About the UK pro-European Network - UKPEN
(you can say “Uck-pen” or “You Kay Pen” it’s up to you.)
UKPEN is a network that already exists – the network of all the local pro-European grassroot groups in the United Kingdom. But it is also a project: to enable that network to function more effectively, and to grow into something much bigger.
UKPEN began in December 2016 as a collection of websites locating and documenting the growing number of grassroots groups engaged in the fight for Europe. From the summer of 2018 that remit has grown to live up to the name. In this new version the UK will have a true pro-European Network.
UKPEN began with maps.
Political parties have access to the electoral register and can map their support to the individual doorstep. UKPEN was based on the realisation that groups campaigning to remain in the EU would sooner or later need similar resources, and would probably need to develop them themselves without access to the electoral register. Work initiated by “Vote for Europe” to help campaign in by-elections was disappearing in Facebook, so UKPEN was at first a constituency by constituency record of those maps that had been used in the heat of campaigning.
Second came the nationwide constituency-based network of Facebook groups created by Nigel Grey: “The 48% – [Name of constituency]”, which he listed in Index groups, region by region. Where were these constituencies? Which existing pro-European groups could they turn to for guidance and support? UKPEN saw the need to relate the constituencies to areas and official regions of the UK both to answer these questions and to answer the other question which was cropping up: “Where is my nearest group?”
Next came a snap General Election which highlighted the way that constituency pages could become a useful place to pool knowledge and views about individual MPs.
Today the network is taking on an expanded role. The existing vocation of putting every group on the map and providing a template for constituency resources remains intact. The new function is providing pro-European groups, or pools of groups, with an access route to the resources of Europe-wide organisations.
Some have wondered about the utility of the gazetteer approach. “Just make a list”, they say, “alphabetical order will do fine”. And for some purposes that is right. But for seeing who is where, who can practically link up with whom, and why some places just seem to fall between several stools, only a map will do. For lobbying MPs, the constituency unit is the only thing that matters, but for organisational purposes more widely recognised names like counties or towns do the trick. If it comes to a further voting campaign we will need to know our territories, and we will need to be organised everywhere, not just in the places where groups have sprung up naturally. That’s why the maps matter.
Having the whole network of groups in one place is important. Despite the People’s Vote campaign marking a great step forward in coherence, there are still and will always be groups that are on the outside, away from the direct influence of the main national organisations. Bringing information about all those groups and their reach into one place means there is a hope of coherent cooperation between disparate bodies. That is UKPEN’s mission.
WHO ARE WE NOW
In 2018 a new pan-European organisation was created called Alliance Europa that aimed to provide an umbrella of support to established pro-European organisations and movements. UKPEN is now in the process of becoming a member of Alliance Europa so as to forge a link between the amazing energy of our grassroots teams and the growing family of Europe-wide movements.
UKPEN will do this by offering local organisations the opportunity to link themselves into the United Kingdom Pro-European Network. Being linked to UKPEN will provide access to support networks and other sources of support from across Europe from organisations like Alliance Europa. The partnerships forged by UKPEN and its European Affiliates can help local groups in the UK with:-
- Access to greater mainstream and social media output
- Networking with EU institutions and European-based NGOs.
- Access to a coordinated strategy
- complementing the People’s Vote strategy
- Including strategies to fill in the gaps where there is no coverage
- Access to common campaigns and resources…
UKPEN supports the People’s Vote: the campaign to obtain it, and more especially the future campaign to win it.
WHAT UKPEN IS NOT
- UKPEN is not a rival organisation to the large national campaign groups like European Movement, Open Britain and Britain for Europe. UKPEN is a supplementary organisation that provides services that are not fully covered by the national campaign groups.
- UKPEN linkage does not affect the affiliation of local groups, UKPEN is a network aimed at bringing together local groups to help provide them with support in areas not yet covered.
- UKPEN does not have any of its own ‘branches’ or ‘chapters’, its linked groups are free-standing organisations and UKPEN cannot dictate any actions that its members must take.