Chapter 9 – Take time to build power

One of the key ways activists win is by building power for the long term. This means you are able to keep the pressure on decision-makers until they agree to the demands of your campaign. But here’s the challenge: building a long-term movement requires the love, energy and determination of lots of people.

So it’s important to take the time to gradually build the power of your campaign group, by persuading new people to care about climate change, and to get active by joining your campaign.

Have a look at this example from Earthlife Africa, who are doing some really powerful movement building:

SPOTLIGHT: SOUTH AFRICA Start small and keep it simple

We love to work with smaller groups of up to 50 people. When we work with them, we try to simplify what climate change is and what has been done, going as far back as the Rio Summit in 1992 and how that came about. This is so that people have a good historical background into what’s been going on internationally.

Then we go into what is being done, especially by governments.

We focus on the most recent agreement - The Paris Agreement.

But we don't call it an agreement. We say it's a pathway that gets us closer to a climate convention, and then we explain what the government is doing.

We go on further to explain what the country's national contributions are as experienced by ordinary people. In this way we try to empower people to talk about the issues from their own perspective and in their own context, without blurring the boundaries that have been drawn by institutions.

Campaigns are rarely won by one or two people who are right. They’re won by diverse, resilient campaigns made up of lots of people from different walks of life.

So, it’s important as you set about your campaign to think carefully about how to gradually build your power by attracting lots of new people, helping them find roles in your campaign.

This example was inspiring because Earthlife Africa take the time needed to really teach people about the history of climate change campaigning, and to help them locate themselves in decades of courageous activism.