Whereas traditional hustings place the emphasis on hearing from politicians and parties, a ‘People’s Politics’ event begins by hearing from those whose voices are not often heard within the political discourse before asking candidates to respond.
The event would take the following format:
- Identify individuals or representatives from groups who are often marginalised within society: this might be someone from a homeless shelter or users of a food bank, groups with learning disabilities, young carers, asylum seekers or any others that might be applicable to your local context and to the election being held who are willing to share their stories (up to three people is ideal).
- At the event, have the Chair introduce the format, the candidates and those who have been invited to share their story.
- The first person shares their three-minute story then poses a question that they would like the candidates to answer.
- Each of the candidates in turn responds to what they have heard and attempts to answer the question. This should be a three-way conversation between the Chair, the person sharing their story and the candidate. It is not a dialogue between the candidates.
- Once all the candidates have done this, the Chair will thank them and thank the person who has shared their story, before inviting the next person to share their story.
- Once all the stories have been heard, and responses from candidates given, the Chair has the option to ask all the speakers to take further questions from the audience (time permitting).
Much of the success of this event relies on facilitating individuals to share their stories. For some of those individuals, this may be an intimidating process: ideally you should spend time with them in advance ensuring that they are comfortable with the format and what is expected of them. Some may wish to read their story from notes, or for someone else to read on their behalf. For others, speaking for three minutes may be difficult and in these instances an interview approach between the Chair and the storyteller might be more appropriate.
Knowing what question to ask the candidates may also be difficult for those sharing their story. If this is the case, you may need to help them think about the question in advance. The question does not need to be complicated and often simple, open questions such as “If elected, what would you do to address this issue?” can be very powerful.
The second significant part of the process involves facilitating the discussion between each candidate and the storyteller. In this instance, it is important that the Chair ensures that both individuals are allowed a fair contribution and that they do so in a measured and constructive way. This should be explained to participants in advance of the event.