Angela Eagle writes:
"I joined the Labour Party as a teenager because I wanted to change the world. I was full of ideas, energy and enthusiasm. I had views and opinions that I wanted everyone to hear. I felt that, if only I could get someone to listen and take my ideas seriously, I COULD change the world. And I wasn’t the only one. I knew people who were equally frustrated, but also excited about their ideas and what could happen if only they could put those ideas into practice.
Some of them channelled those ideas into careers in teaching, academia or the creative arts. Others chose a career elsewhere in the public or voluntary sectors. Some joined a trade union or a campaigning organisation. Some started or joined businesses or companies, and others chose to devote themselves to bringing up a family.
I chose politics. I consider myself to be extremely lucky and privileged to have had the opportunity to see some of those original ideas I had as a young activist brought to fruition by being part of a Labour Government.
Looking back, I am still amazed at just how many brilliant ideas and how much enthusiasm and energy existed simply amongst those people I knew in my part of the world and amongst my circle of friends and acquaintances.
But I’m not arrogant enough to think either I, or that period of time or that part of the world was particularly special or unique. So I know that, right now, there are thousands of people out there with brilliant ideas, and insights – and yes also deep frustration at not being able to get those ideas heard. That’s one of the things that has inspired the thousands of new members who have joined the Labour Party in recent times.
And it’s not just young people. Everyone who goes to work each day or looks around their local community will regularly see things that are simply wrong or could be improved. And sometimes it can be really hard to get ideas heard even within your own organisation or community, never mind in the wider world.
I am determined to do something about this. That is why when I launched my review on the National Policy Forum and policy-making process earlier this year, I was keen to look at harnessing new technology and how to reach out further and find new ways of hearing disparate and often seldom heard voices. So I’m delighted to announce that today, in conjunction with John Healey, I’ll be launching a pilot of “Labour is Listening”.
The purpose behind Labour is Listening is very simple. It is in the title. It aims to give anyone and everyone an opportunity to talk to us. To give us their ideas, their opinions, their insights or even simply their stories and experiences. And it gives us the opportunity to listen. We’re initially piloting the Labour is Listening exercise in two areas – housing and support for small businesses. This pilot will inform my review and I will report to annual Conference this year with what has been learned.
The main vehicle for Labour is Listening is a website: www.labourislistening.org. But in an age of social and digital media, we can go beyond that. So we’re also integrating the Labour is Listening website with Twitter and Facebook so that people can engage with us in real time. We’re also creating a Flickr account where people can send us pictures or even short videos direct from their smartphone.
We’re also setting up a Podbean Podcast – and even making it available for subscription via iTunes.
One of the beautiful things about social media is it enables us to create and support environments not just where people can talk to us, but where we can engage with each other and hear a whole range of views and opinions, not simply the immediate circle of the Labour Party.
So, one exciting part of Labour is Listening is the creation of what we’re calling “Windows on the World.” These provide real-time analyses and insights into what is being said right now across a whole range of social media channels and the web – not just those associated with Labour. And they enable anyone to drill down into what’s being said and respond to it. These are free for anyone to use, regardless of whether or not they choose to give us their views or not.
One of the things that often bedevils listening exercises, whether carried out in the public sector or private companies, is that a lot of effort goes into listening, but not as much effort into responding, and being seen to respond. So an equally important part of the Labour is Listening exercise is investing time and effort in responding to what we’ve heard.
Some of those responses will be simply an acknowledgement and thanks for people taking the time and effort to give us their views. Others might be highlighting and celebrating something we’ve seen that we think is particularly brilliant or inventive. Later down the line, when we have the chance to fully assess everything we’ve heard, we hope to be able to show how the ideas and insights we’ve been given have helped to shape the Labour Party’s policies and approach.
But for now, all we’d like to do is offer you and anyone you know the opportunity to speak and be heard and to be taken seriously. So if you’ve got five minutes free today please visit www.labourislistening.org and get involved. If you like what you see, please share it with your friends and colleagues and let them know that Labour is listening. To everyone."
Quote from Labour List
Angela Eagle MP is chair of Labour’s National Policy Forum, shadow Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills and shadow First Secretary of State.
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