How campaigns are really created

Creating a campaign to confront climate change is hard work. Every group and context is different, so there is no standard process. But there are often some common steps.

Here is one example that walks through some of the common steps — from a Jordanian campaign group We Get Together: we are all entitled public transport (معاً معاً نصل – النقل العام حقنا جميعاً):

  • Gather a few people
  • Develop a campaign goal, recruit more people, revise campaign goal
  • Publicly launch the campaign, recruit allies and volunteer
  • Focus energy on winning the campaign

 

1. GATHER A FEW PEOPLE

The work of We Get Together started with two people: Omar and Hiba. Omar is a young designer who had volunteered with Greenpeace. Hiba is a mother who had worked with some non-governmental organisations in Jordan.

Both of them took part in 350’s Global PowerShift in Turkey. There they learned about campaigns and developed skills by attending workshops on digital campaigning and trainings on methods of social change and tactic escalation.

In Turkey, teams were asked to think of local campaigns that were linked to climate change, and while Omar and Hiba had good ideas, they weren’t certain how two people could influence work on an issue as big as climate change. They put together a proposal, wrote a compelling description, and applied for a little bit of seed funding to get them started. They didn’t know if they would be successful or not, but they figured the least they could do is try.

In other words: a few people got together and decided to commit to creating a group, around an issue that was important to them.

 

2. DEVELOP A CAMPAIGN GOAL, RECRUIT MORE PEOPLE, REVISE CAMPAIGN GOAL

In Jordan, there are both environmentalist groups as well as some awareness about climate change – but the challenge was to develop a climate campaign that would feel relevant to many, many people. So Omar and Hiba looked for a way that could connect to the issues that were most important to people. They decided to target one of the biggest contributing sectors of greenhouse gas emissions: transportation.

The lack of public transportation infrastructure services, funding and maintenance meant that, over the years, most Jordanians had no option but to purchase their own private cars. As a result, Amman’s traffic problem, today, is bursting at the seams; wasting precious time, money and energy and causing massive environmental and health problems in its wake.

In that way it was about climate change, but just as importantly, they could get people involved based on the social, health, and economic dimensions. This concept is important—they picked a widely-shared value in society and used that to think about how their campaign could attract new people.

They then began researching by reading everything they could find about public transportation. They found almost no Jordanian journalists that talked about this as an issue. Even worse, nobody was really talking about it as a climate change issue.

They began talking to friends and anyone they met about this issue—slowly the group We Get Together was created and grew to a handful of people. They were no longer just one or two people, but about a dozen people would meet over tea and coffee in their weekly meetings.

After they discussed and slept on the idea, they did what almost all organizers do when creating campaigns—they adjusted their goals and vision to be within their capacity. Because the issue was so big, and because so little work was being done on it, they decided to start smaller and focus their campaign to Amman, the capital city and their hometown. They picked a campaign goal with tangible goals for expanding public transportation.

They had a clear goal to mobilize the public and demand better transportation infrastructure and services in Amman. Of course it was not clear if they could win — but in every campaign, there comes a moment when you don’t have all the information but you take the risk and boldly tell people your plan, even when everything is not figured out.

 

3. PUBLICLY LAUNCH THE CAMPAIGN, RECRUIT ALLIES AND VOLUNTEERS

The group was formed, but the campaign was not yet public. They wanted to launch it when they had some strength and focused goals.

As they assessed what they needed to launch publicly, they realized their group was small. Moving the municipality to change its plan (even on an issue that could resonate with the average Jordanian) seemed too big. Even getting journalists interested would be quite hard (they would ask unanswered questions like “how would you get them to do it?” and “who do you represent?”).

So they did a couple of things. They decided to partner with a group with legal standing. They began asking their network—friends, and organisations people had volunteered with—to help them find a group to partner with. They sent e-mails asking a range of groups who might be willing to partner up around this campaign. They were exposed to lots of groups who weren’t the right group, but they persisted and kept looking for new allies.

Around this time they also began doing some initial outreach work to gain volunteers. They spent time outside of bus stops and other public spaces listening to public transportation users’ first hand experience. They found the municipality had a proposed vision but that it was inadequate. So they began writing critiques of the plan and suggesting alternatives, getting advice from experts and everyday Jordanians who used current public transportation services.

This value meant they weren’t just representing their own voices, but recruiting and learning from the people who are most impacted by the problem. This gave them stronger dedication to the issue as well as giving them new information, perspectives, and even new dedicated and extremely passionate members!

All this persistence paid off.

By coincidence (and this often happens in campaigns), a local group, Taqaddam, was looking at the same issue. Taqaddam is a multi-issue organisation dealing with a multitude of social justice issues, including transportation. But at the time they weren’t able to run a campaign on this topic, due to lack of resources. The energy of the local and growing volunteer 350 group was a perfect match!

The coalition with Taqaddam gave them a chance to trigger the launch of the campaign: a public press conference cleverly organized with people cycling towards the city’s municipality building, symbolized the goals of this grassroots campaign. Taqaddam brought its media expertise, and We Get Together mobilized and further empowered its local volunteer network.

 

4. FOCUS ENERGY ON WINNING THE CAMPAIGN

Since then, they have done many public events, outreach activities, and co-launched a research institute report on the shortcomings of the current plans for public transportation in Amman. The campaign is ongoing—but they have persisted on the same campaign goal (rather than launching a bunch of other campaigns or doing random actions).

Through those various efforts the team has gained a great amount of publicity, which continues to generate further interest among the local community. The core group has grown from two to five people who working and hoping for a major win. The team is certain they have left their mark on society as well as decision makers involved.


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