Building a campaign: three things I'm learning
This blog post written as part of the Faith in Action project, which you can read about here.
This week I had my last day in the Concern Universal office until 2014. Over the last few weeks, I have been trying to put together an awareness-raising campaign on climate change which we will be running from January to March. The principal purpose of the campaign is to untangle climate change from its current trappings as solely a ‘niche’, ‘left-wing’ or ‘extreme’ issue and to encourage people to prioritise it in their lifestyles, whatever their background. Identifying the best ways to try to make this happen is not easy, and it is teaching me a lot. So I thought I’d put my finger on just three of these things:
1. It’s important to think about the topic in new ways. I mentioned that climate change has been traditionally seen as a ‘left-wing’ issue. Parties more committed to left-wing social and economic policies were more likely to emphasise the need for action on climate change. But, in trying to build a campaign which engages as many people as possible, I realised how these invisible party political parameters were limiting my understanding of the issue in question. Climate change is not something that is only relevant to a left-leaning, Guardian-reading minority. A report by COIN (Climate Outreach and Information Network) has really stayed with me and is altering my perspective. Somehow in the emotional whirlwind of climate change, the basic principle of trying to understand the perspective of those who disagree with us can easily be lost.
2.Campaigning is not the same as writing an essay. Bear with. I did already know that building a campaign and writing an essay had certain fundamental differences. But doing a history degree means that the need for balance, for giving both sides of the argument and seeking interesting (or indeed dull) nuances in these arguments is somewhat hardwired into me. So imagine my consternation when I came across the advice ‘motivation not education’ . Obviously, providing information and empowering people to think through issues is vital. But exploring and changing a situation are different.
3. The authority of Jesus comes from his self-sacrifice. Admittedly, this isn’t usually the concluding topic of a ‘campaigning 101’. But it is undoubtedly the most important lesson I am being taught as I try to transform the interlocking web of contradictory, well-intentioned ideas in my head into something resembling a campaign. Trying to influence the behaviour of other people – to alter their values – is very hard to do. How people approach any issue – climate change, poverty, car insurance, job-seeking, TV-watching – comes down, in essence, to the deeply-rooted, internal principles they hold. Some campaigns can achieve success by appealing to those principles; others must try to change them. And this is where it gets sticky. I can ask people to have a shower rather than a bath, or to turn off the lights in their home. But how can I even begin to change someone’s values? – especially when my own often have so many inconsistencies.
It was when pondering this that I realised that there is one person alone who can – and does – make this all-encompassing demand on every aspect of our inner and outer lives. Yet he has the total and absolute authority to do so. Jesus’s authority comes of course from his intimate knowledge of every iota of humanity and thus his understanding of what we are. But it also comes from his absolute embodiment of all he taught. He demanded that the world’s values be turned on their head, but he did it himself by submitting to death in the name of love.
I’m not saying that mere humans trying to change our society and its values is futile or unnecessary – quite the contrary! Working for God’s Kingdom depends on exactly that. But I’m being reminded what a startling thing it is that Jesus calls for our utter transformation; what beauty and power there is in the cross which epitomises that transformation; and just why it is that we look to him before trying to change everything else. Happy Christmas!
I am Victoria, one of the Faith in Action interns, and I am spending the year exploring the issue of global poverty (including its relationship to climate change). To do this, I am working on placement with the international development charity Concern Universal. If you would like me to come and visit your group, I would be delighted to do so and you can book this by emailing SCMs Groups Worker Lizzie.