Unions and the internet: 65% of new members in my branch now join on-line

John Gray from UNISON

John Gray is UNISON National Executive Council Member for Community & Voluntary sector

Unions21 held a Tech Seminar on 24th Jan

 

Held in the headquarters of the CWU, the room was packed with national union officers and lay activists.

 

Simon Sapper from the CWU kicked off by posing the question: What do unions want to achieve online? Is it a organising or servicing tool or is it both?

 

Paul Hilder (Global VP Change.org & 38 Degrees co-founder and Director) and John Coventry spoke passionately about the idea that “anyone can do it” by e-petitions and online campaigning. They gave examples of the individuals who have taken on loan sharks, Amazon tax avoidance and even BBC Newsnight bullying.

 

I asked a question to them over something which has long been a niggle of mine. “I am a great fan of new social media, but what is the end game of on line campaigning and how will it translate into greater union membership and changing politics since at the end of the day you will have to rely on traditional Party politics to bring about change”? Paul gave a good answer that on line campaigning could justify itself by attracting people to start a journey that they otherwise would not be attracted by. I’m still not 100% sure.

 

Gregor Poynton (Blue State Digital) gave a slick presentation (of course) on how unions can do better with online campaigns. A ladder of engagement starting off with getting members to spend 15 minutes a day online supporting causes rather than being expected to commit to hours and hours of boring committees and meetings.

 

Ed Mustill (Labourstart) plugged their new guide on online campaigning (which I bought off him for £3) and compared (rightly in my view) online support for trade unions fights with being on a freezing cold picket line and a passerby comes up out of the blue with hot coffee and biscuits.

 

Gavin Hayes (Policy Review TV) gave a convincing pitch on why we should consider not spending say £40k on venue and transport costs for 100 people to attend a national meeting and instead £3-4k on setting up an on-line TV video facility.  This could attract a much, much wider participation for potentially peanuts. Makes perfect sense to me.

TUC’s John Woods with Unions 21 Chair Sue Ferns and Infobo’s Simon Parry

TUC (Social Media Guru) John Woods gave a typically lively and informative punt on unions and blogging. I loved his analysis that all media works best when it’s from the horse’s mouth. But you can take the horse to Word Press but you can’t make the horse blog! (but they can make them appear in Tesco burgers! someone behind me said).

 

Simon Parry from infobo spoke on which unions perform best online, and the power of the search engine. He had looked at on-line joining union websites and found some sites did not offer full online joining, only accepted Internet Explorer browsers and had poor security. The UNISON website however scored highly. 65% of new members in my branch now join on-line.

 

Solicitor Binder Bansel (Pattinson Brewer) spoke last about Data Privacy and staying within the law online (I had to declare an interest in this matter)

 

So Great seminar. Thanks to Dan Whittle, Unions21 and CWU for organising it (you can check out on my twitter feed on the seminar).

 

 

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