Thursday, 25 September 2014

But we tried it before and it failed...

I recall a colleague who was in-situ as a constituency agent for many years telling me how he "dusted off"  previous year's leaflets, changed the name and date, and printed them again without anyone noticing. This saddened me as it demonstrated how bored he must have been, how the excitement I still have for my job and pride I take in doing it to the best of my ability must have deserted him and, I fear, served as a warning that one day that might be me. 

Ever since, to avoid the temptation, I have resolutely refused to retain electronic copies of leaflets.  I can see how it would happen. It's D-3, candidates and ward organisers are shouting for their GOTV leaflets and you have a dozen other things to do. The ones on file were last used a year ago....  no-one will remember, and if they do remember does it really matter? Suddenly you've crossed the Rubicon and "good enough" becomes your yardstick by whiich you measure your effectivness. 

Retaining a spark of originality and constantly trying to find new and better ways is what keeps us moving forward, and I am fortunate that I work for Officer teams and Associations who seldom say no. I am sure there are times when they must think "where the hell is this heading" but I suspect my enthusiasm and track record allows me more leeway than many. Sometimes my ideas fall flat, others just "wash their face" and some fly; that is the nature of a random and creative mind.

As I travel around the Region and at times further afield I often meet colleagues who are bursting with ideas but are held back by the closed minds around them. During one recent visit I met a councillor from a marginal seat who had downloaded our PV recruitment literature and wanted to run it in his ward, but the Association Chairman wouldn't allow it as "postal votes are liable to fraud".  I've met a Treasurer desperate to run the CCHQ Christmas Draw but cannot do so as "we tried it 20 years ago and it failed", I have visited an Association which insists on interviewing new members before allowing them to enroll and I've met three keen activists who wanted to launch a branch in their village but were refused permission as the Association Chairman didn't want a rival power base. It's enough to make you weep.

I am all for a debate or a discussion and I positively welcome people challenging my ideas. In fact, I wish there was more interaction as having to discuss, debate and defend a suggestion tests its validity and exposes its weaknesses. There are however a group (albeit thankfully a very small group in our neck of the woods) who default to a negative as soon as any proposed change of different approach is suggested. The have got their opposition down to a fine art; usually using some arcance reference to "not fully discussed" or "we've tried it before" as a tool to stop change.  What irritates me most about the people who always say "no" is they never (and I really do mean never) come up with a better idea of their own. Not once have I heard a suggestion from them on how to recruit new LG candidates, or raise new money or enrol new membership. 

It must be totally disheartening to have original ideas and find yourself surrounded by people why constantly look backwards and resist change. How lucky I am to work with Officer teams and Associations which never stand still and seldom look back.

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