Politics without borders. How to launch a post-Brexit political movement?

I had a meeting this morning and naturally the topic of Brexit came up. We spoke about democracy and how broken our political systems have become. What is most needed right now are political movements that unite citizens, cultures, countries and communities towards a positive vision for society. Rather than just complaining about the stupidity of Brexit, we need to use this moment to design practical solutions for the future.

The challenge is how do we do this? How do we launch a political movement like this that continues to build momentum for decades to come? How do we do this when we all have countless commitments and responsibilities?

This is when I began to think about the Thousand Network and the IO Collective and what I had learned from running our first retreat in Greece. I asked myself the question… How can I best use my experiences and learnings could be used to help support and catalyse the launch of progressive movements and inclusive communities across the world?

What learnings can I share to help support a positive post-Brexit political movement, given the fact that this is a moment in my life when I want to focus and avoid taking on any new projects?

I decided to take an hour to write this article as my contribution…

So, if I was going to launch a new movement and community this is how I would do it…

1) Create a one pager and host a dinner.

Write a one pager invitation to share with a few people in your network outlining the broad vision for your community / movement. Pick the best project name you can think of… e.g. PoliticsWithoutBorders. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just good enough. Use the dinner to start building a voluntary team and mapping out high profile connections.

2) Find a beautiful retreat venue in a natural setting to host a 3–5 day retreat.

Get a date in the diary at least 3 months away. Get a quote. Create a budget for your retreat and price your tickets accordingly. Try to leave a 15–20% margin just in case unexpected costs emerge. Be fully transparent with finances and commit to investing in profits into a project fund for the community.

3) Create a splash webpage, Facebook group / event and a typeform call to action for joining the retreat (long form) and signing up to the mailing list (short form).

I prefer to use Wix.com for building the website, but other platforms like Squarespace are fine too. Just make sure to use a web builder tool that you and your core team can quickly edit yourselves. It’s also great if you can visit your retreat location and take lots of photos (iPhone panoramics work great) and add them to your website. It makes a real difference when getting people to commit to attending the retreat.

On your initial webpage, don’t try to say too much. In a few sentences clearly state that you aim to launch a movement and build a community around a specific cause / vision. Mention that during the retreat you will be co-creating a shared vision / purpose and then defining the minimal viable organisation needed for the next phase (6 months) of growth. The ultimate goal is to establish a self-managing global community that acts as a platform for collective action in the world. Acknowledge the complexity of the challenge / vision and how together we have the opportunity to set an example to the world and ignite real change and transformation. This is more than enough information for now.

4) Get some big names involved if you can. Add lots of faces / people to your webpage.

Before promoting your retreat and movement on social media try to reach out to some big names and add them to your website as soon as they say yes. The most valuable element of any retreat is the people. Create brilliant bios and profile pages that are tailored to your community’s unique purpose / cause / point of view. Communicate that this community / movement will be a great platform for promoting and initiating genuine change and transformation.

5) Focus on Word of Mouth.

Try to have lots of 1–1 conversations early on with people who sign up via your website. This will encourage people to spread the word and invite their friends. Start promoting at least 3 months in advance of the retreat and getting final confirmations and payments in a month before the event. Keep sending reminders and keeping everyone updated via email / your Facebook group.

6) Designing your agenda. Don’t try to do it all yourself.

When designing your retreat there is a careful balance between content / structure and flexibility / emergence. Remind yourself that the most important thing is forming a great culture and creating a strong feeling of unity and shared purpose. Don’t rush the process and try to achieve too much. Here is a simple framework to follow.

  • At the beginning take the time to do a thorough introductory presentation. Don’t expect everyone to have read your documents. Go through all of the thinking and research that you have done. Answer all the questions people may have. Clearly communicate the problem / opportunity space and the intention of the retreat : to bond as a community, unite around a shared vision / purpose and then if there is time to define the minimal viable organisation needed to move forward. Use the retreat to deepen relationships, connections and commitments to the cause. Actual work can follow afterwards.
  • Spend at least one full day bonding as a community. Learn each other’s names. Get everyone to share their stories and motivations for attending the retreat. Openly debate the issues and questions and themes that emerge. Allow for open and unstructured brainstorming and dialogue.
  • Return to the vision / brand / purpose. Half-way through the retreat bring everyone together to define and unite around the shared purpose and collective vision. Go around stating… our wish for us is… Capture all of the intensions and language. Continue shaping the brand / purpose story.
  • On the final days agree on a minimum viable organisation and the most essential deliverables for next 6 months. Start to create strategies and proposals for all the key deliverables.
Here are some key roles that I feel are essential for launching a community;
Facilitator. Responsible for the unity, balance and flow of the collective. Guardian of the values and purpose.
Strategist. Responsible for researching organisational structures and processes and co-creating an interactive ‘How We Work’ Guide. Exploring the best way to collectively decide on big strategic questions like membership fees and recruitment processes.
Curator. Responsible for gathering everything that is going on within the collective and sending our weekly / monthly newsletters. How to keep everyone up to date with what is going on, so that no conversations are repeated.
Designer. Responsible for translating long documents into concise, interactive and beautiful communications. In charge of keeping the website, key documents and social media channels updated with the latest branding and content.
Eventologist. Responsible for creating a strategy for how we facilitate ongoing events and retreats. Building out a calendar.
Matchmaker. Responsible for creating a process for how we present people and projects within the IO Collective. How do we best spark collaborations without
Bonus / longer term domains. Recruitment & Digital Community Platform. How do we scale up? How do we stay as inclusive and open as possible without diluting the intimacy and culture?
  • Engage the heart and body, not just the mind. Include regular check-ins and sharing circles. Shift locations. Run meditation and immersive movement workshops. Create a space for conscious emergent dialogue, from which new thinking can emerge. Have great food to keep everyone energised.
  • Capture lots of videos and photos from the retreat and update the website. Follow up quickly so that there is a constant flow of activity and events.

To conclude, I have spent a lot of time exploring and experimenting with the question of how to effectively build and launch communities and movements.

I have shared some thoughts in this article. The core piece of advice I would like to end on is that there is no perfect formula. There is going to be plenty of tension and chaos. In these moments don’t panic. Just come back to the purpose and reconnect as a community. Don’t rush. Trust the process. Ultimately, to solve the most complex and challenging problems in the world we need diversity and collaboration.