Taunton Deane and South Sedgemoor Methodist CircuitCommunity Organising with Citizens – Achieving Change with Others

At its launch in March 2019, the TDSS Circuit became one of the Founding Members of CitizensSomerset, set up and supported by Citizens UK.

Many of you may already be familiar with the concept of Community Organising and the work ofCitizens UK but it may be helpful to explain more about what it is and why our Circuit decided tojoin.

Citizens UK has had a track record of achieving change in a number of campaigns across thecountry and is perhaps most well-known for its ongoing work in the payment of the Real LivingWage for low paid staff. More information about Citizens UK and its approach may be found here:


There are 17 branches or chapters across the country, but Citizens Somerset is the first to havebeen set up outside a major city. We are a wide-ranging Alliance of Member Organisations, FaithGroups, Schools and Youth Organisations representing thousands of people in total across theCounty. Our main strength has been in the West Somerset and Taunton Area but recently we havebeen joined by a large Secondary School in South Somerset as we seek to expand into other areas.

Each Member Organisation pays membership dues which means we can pay our CommunityOrganiser who supports us. Membership also buys access to training opportunities for peoplewithin our organisations – training in how Community Organising works is seen as vital.

After our launch in 2019 we engaged in a series of listening exercises with local people, gatheringevidence on which we could campaign for change. Since then, we developed a good relationshipwith Somerset Council and the Police & Crime Commissioner, with commitments made to develop

  1. Schemes to accommodate homeless people in modular housing units 
  2. Payment of the Real Living Wage to low paid staff, particularly Social Carers (Our Circuit isnow registered as a RLW Employer – is yours?)
  3. A safe cycle route between Taunton and Wellington.

Most recently we have been engaged in a major listening exercise on the theme of Community Safety to identify issues of concern particularly, but not only, for young people.

Our campaigns may be small, local and detailed – like improving lighting in a local park – or theymay be larger in scope and also include lending support to campaigns coordinated with otherchapters across the country.

The Citizens approach is strictly non-party political; instead we seek to work with all those inpositions of power, regardless of affiliation

Why has our Circuit decided to get involved?

Our Circuit Mission Policy makes clear our commitment to addressing issues of social injustice,with key statements like:

  1. Encourage and support our churches to work for justice and peace, and care for theenvironment in the local area, the nation and the world
  2. Encourage our churches to witness to their faith through responding to need in theircommunities and the wider world

Other Circuits’ Mission will no doubt embrace similar themes, and we see our membership ofCitizens as a natural way to put these commitments into action. So our Mission Statement alsopledges us to

Work with other agencies, including Citizens Somerset, committed to the welfare of our communities

Our Circuit and Churches also recognised the Connexion’s commitment to these goals through itssponsorship of the ‘Walking with Micah’ project, with its commitment to social justice and itsinvitation to churches to hold conversations about social issues. We see our membership of Citizens as a way of giving practical expression to this, recognising that real change can beachieved if we work together with other churches and other non-faith organisations.

The Vice President of the Methodist Conference, Kerry Scarlett, is also encouraging missionalaction through faith rooted community organising

Where next?

Locally we will continue to work with our communities, identifying the issues that matter to themand pressing people in positions of authority to make improvements.

But we will also continue to try to grow our Alliance of organisations; the more people who arerepresented through membership, the more influence we can bring to bear. And the moremembers we have paying their dues, the more time can we afford to pay our Community Organiser.

With this in mind, we are working on two major initiatives. We are looking to recruit more schools into membership and in particular, we will be looking to work with schools who are being offeredsupport in the ‘Reach’ programme which identifies schools with particular disadvantagedcommunities; community organising can build on what the schools learn through that programmeand offer help and support from other local organisations.

* The email will not be published on the website.