My life as a Constituency Campaigner
Lisa Rutherford UK Regional Media Manager at Oxfam
9th Aug 2013
Just like most activists passionate about social justice and change, I have always been involved in a variety of campaigns for a number of different organisations. And again, like many activists out there, I have always wanted to find my own niche, somewhere where I could build a community over a sustained period of time, with all the familiar people and with a clear strategy for action. The Constituency Campaigner Programme was completely different to what I'd been doing so far in that it was a carefully structured programme with a clear set of goals,
designed to be a long journey rather than a one off campaigning experience - and it turned out exactly that way.
The first action I took was to invite my MP, a minister for international development, to an Oxfam shop in Wood Green where we discussed the GROW campaign. This was quite a challenge as I didn't know anybody in my area at the time and there wasn't an active Oxfam group in the constituency (Hornsey and Wood Green). Still, the meeting attracted a lot of attention and provided me with a bunch of useful contacts for further campaigning. Encouraged by this success, I organised a charity dinner at a local school, working with a school head teacher from
Wood Green who had brought a few pupils to the shop meeting. The event was based on the idea of Hunger Banquet - very popular with Oxfam America - whereby guests are divided into three groups, the poor, the middle-class, and the rich, with each group receiving different meals. Together with a group of volunteers, we managed to secure food donations from local businesses, as well as our MP and councillors as guest speakers. Once again, the meeting was a great success during which the MP confirmed her commitment to the 0.7% aid target. I have also befriended new campaigners, including a
Muswell Hill charity manager Martin, who turned out to be an invaluable collaborator. Two months later, Martin and I organised an amazing debate on local and global poverty with London Assembly members and local councillors, giving a group of homeless people a chance to speak about their problems. The event also featured two artists and attracted a lot of local residents and volunteers. It was one of the most exciting things I have ever done.
In the meantime, I also promoted the IF campaign at a political conference in London, accompanied other activists to the Trade, Tax and Transparency summit shortly before the G8 and co-organised a media stunt on land grabs in Muswell Hill. In other words, there was never a shortage of opportunities and I did my best to keep myself busy!
Being a Constituency Campaigner confirmed my earlier belief that campaigning is all about relationships and the determination to sustain them. One of my biggest achievements was creating a network of eager and enthusiastic people in my constituency who were always there to kick start a campaign with me, and that I could always rely on. Our group was noticed not only by the MP, but also by variety of other local politicians and organisers, to the extent that we now receive regular invitations to all major events in the area. This helped us build awareness of
certain issues and convince the local people they have genuine power in their hands - it is because of their support that our MP has actively supported Oxfam's calls for change. Following these ten engaging months, I can say without a doubt that getting involved with the Constituency Campaigner Programme was the best decision I have ever made as a campaigner.