Chapter 5 – Build Power by Making Friends

Building enough power to make change happen can be hard work. The next example is from activists in Brazil who used a ‘big tent’ approach back in 2018 to bring together hundreds of organisations and community groups. This took serious time – two years – but was hugely impactful.

SPOTLIGHT: BRAZIL A movement for change

‘The movement was incredible. Over two years we created a multi-stakeholder process with more than 600 organisations from coast to coast, including lobbyists, solar associations, indigenous peoples, black movements, and many more.

It was organised as a very big tent where everybody could come together to discuss a long-term strategy for Brazil, and how we can implement our Nationally Determined Contribution – our national climate plan.

It took almost two years to come together. The really interesting thing was that we did it gradually, we created space for it, within the COP and within the federal government, so that at one point we had the residents of Brazil confirming the plans and requesting some changes. It was so great to have residents engaged in the process – pushing for commitments.

It was not something that came from the outside, where people went to the government and told the government what to do. Instead, we created a mandate to do this on behalf of all Brazilians, with all the actors that should be represented. So it wasn’t about electioneering, it was more about creating an arena where people could advocate for what they needed. It was the first time we talked about net zero, and at the end of the process in 2018 the then President, Michel Termer, supported the goal agreed at the Paris COP. So, it was pretty, good, but obviously not enough.’

Natalie Unterstell, Talanoa

Despite the urgency of climate change, sometimes it’s best to take the time needed to build trust and networks across huge groups of people. We found this example so inspiring and illuminating, it must have taken such patience and perseverance to bring together 600 groups from across the country but imagine the power of all those groups speaking as a united force. That’s how change is made!