In West Kent we do a reasonably good job across the board, but I am not too proud to say there are areas where we are weak - and I am grateful for advice and guidance. One such area is Conservative Future.
Launching and maintaining a vibrant CF branch is particularly difficult for us for three reasons:
1. We have no universities - so no wide or deep pool to recruit from
2. Our constituencies are denuded of potential members as most people 18-22 years of age leave West Kent to go up to universities elsewhere in the country (probably getting politically involved there), and
3. Upon graduation, few can afford to move back to West Kent given property / rental prices.
A combination of the above factors makes it difficult to get a CF branch up and running. When we do find a potential group of 16-18 yo's they soon leave following their A levels, and by the time they can return to West Kent (or can afford to do so) they are in their 30s and probably have no time to be involved as they are working all the hours God sends to earn the money to pay their West Kent mortgages.
This is a great shame because most of our local Management Committees and Executives are desperately keen to establish and support a CF branch - and not just as cannon fodder and foot soldiers. We want to bring young people into politics, we want to encourage and empower a new generation of activists and we want to build an open and inclusive organisation. And we know we cannot accomplish this if we cannot attract younger people.
At our recent Open Primary in Tonbridge & Malling we went to the most extraordinary lengths to involve first time voters; every resident aged 17 -22 received a written personal invitation in the post (about 5,000 people). We ran Facebook Ads targeting young people aged 17 - 25 within a 10 mile radius of Tonbridge. We organised stalls in local schools and 6th form colleges to publicise the event and worked through the politics teachers to encourage attendance. And despite this investment and activity, only three 18 - 23 year olds registered to attend, and of these only one actually turned-up on the day. This was desperately disappointing; not because of the considerable time and money we had invested in reaching out to first time voters, but because so few of them responded. At least we tried.
So I am opening this to "the wisdom of crowds". What are we doing wrong? I am sure we are not the only Associations to suffer from the issues outlines above - but other areas appear to have thriving CF branches.
Any recruitment literature or examples of best practice would be really appreciated. Advice and ideas equally welcome. Please send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
I really would welcome your advice and help!