Monday 23 March 2009

Change, live links and how membership without fees works

The book we publish today, The Change We Need: How Britain Can Learn From Obama's Victory, establishes some innovations for the Fabian Society.
We have published it under a Creative Commons license, meaning for those of you who have encountered one before that you can read and share it online.
It will be available on our website as a PDF and on our sister site,
Fabian members still get the bonus of getting the nicely bound book through the post and being able to carry it around in the handbag, pocket or however they want to carry it. But there it is online when you want to consult it.
Also, the Change We Need debate today will be covered on Twitter, via the Fabian blog , where we will be test running a new gadget called Cover It Live, to see how that adds to the experience. We hope to be able to add a video to YouTube as well.
We won't be able to use all these gadgets at all events, but we felt these were appropriate to the discussion of a book, which talks about the upside of new technology. while adding that is all about the content that the technology brings closer.
So hopefully, for those members who don't get to the debate, you'll still have plenty of ways of engaging with the debate.
Tonight we hope to tackle a few of the questions, editors Nick Anstead and Will Straw have focussed on in the book, these include:

* getting rid of Labour Party membership fees
* introducing primaries for elections
* getting rid of the "command and control" attitude

Cynics out there have a tendency to say none of this makes a difference - and Britain is not America.

Firstly, we know that. This is a different country that doesn't mean we can't learn some lessons from the Obama campaign, and that they can still be useful.
Secondly for those with a negative bent on public engagement, can I point you towards some Fabian research carried out in 2007 that showed that of 2,500 "liberal" NGO members while only 9% thought they might join the Labour Party at a later date if they had to pay a membership fee, 34% said they would be willing to become a registered supporter if they didn't have to pay a fee, just so they could be better informed, and even if they didn't get to vote.

What this shows is that NGOs have set the model with the varying levels of membership which means they first prove they are worthy of your support, then they engage you in issues, then ask if you are willing to take part.

For political parties this is a model that has not yet made it into public life, but one that could prove to be the model of the future.

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