Please know that there are hundreds of variations. Consider these starting points.
These can do a number of things:
- Create community where there was none
- Educate and galvanize your community
- Move your community towards action on specific issues
What is the objective? A well defined, specific goal is the most important part of creating a successful community event.
When determining your issue/objective, be specific. For Instance:
|Too Broad or General||A Clear Specific Objective|
|Clean up our community!||Abolish the sale of single use plastics!|
|We have gas leaks!||Pressure our gas company and town officials to fix our gas leaks|
|We want to curtail the use of fossil fuels||Build a community solar installation|
|We need more affordable Housing Change town bi-laws to allow for multi family dwellings that can increase our stock of subsidized and affordable units.|
Find allies to help promote and participate. Does your town have a conservation commission, a biking group, a sustainability organization, etc. The broader your base the better you will fare meeting your goal. Who shares your concerns and goals? Contact these groups to create some consensus on a date, time, and location. Ask them to co-sponsor. This means that they share your objectives and will help promote the event, and you will, in turn, share their contact info. And include their name in your promotions.
Create Promotional Campaign.
Design a flyer and post them….everywhere
Create social media outreach
Press outreach (if someone from the local press does attend, appoint one person who is knowledgeable about your organization and objectives be their contact.)
Community Outreach: Local organizations from religious to business, to town institutions such as the Library, and voluntary ones. They may not share your exact goals but as community groups will share your meeting information.
Site Contact: Once you have found an appropriate space make sure one person from your organization is tasked as contact and can make sure the space is open and set up as you want it. Will you need volunteers to arrive early and help with this?
Does it need to be ADA accessible?
Do you know how to access the heating and cooling systems if necessary?
Will you need a sound system?
Are there tables for sign-in, sign-ups, and information sharing? (Co-sponsors might want to share info)
Have you displayed a banner or some other sign of your organization both inside and out for identification?
Do you want to share food?
Sign up a clean-up crew.
Plan the Program: (more on this below*)
How can you greet and make people feel welcomed? Community building begins the second someone walks through the door.*
The Program: Succinct, interactive, packed with information**, and always offer an action step that people can take to begin addressing the issue. You might need:
-power point projector
-Easel with large paper
Be sure to collect and present specific actions that address the issue and enroll individuals or small teams to follow through on these, within a specific time range, and set your next meeting at the end of the one you are in.
Protests, Rallies, and Civil Disobedience
The difference between a protest and a rally is that a protest is a large group speaking out against an issue or action, while a rally is a large group speaking out for an issue or action. Planning for either is quite similar.
These can take place both outdoors and indoors with a broad range of choices for actions. For instance there was an ongoing protest in the hall adjacent to Charlie Baker’s office in the State House. Protesters came weekly to keep the issue of permitting the Weymouth Compressor Plant in high profile and registering their ire with the governor for green lighting the project.
A bike rally was staged to begin in front of the State House. Bikers made signs to attach to their bikes calling for action on climate, and 350 Mass flags fluttered from their bikes.
Both of these actions were legal. However, when the Governor refused to meet with anyone on the team protesting the Weymouth Compressor Plant, a predetermined group entered the ante chamber of the governor's office and were then liable to arrest. Thus it bloomed into civil disobedience. At the site of the compressor plant there were also ongoing protests, which, when on public land were perfectly legal. However, when some protesters locked themselves to the gate marking the entrance to the property they were immediately arrested by the local police for trespassing, it was pre-planned and bloomed into non-violent civil disobedience. The protesters did this with full knowledge, wanting to generate press and state house attention.
Any protest or rally can include civil disobedience, but the actions should be predetermined, practiced, and the individuals involved trained in NVCD techniques. If this is your plan, contact Climate Courage for non-violent civil disobedience training.
- What is your objective? Have a clear target, clear goals (is this part of a larger strategy)
- Create a core planning team. Keep it small 3-5
- Gather allies, set a date and time for meetings and the action. Allies are ‘all in’ and help with planning and execution of the event. Co-sponsors are organizations willing to lend their name and promote the action through their membership in return for having their organizational information shared on all the presentational materials.
- Procure any needed or wanted permits***
- Create and meet with the broader planning committee to assign roles.
-Media Mavens and Press Promotion: Send out a press release**** to all news outlets that might respond with either promotional articles and notices or after the fact articles.
Take pictures and send them out through various social media portals with messages about the protest or rally.. Record some film on the action that can be used to make videos.
- Action Lead: When hard decisions must be made, this person calls them. They also need to have a sense of the total action, its possible ramifications, and be a very good problem solver who is in touch with his/her team throughout the action.
-Police Liaison: We have found that, in most cases, informing the police about the action and offering them a contact person is very helpful.
-Peace Keepers: These are the problem solvers and need to be grounded in spirit and mind, and good at inspiring peace and solving problems. For instance a woman is yelling, disruptively, at the speakers, during a rally. A Peace Keeper might sidle up to her and simply begin a non threatening conversation to refocus her energy and try to understand why she is yelling.
-Legal Observers: Bring your phone or camera.
-Marshalls: Usually wearing Day-Glo vests for visibility. They make sure the walking path is kept to, cars are stopped when the group is crossing the street, maintain the groups permitted meeting space by creating an outer perimeter. Carry extra food and drink for those who might need it. Also, participants will ask Marshalls questions about the action since they are the most visible representative of the organizing group. Make sure they know all basic information about the action.
-Song Leaders (if appropriate)
-Tech leaders to make sure there is adequate sounds amplification
-Rally Speakers/Presenters (mix it up with artists and activities)
-Clean-up (never leave your community in a mess!)
- Create a lively invitation/flyer for the broader community and allies and send it out far and near. See our graphic design guide here
- Create clear, consistent verbiage and images for social media.
- A Back-Up Plan
What do you do if a major speaker does not show up, or the microphone dies? What do you do if a large group of violent counter protesters show up? What do you do if the weather turns towards conditions that will no longer allow you to gather outside?
Never Waste A Crowd.
Are there petitions or information about other events/actions that could be disseminated? Can you gather contact information from folks?
This can be done via a questionnaire you send out or at your next public gathering. Did the action achieve its objective? What might you shift or change next time? How can you build on this effort? The smaller planning team should do this as well among themselves.
Call-In Day: Get dozens or hundreds of people to call a target (like a legislator or an elected official) on the same day.
Who: Best if done with large numbers of people (from a few dozen to thousands). For elected officials, it’s much more effective if the calls come from their constituents.
How: Consider organizing a local call-in day to put pressure on your local elected officials, as needed.
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