IIf you’ve ever signed a petition, wrote a grumpy letter to your local MP, or attended a protest, chances are you’ve been part of a grassroots campaign, but what does it take to start one? How do you bring people together to solve a common problem and how do you increase your chances of success?
We asked some of the people behind three successful campaigns for the practical tips they learned along the way.
The small town organizer
In 2009, the small town of Bundanoon in New South Wales was ahead of current single-use plastic bans when it became the first municipality in the world to refuse to sell bottled water.
Local residents overwhelmingly backed the ban at a city assembly, voting 354 to one, cementing their long-term opposition to a multinational company’s offer to extract 50 million liters of water per year from a borehole nearby.
The “Bundy on Tap” campaign has become international news, which local businessman Huw Kingston attributes to “a combination of good ideas, good work and good luck”.
At the time, Kingston ran the town’s bike shop and cafe. He pitched the idea of a ban in a letter to the local newspaper, suggesting it was hypocritical to oppose water mining while selling bottled water. The idea caught on and a committee was formed to investigate.
Kingston says education about the environmental impact of bottled water was key to rallying everyone, including businesses and local event planners, although they faced stiff opposition.
He says arguing respectfully with the industry has helped their cause, “It was good to do a lot of talkback radio talk and help them dig themselves into a bigger and bigger hole.
What started out as a fairly simple plan took off once the world noticed, “We wanted to make the case that we didn’t want the water extraction plant. We would get rid of the product, put a few signs in town, and get a little extra notoriety. “
However, international media attention has meant that companies wishing to be on the winning side provided Bundanoon with free reusable water bottles and public water fountains.
Kingston would not advise others to attempt a complete ban: “We could do it in a small town with about 15 businesses, but you couldn’t do it elsewhere without legislation. The main game is to bring back the water fountain.
“We wanted to give people a choice. They can go to a store and waste their money on a plastic water bottle, or they can go out on the street and fill up at a fountain or fill up in a cafe.
The social strategist
Australian Capital Territory landscape architect Edwina Robinson’s campaign to establish “a climate-cooling microforest in every urban hotspot in Australia” was sparked in 2019, during the hottest and hottest summer. dry never recorded in Australia: “I wanted to do something, so I came up with the idea of creating microforests, which are dense pockets of climate-ready native vegetation that cool the landscape, provide habitat, enhance the good. -being of the community and give hope for the future.
Robinson’s idea came true when she participated in a social enterprise incubator program and started a Start Someone Good crowdfunding campaign. She started sending emails to her network of friends and colleagues in environmental design and posting on her Facebook and LinkedIn page.
Robinson worked on documents from four government departments to get permission and motivated hundreds of volunteers to join four community bees to build 450 square meters of flower beds.
A group of caregivers and plantation volunteers were recruited from a mailing list compiled during community consultations, as well as through local advertising: “We advertised in the local newsletter and I posted events on Eventbrite and linked people to my social media. “
The first microforest quickly inspired two others. Purdie Bowden and Elizabeth Adcock from nearby Watson’s suburb contacted Robinson, wanting to do the same. Robinson made the presentations, creating a new micro-forest powerhouse. The trio quickly set up a dedicated team website and Facebook page and launched its own crowdfunding campaign. They raised $ 53,000 in 40 days with the help of an extensive social network, including school families, and a QR code on the website related to the fundraiser.
Robinson said she regularly meets with the Watson team to share tips and resources, and then, once Downer’s Microforest was established, she documented the entire project to share with them and any other interested groups.
“We tell people they don’t have to be experts because we team you up with experts no matter where you live. We invite people to do something great in their community and I think people really like it.
The persistent writer
A big bunch of dropped balloons 300 km away is the last thing you’d expect to find on a beach walk. But when Karen Joynes, a community environmental activist from the south coast of New South Wales, found 14 deflating balloons bearing the logos of Albury City Council and a football team, it only took a few phone calls to find they had moved away from the border town overnight: “I called the council and they confirmed that a bunch of balls were dropped during the game the day before. I followed up with the Bureau of Meteorology and they confirmed it was possible.
The 2014 discovery prompted Joynes to start counting the number of balloons washed up on his local remote beach. She says balloons are one of the deadliest forms of waste for seabirds and marine life, even when advertised as “biodegradable.”
Joynes described these risks to marine life to a local trader who started selling helium balloons in 2016. She begged the retailer to ask customers not to drop the balloons. When that request was denied, Joynes decided she should do something herself. She bonded with two other women, Victorian Amy Motherwell and West Australian Lisa Hills, to found No ball drop Australia and launch a petition calling on the federal government to ban the release of helium balloons and the use of helium to inflate balloons.
Joynes writes to every new state, territory, or federal Minister of the Environment about the environmental dangers of balloon releases, and writes new letters whenever there is “a mass balloon release or new research. comes out, saying, ‘Here’s another example of why we need to take action.’ She also wrote to officials: ‘It’s really helpful to contact these people because a lot of them are involved in politics and can tell me that this problem comes up over and over again, and they can make recommendations to the minister.
She says that existing national waste laws are rarely enforced for balloon releases: “Most of the time the releases are in memory of someone who has tragically died, so it is very difficult to impose fines. to people in this situation.
After five years of campaigning, in July 2021, Joyce celebrated Victoria as the first Australian state to outlaw ball exit: “We hope this is a tipping point, that other states will see that it can be done and it has been well received.”