting other volunteers. Thereafter, you will need to make sure you give local residents, community groups etc regular updates so they know

that you are delivering on your promises and so they know what service you are offering them. Websites and social media are the starting point for this, followed by (as with a political campaign) leaflets, door knocking and return visits to local Parish Councils, residents associations etc to keep up relationships. It may be that some volunteers will be happy to help with leafleting, door knocking or IT rather than in other ways on the project or it may be that the regular local association delivery network could help with this.

ConstituenCy: stourbridge

Position held:

Improving English language skills

Member of Parliament

since 2010

n improving participatio igin. women of Pakistani or

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, Stourbridge. Lye Community Centre


Suggested Activity

sing the Social Action scenarios, groups to decide on an outline plan for a Social Action Project based on their scenario and to develop 5-point plan for engaging with local community to effectively develop and communicate their Social Action Project. Organiser to pick at least two groups to present their ideas and discuss with all participants.



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Step 5: |

Achievable aims One word of warning at this point: be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. Running a Social Action Project is a great opportunity to do your bit to help the local community but remember you are representing the Conservative Party. Many local communities will be doubtful about your motives and your commitment and if, with the best of intentions, you are not able to deliver on your promises you will end up doing more harm than good. Many of the people and groups you will encounter have been let down by councils, governments, schools and families – make sure you do not add to their list. It is good to be ambitious and challenge yourself and your team but it is wise to start with something you know you can achieve and scale up as your project gathers momentum. One of the ways of ensuring that you are able to deliver your project is ensuring that the aims of your Social Action Project match the skills and time commitments of your volunteers.

your local authority, and existing contacts. You will be surprised how many people are willing to contribute to a charitable project (rather than a political one) if it has a sound plan and clear commitment from its volunteers and organisers.

Costs will also play a part in deciding how ambitious you can be with the scope of your Social Action Project but don’t be overly pessimistic on this front – if there’s anything a Conservative Association knows how to do, it’s fundraising! Try and source as much of what you need – whether in direct funding or other resources – from local businesses, fundraisers, sponsorships,


Suggested Activity

roups to consider what kind of resources would be necessary to deliver the Social Action Project they have outlined in the previous activity. Organiser to pick at least two groups to present their ideas and discuss with all participants.


‘Social action is practising what we preach -

social responsibility and social justice are foundation principles of the Conservative Party and social action is their natural expression’ WILLIAM HAGUE MP



Step 6: Delivering the project At this point you are ready to begin delivering your Social Action Project.

Be prepared and have a plan Ensure that you have all the resources you need (human and otherwise!) before your project starts. If you are using tools or equipment make sure that they are all in good working order and laid out ready to use before you start. Just like any campaign action day, if people are giving up their time they do not want to stand around waiting to be given a job to do so make sure there is a clear plan of action and list of jobs so you can get them to work straight away. It may be that the organisers need to turn up the day before, or even just a few hours before, the volunteers to make sure that everything is ready to go when they arrive. Ensure that all health and safety checks have been


done and if any outside checks need to be delivered they are done well in advance of your start date. If your project works closely with children or vulnerable adults, volunteers will need to have CRB checks, these also need to be done in advance.

Think about your volunteers If your project is a practical building or gardening project or a community day, think about refreshments and facilities for volunteers as well as users, happy workers are harder workers and are more likely to come back for more! If your project is not concentrated in one place, make sure that volunteers and organisers meet regularly to keep updated and share information about how the project is going. Whatever your project make sure that you have a clear plan so that people can see progress and that everyone can share in the sense of achievement – this will be especially important if you have local sponsorship, donors or endorsements as you will need to account for your activities to them and you will not be able to do that without a clear record of the activities of all volunteers. In particular, it is very important to keep a record of who helps and their contact information so you can thank them at a later date and let them know if there are any other opportunities to volunteer in the future.


someone answers it – if a volunteer is lost trying to find the project and the organiser with a mobile doesn’t answer it they will lose that volunteer. As with any kind of campaigning volunteers are there out of goodwill, don’t waste it by being disorganised or taking them for granted. There are plenty of other opportunities for them to volunteer if they feel like you are wasting their time. It is worth designating one person to be responsible for managing volunteers, it will bear great dividends in long term.

In general, making sure that communications with volunteers are clear and timely is vital to the effective recruitment and retention. Nothing frustrates volunteers more than giving up a precious weekend only to find they have been given the wrong time or location. Nothing prevents volunteers turning up as much as only hearing at the very last minute about the details of when and where the project will take place. Most importantly of all, if you provide a contact number make sure

‘Sometimes the problems facing our

society seem overwhelming, a social action project that tackles even a small local issue can give communities hope of the change they need’ ANDREW FELDMAN


HeleN gr aNt MP ConstituenCy:

eald maidstone and the W

Photograph everything l

Finally, make sure you keep a photographic/video record of your project. If you are renovating a building or place take photos before and after your project that you can use when promoting the good work after the event. If you are offering a service take photos of volunteers with users in action – posed shots are good, action shots are better. Social Action projects are a great opportunity to invite the local media along to what you are doing. Local media like local people doing local things and media coverage can help raise funds, recruit volunteers and engage the wider community in what you are doing.

Suggested Activity

roups to put together a short plan to recruit and retain volunteers for their Social Action Project (no more than 250 words) and/or Groups to list 5 criteria that would determine whether their Social Action Project has been successfully delivered. Organiser to pick at least two groups to present their ideas and discuss with all participants.


Schools connecting and sharing internationally

Position held: Member of Parliament

since May 2010 ge scheme.

linka eCt: international school soCial aCtion Proj

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Step 7: Reporting back If your project is a one off or short term project it is important to make sure local residents and other Conservative activists know all about it if they haven’t heard already. Many people will have heard you were promising to do something but if you don’t tell them you did they will assume you didn’t deliver on your promises and your hard work will not have the impact it could. As with any campaign, publicising your project in the local media or producing a leaflet explaining the project (with as many pictures and local endorsements as possible) not to mention telling local schools, community groups and Parish Councils about it are all part of the process as is including the project on the local Conservative website. If you have had support from local businesses a good way of brokering a deal is promoting the business in such publicity.

| official. Most Social Action Projects develop strong relationships between the volunteers and the local community, it is a shame to waste that. Finally, your local Regional Co-ordinator and CCHQ are very keen to hear about successful Social Action Projects however big or small they may be. Your Regional Co-ordinator should already be in touch with your Association Chairman so please email anything you are doing to them and to This means that we can promote the project you have done and also share the ideas you have developed with other Conservative activists who are keen to start up projects but don’t quite know where to start. You never know what kind of project you might inspire!

WeNDy MortoN ConstituenCy: t ynemouth

Position held:

Green Action!

Party Member

eCt: green action days at soCial aCtion Proj

the dene.


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amount oF time Pe

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In addition, ensure that you maintain an ongoing relationship with any organisation or group that you have assisted. If you have identified a need and built relationships within that sector make sure you continue to lend support in whatever way you can. You may not be able to continue with the level of commitment that you had during the project proper but most groups understand that and appreciate even some fundraising or help getting in touch with the relevant MP or local authority


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Contact details getinvolved/social action socialaction activistcentre/social action 0207 984 8041

For more information contact –

Promoted by Alan Nicola Mabbutt Blackwood, on behalf on behalf of theofConservative Social ActionParty xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. both of 30 Millbank, London SW1P 4DP. Printed by xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. by TPF Group, Lexicon House, Midleton Road, Guildford, Surrey GU2 8XP . .

Social Action Training Manual  
Social Action Training Manual  

This manual details how to run a Social Action project, large or small, in your area.