Update on our new groups strategy – April 2021
LRU has three branches in Newham & Leytonstone, Hackney and Lewisham, and five Groups in Tower Hamlets, Brent, Haringey, Camden and Wandsworth. If you live in one of these five boroughs, or bordering one, contact firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.
LRU has almost doubled in size in the last 12 months, and there’s lots of interest in how we are structured and what opportunities there are for organising locally. Our structures come out of how we organise, so really this is a question about how we think we’ll win!
This page will detail our structure, how we’ve decided where to organise, our local organising strategy, and what you can do if you don’t live in a borough we are organising in. We want to include the detail here for transparency for our members, but if blocks of text aren’t accessible to you please email us for a chat.
How is LRU structured?
The most important unit of LRU’s structure is our branches. We are involved because of a shared interest in our neighbourhood and those that live there, and that shared interest is what binds us together. Branches are our way to organise the communities in our borough, and have teams, roles to get involved with, and representation on our coordinating group. This document lays out how our branches work.
People wanting to set up a branch can be organised in a Group. Groups can also be formed through a non-geographical shared interest, like our Spanish speakers’ Group. Groups focus on building an organising team, learning from the existing work happening in their area and in the rest of the union, and recruiting renters to build a collective that reflects their area.
Once a group has demonstrated it has built its power, through strong relationships in the community, building the membership, and supporting renters to stand up to landlords, it can apply to become a branch. Groups have limited powers until they’ve built an accountable structure and spoken to lots of renters.
Groups are supported through our New Groups Team and its two staff. The New Groups Team is a subcommittee of the Coordinating Group, and has responsibility for the strategy of where we build the union.
New Groups strategy 2020/2021
LRU is attempting to foster a shared identity as renters, because our power comes from our shared interest and how we act on it! But London’s 3 million private renters is a very broad identity to collectivise, with many competing interests and different identities within us.
We are a union that strives to be led by the multi-ethnic working class, as it is those of us experiencing oppression not only as renters but also through racism, disablism and other dominating power structures who are stuck in the worst housing conditions, and have the experiential basis for what needs to change. At the same time, London’s rented sector is a huge cross-class mix of people; all of us are oppressed by it and need to fight for change. As an organisation that came from the left, but is made up of renters who weren’t all on the left, LRU has a long way to go to shift power dynamics and ensure we are being led by our local communities and not the most privileged renters. As organisers and housing activists, we know that our power comes from the transformation of our experiences of oppression through agitating, educating, and organising – we aim to win, not to ‘be representative’. It is only through building an alliance that speaks to all renters that we will have the power we need to win.
What does this mean for our New Groups strategy?
Throughout 2020 LRU was working on a strategy for how to expand from our existing three branches in Newham & Leytonstone, Hackney and Lewisham. Many of our members wanted to get organised in their local area, but our experience as organisers has been that a group needs a lot of support in order to do transformative community organising. We think we’ll be a more powerful union with a smaller number of branches and groups that are really doing the work to become rooted, and we know our capacity to provide support to these groups is not unlimited!
Because building an LRU group has implications for the work of members and staff in other areas, the decision to build a group is not only one for the members in that area, but for the New Groups team as well. If you are interested in setting up a group in your area, you can contact email@example.com to discuss what steps you’ll need to take in order to make a strong proposal to the team. As a first step, we always propose getting involved with your closest branch or group for some months in order to learn how we organise and get to know some other members.
Once the New Groups team developed a process and criteria for deciding where we wanted to focus our organising, we surveyed our membership to hear where the most energy was, and talked to members in many boroughs. As well as these inputs, we researched the material conditions in different boroughs, our levels of membership and of requests for housing support, and the existing organising networks that existed (whether they would support or oppose LRU setting up locally).
Our three priority areas are currently Tower Hamlets, Brent and Haringey, and we are supporting members in Camden and Wandsworth to take the early steps towards building a branch. The 2021 New Branches Plan is available on request lists the activities groups might undertake at different stages of development, and the support they can expect from the New Groups team.
Basic strategy of local organising
LRU’s overall strategy and some of the tactics we use can is available on request and is an overall framework that can help us create a localised plan. We create plans with members in boroughs that we are organising in, using our experience from other boroughs, but translating into the local context.
Building a branch has 4 stages.
- Research and Relationships
– Building a team
– Mapping the borough and building relationships with local organisations
– Choosing a ward to focus our organising in
– Phonebanking our members
– Organising a launch meeting
2. Outreach and Listening
- Training in Outreach and Member Solidarity (collectivising around our housing issues)
- Mapping the ward and preparing an Organising Drive
- Structuring the group by building teams for different activities
- Starting peer support in meetings
- Running events with local organisations
- 3 months of sustained street outreach building the membership
3. Neighbourhood Meetings
- As we do street outreach, we begin to run neighbourhood meetings for the people who’ve joined LRU.
- Building this new team in the ward, and running disputes with landlords
- Creating a community, running socials
- Connecting the new team to the rest of the union
4. Becoming a branch
- Running borough-wide meetings for all members
- Picking a campaign, using what we’ve learnt from the listening campaign and the disputes we’ve run
- Starting to take on bigger power-holders, supporting other local campaigns
LRU has developed lots of resources to support members in each of these stages. However, no amount of resources can change the fact that it is a lot of work to build a branch! We want this work to be accessible to everyone, at the same time as recognising that deep organising requires time, which not everyone has – we need to ensure that there are a range of activities, and that we don’t value some forms of labour over others. Branch-building does require enough people to have or build a solid core team that understands its area. At the same time, anyone can develop the skills involved in organising, and this can be a really empowering process!
Branchless members forum, organised activity for the branchless, and things any member can always do
If you don’t live in one of the boroughs that LRU is currently organising in, there are still ways you can be involved as an LRU member. We are holding our first Branchless Members Forum on Saturday April 17th 2021, as a place for members who aren’t currently involved in our organising, and members who are involved in new groups. The forum will focus on building relationships, thinking about structures to help communication with members, and learning community organising skills.
As well as the branchless members forum, there are regular activities that branchless members can get involved with, from phonebanking to being involved in our working groups on Education, Communications, No Borders in Housing, the Disability Justice Caucus, and our Spanish speaking members group. There are also activities any member can do, such as putting up posters or handing out flyers. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to access these resources.
If you’d like to help build a new LRU group in your area, please let us know by filling out the form below.
If you are interested in organising with LRU and live in/have a strong connection to one of these boroughs, get in contact to get involved!
Tower Hamlets LRU – email@example.com // https://twitter.com/towerhamletslru
Brent LRU – firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Haringey – firstname.lastname@example.org
Camden – email@example.com
Wandsworth – firstname.lastname@example.org
Let us know how you can get involved
JOIN THE LONDON RENTERS UNION
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A special joint event by London Renters Union (LRU) and United Voices of the World (UVW). We will discuss how our struggles intersect, and strategize how we can build power both in our workplaces and in our neighbourhoods. There will be space for members from both organisations to share issues that are impacting you, there will be discussions on your employment rights and your renters rights.
On Saturday April 17th at 11am LRU will be holding its first ever Branchless Members Forum! As agreed at last year’s All Member Assembly, the forum will be a space for LRU members who don’t live in a branch area to connect with other members, learn about what is...
Our Introduction to Member Solidarity training is for all members who want to support other renters with their housing issues, and stand up to landlords and estate agents. You will learn about how we organise member solidarity in the union, our principles and process,...