How to set up a local group

I attended the local-groups session at ORGCon last weekend. I made a few notes. Then I set up a local ORG group in Sheffield. We’re holding our first meeting on Monday (and if you’re able to you should come!)

If I can do this in a week you can do it in your area too. If you’re into digital rights, and you want to meet up with others to discuss the pressing issues of the day, why not start your own branch of the Open Rights Group?

Here’s what we did:

  • Choose how to communicate. We took ORG’s advice and set up shop on, which is a paid-for service but with the advantage of being an integrated solution, however there are many other tools you can use to organise yourselves. The trick is to pick one and stick with it.
  • Promote the group. We did this before deciding on topics or scheduling our first meeting so that people could express general interest without committing to anything. This encouraged participation. We started off with a post to the org-discuss mailing list and by spreading the word on Twitter, IndyMedia and Postcode Gazette.
  • Gather your group’s preferences. We asked everyone two questions when they signed up: when can you meet and what would you like to discuss?
  • Arrange a venue. We chose a dedicated community meeting-space rather than a pub, as this allows us access to wifi, a projector and a bit of quiet in which to hold our discussions. It’s also more inclusive of people who don’t drink alcohol. We won’t be forgetting the social side though – there’s a good pub close by and I’m sure the discussion will spill out into it afterwards!
  • Meet! Our first meeting will be an opportunity to meet each other, discuss what we consider to be on topic, share the issues we’re passionate about and sort out the arrangements for subsequent meetings.

For future meet-ups the plan is to take what’s worked well for the London group and mix that up with the GIST foundation‘s wealth of experience running myriad special-interest tech-groups in Sheffield.

Each meeting will have a specific topic. One of us will present a short introduction and the rest of the time will then be given over to discussion. We’ll also be mixing in some practical sessions and we’ll invite local experts to give talks whenever we can.

We’re getting some support from ORG too. They’ll be promoting our group to local sympathisers using their mailing lists and they may also be able to send us interesting speakers occasionally.

During each meeting we’ll aim to come up with a list of practical actions for people to take afterwards (if they want to) such as signing a petition, writing to their MP or attending a protest. We’ll be reporting back to the community after every session so that others can read about what we think and share their own views. When other groups get going nearby we’ll go to their meetings and invite them to ours.

If you’re one of the many ORG supporters who wishes they’d get out of London and do more in your area what better way to make this happen than to kick off a local group? It’s really easy and you could find there’s a community of like-minded activists right on your doorstep. So what are you waiting for?

If you want to start up a local group feel free to ask questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to be useful. If you run a similar group already feel free to share your advice and experience!

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