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How To Campaign

OK You've just discovered the council have given the US Airforce permission to build a missile silo in the children's sand pit at your local park and you wanna do something about it. But what-and how?

Up until five years ago people in this country pretty much thought "Who's gonna listen to me, I'm just one person". But then 'a motley band of straggly-haired hippies' (Media description at the time) invaded the site of a new motorway at Twyford Down, they came back the next day and the next and the next...

Suddenly there was a new way to register your vote. Now, (thanks to some great media sensationalism), everybody's doing it, from road protesters and civil rights campaigners to local mothers and pensioners bouncing cars off of blocked pavements, ordinary people are discovering how to bend the government's ear.
What follows isn't a definitive guide to setting up a campaign: every campaign is different, so are the attitudes of the council/company/polluter you are going to be dealing with, even the people within a campaign will vary. This is basically a checklist of the needs common to all campaigns. OK, so you think your the only one who gives a damn about the sand pit - wrong. Start sounding out the people you know, friends, your own family, talk to the parents whose kids use the pit.

Think about who else would have an interest, maybe the local primary school teachers? Take the phone nos. of anyone who shows an interest; even someone who doesn't seem too bothered but does say, "It shouldn't be allowed" might change their mind once they find their neighbours are doing something, tell them all you're organising a meeting, get them to tell anyone they think might be interested. It's going to help a lot at this stage if you can give them a leaflet explaining what's going on. You don't have to spend a lot of money or be a great artist. You only need to put down the title of the campaign, why it's bad, whose being bad and a contact no. You can type it or just hand write it. Most cornershops do photocopying for about 5p and you should be able to get up to 12 flyers out of an A4 sheet of paper.

Nukes Off Our Pit
The council is going to let the US air-force build a missile silo on our sandpit
We say NO
If you would like to know more about the campaign or come to a public meeting
Phone 666999

You might only have got ten people's nos. but by the time you do hold the meeting they might have told another 20 people or 30 or 50...

Next step is to find a place to talk to these thousands of angry mums and before you hold your meeting to do some research. Most pubs have function rooms upstairs and most will let you use it for free; if a pub isn't suitable for your campaign there's school halls; church halls, even your front room. A well known and easy to get to venue is the best but even if your first place isn't quite right there's always somewhere else for your next meeting. Get in touch with other groups who know about the subject you are tackling. OK, perhaps a sandpit isn't a good example at this point, there probably aren't that many experts on sand around, but say your campaign was about an incinerator, find an expert on pollution from incinerators or global warming who will come and talk at the meeting. A lot of the groups in the contacts list at the back of this book can provide you with a speaker or if they don't they 'know a man that can'. Don't forget your local Green Party or Friends of the Earth; the library have lists of all sorts of groups as well.

Make sure it is well publicised. At this stage unless your distant auntie's left you a bit of dosh you can't do much more than put up say 10 A4 posters around the area. Contact the local radio and newspaper, they might come depending on how sexy you can make it sound - generally local news is quite boring and journos are always looking for something juicy. This is where your skills at bullshitting come in handy: you need to talk the meeting up big time, tell them how angry people feel, without actually saying so give them the impression that people are mobilising and could even be prepared to do something drastic if the council won't listen, tell them you have the best expert on the subject coming, blah, blah, blah.

Right, so now you've got 20,000 supporters, you've hired the opera house, you've got the national press to actually turn up and you got the world's leading expert to speak. What do you do now? Start by introducing yourself and how you feel, why you've called this meeting, explain how by all getting together you can begin to do something then let your expert do his/her stuff, it's good if this can be a mixture of facts and a question and answer session. If anyone's still awake when it's over now's the time to start organising! You need to get people to take on roles within the campaign. Find out who has any experience at organising/facilitating meetings, who can take the minutes and type them up, who would make a good treasurer, who's good at artwork, publicity, letter-writing, talking to people, who's prepared to hand out leaflets etc. It's important to try to involve everyone at this first meeting in some way realistically as there probably won't be more than 10 or 20 people. Ask for a whipr6und for posters, photocopy's of the minutes. At the end of the evening announce the date of the next meeting.

The following advice came from GEN an anti genetic food campaign but by changing the subject to your own, the rules are the same.
Try to make the group (and venue) as accessible to a wide range of people-experience has shown that issues draw individuals together from all sorts of backgrounds and social perspectives. Empowerment and involvement can mean writing letters for one person and pulling up modified plants to another. Everyone has a limit to what they are able or prepared to put into a campaign. We need to respect all these roles and levels of involvement.

  • Keep to the same meeting place, day of the week and time, this helps to keep the focus and offers a stable place for new people who come along.
  • Find allies in your area (e.g. health food shops and restaurants, organic gardeners, already active Friends of the Earth or local Greenpeace groups, etc.) Ask them if they want to get involved maybe with distributing leaflets and petitions. They might also be prepared to give a donation or put out a jar for the campaign costs. Larger organisations may be able to offer work space or the use of a computer.
  • Get those already involved to write letters to the local papers, this helps to stimulate debate within the community. Some papers have run features on GE on the back of the quantity of related mail they receive (so if they didn't turn up to your early meetings they might now). Be careful with the media. Use them skillfully-make contacts with sympathetic journalists and trust your instincts. (GEN have available an 'activist guide to the media' written by George Monbiot - it is very honest and helpful. 1 for photocopying and postage - if you can afford it.)
  • Involve the local council and MP (even if they are your opponents there might still be councillors who are on your side). Encourage them to do all they can (e.g. pushing for GE free school meals and no planting of GE crops or trials on council land. The MP can connect with other MPs who are exerting political pressure).
  • Make use of what is in your local area and think about organising around this, is there a deliberate release site or a food factory for example.
  • Have a regular stall in your local market or high street-this is a useful access point for new people who might want to participate in the campaign. It is also a means of information sharing. It can be valuable to have a good supply of articles to give to people. Information can empower people to fight the lies being churned out by the other side. Help the campaign to stay alive and interesting, even the fastest moving campaign can flag. People are unlikely to get bored if the group stays active and keeps doing new things. People can also get tired (see 'burnout' in campaign article) or plain fed up with writing endless letters so be creative and be inventive. One vegetarian group set up a stall outside McDonalds and gave out free veggie burgers and an anti-superstore campaign dressed up as giant vegetables, turning their leafleting into a bit of street theatre. Have some fun and be nice to the public, make 'em smile and they're more likely to read your leaflet than throw it into the nearest bin. Notice when problems or personality clashes arise within the group, if people are getting frustrated, try to find out what is going on and all work together to sort it out asap!

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead (1906-l978) For more information contact Genetics at Subscribe to 'Splice' or 'Genethics News' as both these publications will keep you abreast of the latest developments in the GE world. They go into more depth than Genetix Update-and the print is bigger!

  • You can receive multiple copies of Genetix Update for your group. You will automatically get 10 copies if you are on the contact sheet. Let us know asap if you want more or less though we encourage people to photocopy their own where possible.
  • Make the most of GEN - let us know what you are up to and we probably know of other people in your area who want to get active and we can then let them know that you exist! And before you know it you'll have an up and running grand group! Good Luck.

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