Women’s League by the Ocean: The power (and the risks) of collaboration in campaigning

Liga das Mulheres pelo Oceano (Women’s League for the Ocean) is a network movement that integrates women’s emancipation efforts and acts for the conservation of the ocean. In this way, they were able to work with individuals and organisations that play an important roles in the field of climate activism to offer their critical viewpoints on how the ocean can be incorporated into the narratives of partner organisations and create collaborative social media posts together. As a result, they were able to engage with decision-makers in Brazil’s coastal states. Eventually, their strategy paper was distributed to the decision-makers present at COP27, and four states participated in a discussion about considering the ocean in mitigation and adaptation strategies to face climate emergency. We talked to a couple representatives of the Women’s League, who coordinated this project, and here is what they recommend:

People connect with different topics usually based on their lifestyle. “For us, collaborative campaigns begin with identifying the stakeholders connected to the issue and then we try to answer the question: How can we connect? How can we add to each other’s perspectives? Only if these questions can be answered, we can actually strengthen our efforts and impacts by collaborating.” So we meet with them and mainly listen. It’s really important to enter the space not by presenting, but to listening to what people are saying or doing in order to try to connect with the topic you want to propose.

Partnership and collaboration can go a long way in creating stronger and better communities. Liga’s campaigns inspired people to connect with the ocean and increase awareness, by targeting communities and individuals already engaged in the sea but not thinking about the issue of ocean conservation directly. For example, persuading surfers to be messengers and advocate for ocean conservation, as they care for it strongly.

Liga realised that women athletes involved in ocean related sports would be powerful collaborators – because they are already involved in the ocean, and they have profile and are trusted and respected messengers. “The focus was on women athletes involved in ocean-related sports. We spoke to them about the impact of pollution on the ocean and how it can interfere with their activities. The campaign helped to amplify their voices and raised awareness about ocean pollution.”

Collaborating with institutions related to your topic for social media cross postings. “For social media collaborations, we actually searched for renowned institutions who already produce digital content about climate issues. And then we looked closely at their Instagram profiles and found that they are not taking the ocean into account in their communications and arguments. So, we approached them to propose a collaborative approach to talk about the ocean and climate nexus. At the start, we were trying to find a common ground – and in fact we found that we are really on the same page. To take it forward, we identified what could be a win-win situation for our organisations. For them, it was interesting because they were able to build on our expertise to design the Instagram posts content. And for us, it was fascinating to find that an average of 3000 people were engaged by this subject, and about 50 percent of them were not our followers. Through the collaboration, we actually reach new people. Therefore, this collaborative move evidences an important potential to understand the audience and to connect sustainability agendas that are already in course.”

Watch out for too many interests being on the table. “Too many cooks spoil the broth. It can happen that too many partners want to change the goal and add a lot of sub-aspects, and in the end the message and the goal becomes too complex to public understanding. So it’s important to find a balance between how many partners you need and what you can provide to each other in this relationship, considering which resources (including funds) are essential to your common goal. If this all fits together, then collaboration can actually help, otherwise it may paralyse your actions.”

Define the roles and clarify what you expect from the partner before you start. “Before starting, it’s good to define the roles, and who is responsible for the project. It can be very frustrating finding out, after putting a lot of effort, that the stakeholders involved have different understanding of the collaboration purpose. It’s also crucial to identify the type of partnership. Of course, bigger organisations can give you a standing when you start, but in the end they might take over and you lose the lead. So we believe it’s important to enlighten what you expect from the partner before actually starting a collaboration.”