I was invited this week to speak at the Step It Up conference in Auckland, organised by the Centre for NZ Progress. It was great to get out and share ideas with other New Zealand campaigners, trade unionists and activists. The conference programme erred a bit towards comms and tactics. It would have been nice to see a bit more thinking about strategy on the agenda. Like how about a workshop about systems thinking to help campaigners get to grips with complex issues? But nonetheless there were some hugely valuable workshops and sessions.
These were my top three:
1, Mark Chenery from Common Cause Australia ran a very popular workshop on value framing. That is, shaping our communications to activate the right values in our audiences. Chenery says that by fostering people’s intrinsic values – like self-acceptance, care for others and concern for the natural world – we can help build a more compassionate society. The session acted as a wake-up call to me. Must remember: no more lazy, abstract comms.
2, I fizzed with excitement listening to Amara Possain from the Canadian people-powered organisation leadnow. She gave a great account of their campaign to boot out Canada’s Conservative government after 10 years in power. The group worked to overcome the country’s first-past-the-post system by co-ordinating tactical voting in key constituencies. Learning from the organising tactics of MoveOn, leadnow mobilised supporters to canvass for the campaign.and get out the vote. There’s huge potential for 38 Degrees to learn form this in the UK. Although, what to do in constituencies where the opposition vote is split between UKIP and another party could be a stumbling block.
3, It was great to listen to Shamubeel Eaqub talk about his pet subjects Generation Rent and Zombie Towns. This socially-conscious economist achieved notoriety in New Zealand by dropping the F-word on daytime telly. No, not ‘fiscal-policy’, the actual F-word. What was particularly interesting about his speech was his analysis that New Zealand lacks a change architecture i.e. think tanks, campaigning organisations and progressive philanthropy to fund them. That, he says, makes it a huge challenge to campaign effectively on big economic justice issues like affordable housing.