Building a Community: workshop exercise

This is a stand-alone workshop exercise which you can use as part of a much longer day.

  • Length: 30 minutes
  • Number of people: 1—5, or a larger group split up into small groups
  • Best used: middle of the day, when starting to plan actions
  • Extra equipment needed: pens, small pieces of paper, and some string
  • Purpose: to consider who to approach, who to build relationships with, and who to include in your network

What to do:

The facilitator or a member of the group should read (or paraphrase) the following text: Let’s imagine that you are trying to find other people concerned about the same issue as you. You want to work with other groups or other individuals on a campaign issue. But how do you work out who to approach? Here are five steps to help you.

Step One: Who is in the area? Consider all the organisations which might plausibly have an interest in your campaigning issue. In some cases, this will be within a geographical area, while in other cases it may be groups which exist mainly online. Write them down on post-it notes or little pieces of paper. Your list might include the local council or other authorities, businesses, universities or schools, other campaigning groups, faith groups, interested individuals.

Step Two: Who does what? Arrange your pieces of paper in front of you. Place organisations which are similar next to each other — perhaps the businesses at one end, the campaigning groups at the other. Or perhaps those with more influence at one end, and those with less at another. You will find an order which makes sense to your campaigning issue. You might want to put specific symbols or colours on some bits of paper to show that they have more authority or power — the local council, for example, probably has quite a lot of power if your campaigning issue is to do with local public transport. Some may have a lot of overlap with your campaign, others less overlap.

Step Three: Who talks to whom? Some of the groups on your pieces of paper will already be linked independently of you. Consider which groups already talk together, and whether there is a power or money relationship. For example, a local council and a local university will have quite a complex relationship. Draw lines between your pieces of paper, or use the string to connect them.

A sub-step (3.5, if you like) is whether these relationships amount to influence. Can you do some “bounce lobbying” where you persuade Group A and ask them to persuade Group B? You may find that you have little in common with Group B, but Group A sits in the middle of you and them.

Step Four: How do you approach them? Your aim is to work with these groups on a campaign issue. In figuring out how to approach them, consider these factors:

  • Where are they in your diagram, and who are they connected to?
  • How do they operate and who has authority to sign on to your campaign — is it a single leader, collective decision making, loose group of experts?
  • What sort of language do they use — are they a radical group, or a cautious group, or an academic group?
  • How do they usually campaign — on social media, by email, or by meeting in person?

Step Five: Draw up a plan to contact them! Looking at the answers to the first four steps, make a plan to contact organisations. For each group, decide who in your group is most suited to working with them — who speaks the same campaigning language? Set a deadline by which contact should be made.

Just go for it — send a few emails, made a few calls, and invite people out for a cup of tea and piece of cake. Just make sure you have your messages worked out first.

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