Finding new ways to influence parliament through APPGs

For charities working with parliament, recess is an opportunity to stand back and take stock, and it’s worth thinking about some of the less high profile routes that will allow you to make a difference in parliament all the same. Focusing some attention on all-party parliamentary groups (APPGs), interest groups for MPs and peers from different parties with a shared passion, can help you to identify supporters in parliament and provide a basis for co-ordinated action.

Connecting with supporters in parliament

Working with APPGs can be a great way for charities to increase the visibility of their work, connect with organisations working in their field and build relationships with parliamentarians who may be willing to support their work or their common cause. They can also provide the opportunity to publicly scrutinise policies or to contribute to reports which may make national headlines.

And of course, in this parliament any way you can find of bringing together a cross-party group of MPs could make life very difficult for the government when it comes to a close vote.

There is an APPG specifically to discuss issues relating to charities and volunteering in parliament (and I help to run it), but there are over 600 other groups that charities can start to build relationships with whilst parliament is in recess.

Find new groups and make yourself indispensable

The general election is likely to lead to a number of new groups forming, and churn in the MPs and peers who are elected as officers of existing groups.

If you identify an APPG that is directly relevant to your work you should make yourself indispensable by offering assistance, attending meetings and publicising the work of the group. Parliamentarians are often keen to hear front-line experience, and you may be invited to present your case to them in parliament. Use the fact that a new group may have less outside recognition, and that newly elected officers have a current interest in your cause, to raise your profile.

All groups have a public enquiry point which can be looked up, either the office of an MP, or an organisation that is supporting the work of the group. Get in touch and ask about plans for the group, and whether you can be of use.

Work with the Brexit APPGs: Best Brexit, Better Brexit, Business Brexit, Brexpats…..

There are six APPGs dedicated to Brexit, and whether the group wishes to halt or speed up Brexit they will be looking for anyone who can provide them with evidence or testimonial of the impact or possibility of the proposed changes.

While APPGs don’t have any official powers (unlike select committees), some of these groups have been outspoken about their intention to campaign and to hold the government to account. For charities who feel the discussion about the UK’s future is impenetrable, working with these Brexit APPGs is an opportunity to have your cause heard by some of the loudest people in the negotiations.

With the high public interest in Brexit, it is likely that there will be media coverage of the work of these groups, so it is more important than ever that your charity is seen to remain party-political neutral.

Working with smaller groups

Don’t think you only need to focus on the larger APPGs – working with smaller groups that attract less publicity can be a good way to build cross-party supporters who may be able to quietly lobby your cause, ask parliamentary questions or raise your work in debates.

A good example are the 132 country groups. These groups may allow you to influence UK attitudes towards a policy in that country, or persuade officers to make particular asks of the government of that country, without fanfare.

Consider starting a new APPG

If there isn’t an APPG that covers your work then consider supporting the establishment of one. Most groups are backed by an organisation that does most of the leg-work for the officers – organising meetings, writing reports and handling administration of the group, as NCVO does for the APPG on Charities and Volunteering.

This can be a great way to build relationships with a wider group of parliamentarians and sector stakeholders, but you will need a founding group of four MPs and peers, from opposition and government parties, and registration can be onerous. If you have a good relationship with a parliamentarian they may be happy to discuss the possibility of starting a group, and Hansard and TheyWorkForYou can be great tools for finding other MPs and peers with a common interest.

If your organisation would like any support or training for setting up an APPG, or you would like advice on how to get more out of a group you already work with, then we are happy to help.

 

NCVO’s latest podcast episode looks at what the new government means for charities and how you can influence – have a listen

 

With the recent changes in the UK political landscape, campaigning effectively is crucial. Our annual Campaigning Conference will explore the key things you need to know, including key insights for political campaigners post-election, and the latest trends that will help you get ahead.

Find out more about the Campaigning Conference

 

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Woody Faulkner Woody Faulkner is external relations team assistant at NCVO. He helps to provide the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Civil Society and Volunteering, monitors our media coverage and runs our parliamentary events and receptions.

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