Green Chat – Yvonne McLellan

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By Morvern Rennie

@YvMcL

In which I just want to give Yv a huge bear hug.

Yv is the epitome of the busy woman who gets shit done – co-founder & director at native publishing, A&R Scout for Spinnup, former co-Regional Campaign Support Officer for South Region, ordinary member of Operations Committee not to mention her various ad hoc commitments in the music industry.

MR: So you’ve been RCSO and you sit on Ops – what’s it been like being in the ‘belly of the beast’ in the run up to H2016?

YM: Well, I had to temporarily come out of Ops whilst being an RCSO. This is due to Ops members not being allowed to be staff members and committee members at the same time so I’ve only just returned to Ops last week which is exciting. I was also part of the H2016 Project Team but chose to come out of this once I became a staff member purely to make sure there was no conflict of interest.

Being an RSCO was an amazing job! I’m puffed out and needing time to get my life back in order but would do it all over again in a minute.. But once I’ve managed to get back on track with normal life stuff.

MR: You genuinely ran the most inspiring campaign in South – do you find your day job helps inform your work for SGP?

YM: Aw thanks! I’m still a little bruised that Sarah didn’t get elected so it’s difficult to be 100% happy about it all but still hugely proud of the way everyone in the team came together to try and make real a difference with some lovely friendships also blossoming from it all.

The South is such a huge area. When I got the job with Jen who was my jobshare sidekick, that’s when the enormity of it all started to sink in. We had to adapt and come up with different ways of doing things due to the scale of the region.

In terms of skills crossover I do think that helped a huge deal. I often said to my music friends at the time that there were huge similarities between the campaign work and what we do in music. Many of the crossover areas like organisational and diary management stuff, being fluid, being creative and doing things a little differently, into our technology and adaptable served up with a side of thick skin and calmness. The most fun part would be packing up the van and taking the candidate on tour! I think you see where I’m going here haha.

Generally though, being interested in research regardless of the topic, having insight in recognising trends and gaps really helps which is what I do most of the time anyway but really helpful stuff would be day to day things like organising events, making flyers, dealing with the media which is completely the same, just for a different topic.

MR: We had similar problems in H&I – our plans for tours etc got interrupted by relentless hustings across the region. How do we support growth & campaigns in rural and island areas?

YM: The million dollar question!

I think the main thing is to try our best to make everyone feel as informed as possible and to ensure that members have a stake in decisions being made, in campaigns and in the party as a whole whether you live in a rural area or not. To take suggestions and offers of help on board but to be equally as supportive and as helpful as we can be; it’s a fine balance and you don’t always get it right.

We all have a collective responsibility in how successful we can be but quite often many of the jobs needing done end up falling on the shoulders of the same people and we need to be careful of burnout but also to not be super hard on people when they don’t have huge amounts of time to offer.

In my first ever meeting I was asked to consider being a committee member and just about jumped out of my skin. This was pre-Indy surge and some branches really struggled to get members to come out to meetings so being mindful of not jumping on people is a good way not to put people off but finding the balance of giving them the opportunity to get involved at a level they are comfortable with.

When you start to add in the logistics of spread out areas you encounter a whole set of new problems.

During the campaign, in terms of hustings we tried to involve as many of our list candidates where possible and asking branch members in those areas get involved with things like buddying candidates. Logistically this tended to work quite well and it was another way of enabling members to get involved. This also meant that we could plan some activities without too much fear of disruption. The amount of hustings this year though was more than I can ever remember, it was incredible!

Many of the branch areas in the South are proper mental in terms of how they are spread out. How some branches have dealt with this is to have working groups within their branches where you have pockets of members working within their immediate locality whilst coming together as a unit for larger branch events and meetings.

Another really good way of gathering the momentum of feeling part of something when you’re so spread out was the South of Scotland Conference. This happened before I joined the South campaign but was a brilliant idea and something that the South are looking to continue with where all 6 branches come together to have a mini SGP style conference in the area. Meeting other Greens definitely helps.

The only issue with stuff like this is when you don’t have knowledge of boundary lines of regions etc for each of the different campaign areas and other branch areas it all becomes a bit murky in the head and some members could be left feeling ‘What is this?’

A lot of the issues we have as a party I feel is generally down to basic comms issues. I’ve been thinking along the lines of a VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) that they use in colleges and universities. If we had our own Green version containing useful FAQs and How To guides with flowcharts of how and where things are I think it would break down a lot of the mystique of how things are done but that’s a whole other story! I digress..

MR: How do we avoid burnout but still deliver great campaigns?

YM: Sarah came up with a great suggestion during the campaign where we started putting in our members mail outs little quotes of how people liked to relax. During the intensive campaign period it’s really easy to forget that we are human and need to have that little time out because if you don’t you can become anxious and grumpy and that’s no use to anyone. For some this was talking about how they set aside a set time each week to be with friends and family or even basic things like their favourite TV show time. Danny, our board campaign manager, was also fabulous with this and was our rock in this respect.

I have to be honest I’m not very good at turning off at all and one of the things that came out of some of the feedback is that the RCSOs were pretty much working every day and night so I took the decision to set aside Saturday afternoons to spend with the kids but it’s tough when you know there are people out campaigning; guilt often creeps in even though you know you’ve been doing all you can.

The main issue with staff was that we had our main workload during the day but when dealing with groups of volunteers most of this activity would take place in the evening and weekends.

Another was the pressure on those who have families and how to balance life and campaigning. There are tales of things like Domino’s Pizza becoming a regular campaign time family meal and we really need to look at this for future campaigns in how best to support those with commitments without them feeling guilty. It’s about making sure that folks knew it was OK to take time out.

Spreading the workload is key and not being too precious by holding onto stuff and having regular hugs for all and making it as fun as it can be. Again it all comes down to recognising, appreciating and harnessing activists skill sets, ensuring communication is flowing and having the confidence in others to let go.

How you encourage folks I suppose is by letting them know how they can become involved and that no matter how small a contribution is it’s all hugely important in creating that bigger sphere of activity.

And always say Thank You!

MR: What are your hopes for the structural review?

YM: There has been lots of chat on various forums and I’ve been watching and taking note of what everyone has had to say so far, as have others.

In our Ops meeting a lot of what has been mentioned and discussed so far has been spoken about but in my mind whatever happens two really important things that need to take place:

1. That the wider membership is consulted with at every stage. James from SOC has started work on doing this already which is great.

2. That it’s not rushed whilst still being timely enough to be effective.

There are many strains of thought and we have to get it right. My hopes will be that we solve our issues of rapid expansion whilst retaining the essence of what we are.

It’s not an easy task of coming up with a solution to retaining subsidiarity and participative democracy when going from just over 1000 members to over 9000 whilst ensuring we can make decisions quickly enough to be able to respond to issues effectively.

In terms of inclusiveness and equality we tend to lead on this front but there is still much work to be done and really happy to see the creation of a new staff post to help explore this area extensively.

One thing which I also feel is important is that we are able develop an appropriate mechanism enabling everyone to still have the opportunity to be able to have input to policy.

Branch development is also a major factor and would like to see something put in place to help support branches grow.

MR: Where do you see your future in SGP? You’ve got such a range of options available to you right now! You would make a hell of a councillor but you would also be incredible working in an internal or branch role.

YM: Good question. I suppose eventually my ideal scenario would to be working internally with either parliamentary or party stuff doing research, constituency work or branch development. Also anything involving working in specific areas like music and culture, education, animal welfare or looking at ways to improve areas of deprivation would be the dream.

People laugh when I say I don’t like attention geared towards me but I’m most happy when I feel I can be of use behind the scenes helping folks but I will however be putting myself forward to be considered for the council elections.

It’s not an easy thing to do putting yourself forward for when you’re not overly comfortable with lots of attention but for me the local council elections are so important for so many reasons and where I’d be most interested in elected office should I be so lucky to be given the opportunity.

When I joined the Greens it was partly due to my frustrations with my own local authority. I was studying my masters at the time and was conducting research which led me to find things that enraged me so much that I felt compelled to try and make a change, somehow, and the Greens were the only ones coming out with policies that addressed some of those frustrations.

Not being from a political background or having an education in politics it’s taken me a long time to get my head round the workings of it all and I still have loads to learn but I’m up for the challenge.

Every time I meet folks that are so fed up with the way things are just now, regardless of their political affiliations I tell them “stand for election, because if we don’t then it will be the same old usual suspects and nothing will change. It’s time for everyday folks who are desperate for change to come forward”

Where can I vote for Yv????

 

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