Introductory information on Citizen action networks and The Alternative UK is on our Networks UK page.

Community action networks or CANs is a concept developed by The Alternative UK through their work with local communities since 2017. The aim of this handbook is to distil the essence of learning from this work and communicate clearly the results.

What is a Citizens Action Network?[edit | edit source]

A Citizen Action Network is...
i Where any person – regardless of their perceived values – can go to, in their local community, to participate in the solutions to the multiple crises we face. And in so doing find belonging, meaning and agency.
we Where local civil society organizations can collaborate with local, national and global organizations to provide real, creative and effective solutions. While prototyping a new democracy.
world Where we can contribute to the process of getting the UK to carbon neutral by 2025 without waiting for Westminster to agree. And in so doing, pattern-match with others around the globe to reach critical mass.
You as a human being matter, you're not the piece of a puzzle.
How you see this will impact upon your community, and collectively will have an impact on the planet
[1]

"Obvious questions first. Is a CAN more than community organising? Is it more than Transition Towns, or than a co-operative – all of which are vital elements in the success of any new construct? The answer to this must be yes. What they have succeeded in doing to date, is responding to the multiple crises with those that share their values. A CAN has the ambition of reaching those that might not."

What happens in a CAN?[edit | edit source]

A CAN is designed to connect complex human beings to each other and in turn to the resources available to enable social innovation and well being.

The activities of a CAN articulate the needs of the community while they bring their possible future into the present. A CAN both captures the culture needed for sustaining that community and provides a container within which to land it.

A CAN might include spaces to meet, learning clubs, crowd-funding hubs, and much more. It will likely have its own currency, attaching a different kind of value to its activities. And – when the time is right – a digital network, specifically designed to amplify the network of relationships built amongst the people. When all this is achieved, the CAN becomes a concrete unit of a new, broader system, with a new political and active culture, capable of responding to the multiple crises we now face.

More and more people look for something to get stuck into, a way to make a difference in the face of the powerlessness they experience at the hands of current party politics. Taking action in your local community – from volunteering, to community organising or the full-on building of citizen action networks – provides focus, agency, attraction. And a growing story about a new era of people's politics.[2]

A distinct quality of a CAN is that "It's where local civil society organizations can collaborate with local, national and global organizations to provide real, creative and effective solutions. While prototyping a new democracy." "It's where any person – regardless of their perceived values – can go to, in their local community, to participate in the solutions to the multiple crises we face. And in so doing find belonging, meaning and agency."[3]

Arising out of the activities of CANs one of the common themes is the importance of a combination of education, deliberation and media services to be provided by CANs.[4]

Beliefs we hold: The Alternative UK are holding to some beliefs about the nature of the social reality we're facing, which have emerged out of their work.[5] These include Autonomy and Fractal growth:

Autonomy[edit | edit source]

CANs are not a lobbying or protest body, facing the government or local council. They are a way for citizens to take back not just responsibility, but their "response abilities" for the future. A Citizen Action Network sits below the divisions caused by political parties. The state can be a partner in the CAN, but not the leader. Members of a CAN might end up taking over the council, as in Flatpack Democracy. They are currently described as independents, eschewing the idea of political parties and, as such, are signs of a genuinely new politics.

Fractal growth[edit | edit source]

This new way of relationship-centred operating does not require "scaling up" by a central organiser. Its growth depends upon designing successful – and therefore attractive – prototypes that will be recognisable to others doing the same, with roughly the same tools, all over the world. The development could be described as fractal, because it begins with similar structures appearing in similar sets of conditions. The greatest accelerator is paying attention to those conditions - the human needs and desires being expressed.

People will own it[edit | edit source]

"Every kind of person lives in the communities we are pointing at. The skilled and unskilled; the self-starters and the group-workers. Everyone can play a part, if they step up – even partially – to develop and strengthen the place in which they live. All are connected by technology to the solutions that will get us to carbon neutral by 2025.

Imagine the UK with a majority of cities taking it upon themselves to reach that goal, in ways that gives everyone more well-being in the community. That changes everything at the national level from the examples they set. The very marketplace of ideas and energy – money as well as services – will begin to bend towards that expression of interest and commitment by the people. Political parties will see the votes in it. Business will see the profit in it. But people will own it."[6]

Why now?[edit | edit source]

While government sleeps, can we meet the climate window?

The spirit is autonomous: in the face of government failure to meet the crises – particularly the climate emergency –the people are adopt the hashtag #doingitanwyay.

How can we, the people, best use the next ten years? We need to be in action from 2020. We could have a decade of coming together and building a future we choose. For that, we need Citizen Action Networks.[7]

From Virtual to Actual[edit | edit source]

Citizens action networks or CANs are not A/UK's unique, branded prototypes: in many ways, CAN is a generic term for new forms that are appearing everywhere. But they only qualify as a CAN if they deliver what they promise. A place – both physical and virtual – that enables citizens to meet the eco-system of activities and services available in their city or region. And on the basis of this range of resources, take actions that directly address the crises we face.[8]

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References[edit | edit source]

  1. zoom 21 12 20, Indra
  2. Alternative Editorial: Mastering Overwhelm, Sep 1, 2019 thealternative.org.uk
  3. Alternative Editorial: How To Make the 20s A Decade Of Transformation (via Citizens' Action Networks), Jul 7, 2019 thealternative.org.uk
  4. Alternative Editorial: The pandemic invites us to be bigger, Sep 20, 2020 thealternative.org.uk
  5. Alternative Editorial: How To Make the 20s A Decade Of Transformation (via Citizens' Action Networks), Jul 7, 2019 thealternative.org.uk
  6. Alternative Editorial: How To Make the 20s A Decade Of Transformation (via Citizens' Action Networks), Jul 7,2019 [1]
  7. Alternative Editorial: How To Make the 20s A Decade Of Transformation (via Citizens' Action Networks), Jul 7,2019 [2]
  8. Alternative Editorial: From Virtual to Actual, Feb 17, 2019 thealternative.org.uk
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