SGA 5: To Do What, Exactly?

Okay, so in the previous four entries I’ve talked about how the most functional setup for action is small, short-term groups pursuing concrete outcomes. This leaves one great big question to be answered: what the heck can small, short-term groups actually achieve?
Back in June I got some people together to brainstorm some answers. (A great wee session, mentioned in one of those little elusive allusive comments here.) Here’s what we came up with.
Examples of things small groups can do
Raise the Profile of an Issue
– put an issue on the agenda somewhere
– get government to deal with it
– make companies/businesses/etc. aware of it
Gather Information For Informed Choices
– spread the burden of research and the benefit of knowledge around the group
– find out the merits of, say, organic food, or different energy companies
– information will inevitably be spread further than the group as well
– this extends to things like local elections – who is standing, what are their platforms, etc
– when making a change in consumer behaviour, write to all the companies/businesses concerned explaining the reason for your change
Support Your Own Behaviour Change
– can be hard to make changes alone, and especially hard to maintain changes
– with group support, can make changes in, say, energy use or food buying habits
– same principle as a group of people going on a diet together
Contact A Stakeholder
– can contact MPs (local or MP with interest in the area), foreign governments, councils, businesses, NGOs, community organizations, officials in a ministry, media organizations
– can write letters or make a visit
– can raise an issue, ask a question, seek information, seek advice or clarification, express concern or support, propose an alternative route, ask how alternatives could be considered, ask how their plan can be supported…
– because there tend to be few such communications, they can be very powerful. For example, media organizations are very sensitive about advertising revenue and pay close attention to letters received.
– do not assume a stakeholder knows all of the context around an issue – you may be able to offer useful information
– conversely, the stakeholder may have thought the issue through in more detail than you initially realize – give them a chance to explain themselves and gather information on their approach
Spread Information
– to increase understanding/awareness of an issue, or correct misunderstanding
– organize a public meeting – find good speakers, organise venue, publicity, invite media and/or community
– develop and hand out flyers in a key location
– organization a small and focused demonstration, invite the media
– lobby a media entity to interview a key person
– fly posting, stencils and graffiti, websites, culture jamming…
Bring About Change In An Environment
– an environment structures the behaviour within that environment – changing it can support and drive behaviour change
– for example, a group who work in the same building could lobby for a new recycling policy within the building
Direct Action
– tree planting, beach cleaning
– other kinds of volunteer work that are not long-term commitments
Conduct Research
– a small group could conduct a simple survey and publicise the data
– the survey should be something concrete and not an opinion survey
– for example, an evaluation of the condition of bus shelters in different suburbs cross-referenced against the average income of the suburbs could indicate inequity in distribution of resources to maintain these shelters
Interact with Government
– find out what is going on, what decisions are pending
– develop and make submissions on coming legislation

One thought on “SGA 5: To Do What, Exactly?”

  1. And to put some flesh on those bones: I’ve put together groups to lobby MPs on conscience votes, raise awareness among MPs of public concern about climate change, and fund locked-out workers. I’ve thought about using similar methods for further lobbying, to gather signatures for petitions (why didn’t I do that for the Make Poverty History petition?), submit on legislation or resource consents, get others to go carbonneutral, and encourage letters to the editor on specific topics. (I haven’t thought of using it for political information, because I can do that myself – BTW, if anyone needs anything dug up, drop me an email).
    Oh, and to help with one of your examples, if anyone is wanting to know about the merits of different energy companies, try here:

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