At 7pm exactly tonight, the Sydney Alliance City Assembly will begin. It's one of the many things that are different about the Sydney Alliance – we always start on time and end on time. It’s a tip of the hat to the importance of professionalism for civil society – and a mark of deep respect for the thousands of people who turn up to organise as part of this magnificent coalition of Sydney’s civil society.
We use the word Assembly to describe our public meetings to make clear they are different from other forms of public action. This is no rally. There are no “warm bodies” at our events. Every person has been intentionally invited – and they are there because they are the ones who organise for the common good – who have the conversations and take the action to create the change that we all need to see in our city.
The event tonight is a launch of our election agenda –1500 people in the room will be invited to get more involved in their organisations, the Alliance and the campaigns to make Sydney a better place for everyone.
Our Assemblies are an action – and in community organising we teach that every action has a reaction. We plan precisely the kind of reaction we want and design the event accordingly.
Assemblies are political theatre. They are the public representation of what is possible with 49 organisations from all across the political, religious and geographic span of Sydney come together to organise for the common good. There are literally hundreds of speakers. There is a choir made up of our leaders. There will be a roll call of our partner organisations who will make commitments to what they are going to do to build the election campaign.
We run our Assemblies like we run the Alliance. The agenda, politics and turnout of leaders was organised by our leaders. When we use the term leaders we don’t mean positional leaders (although many of them are involved). Many of our leaders are volunteers and members of their organisation – we use the term leaders to identify those people with a following in their organisation, and the capacity to bring others with them. Leaders are people who want to make their organisations more effective, and are prepared to act, collaborate and plan to make that happen.
Tonight you will see Anita Tang from the Cancer Council and Rev Garry Derkenne from UnitingCare co-chairing the event, and behind the scenes Honey Muir from Settlement Services as the producer. They not only ran the event but they also ran the coordinating team that planned the event. Consequently, because this Alliance has so many leaders involved it means we don’t need many paid staff at the Sydney Alliance – just enough community organisers to help and agitate our leaders to lead their own Alliance.
Tonight is about launching a campaign that aims to teach our political leaders and our civil society that there is a new way to do politics. That it is possible for citizens to come together from across all walks of life and agree on solutions to make our city a better place to live for everyone. Our common good agenda for transport, housing and jobs is widely and deeply felt across Sydney – and over the next year we will work to make these meaningful changes a reality.