Tonight I’ve being learning about the campaign priorities of my local Girl Guides.
Two or three weeks ago I was asked to lead a session about campaigning, as part of a series on ‘Be the Change’ or in full ‘be the change you want to see’ a current Girl Guide theme.
It’s an inspiring theme, and I was coming in at the end of six weeks considering it, not knowing what they had already covered. Chatting to some of the group beforehand, I was pleased to learn that my plans for the evening would not be going over ground they’d already covered.
We started by thinking about things that have changed, and whether these might be planned or not, and how important or unimportant they were. The wall was soon covered with post-it notes – indicating a first impression of where different changes might sit against these measures. Some were items they suggested, but many I’d prepared beforehand.
In their groups they then thought about things which might be improved, for them or others in their community -whether locally or wider. And they then chose one of these to use as an example to think in more depth about campaigning.
There was lots of creativity with pens and paper, ideas scattered across sheets of paper and neat (and not so neat) writing. How would evidence of need be gathered? Were there other people or groups who might support their campaign? How could they gain publicity? Who needed to act to achieve change and how could success be judged even if it was only partial?
Reducing litter explored getting more litter bins and encouraging clean-up work parties. Concern about illegal activity in alleyways was re-expressed to explore alternatives to blackmarket drug-dealing. Christmas Child shoe boxes were expanded and promoted to engage new supporters. Celebrities were enlisted to promote family charity fund-raising.
Interestingly two groups chose the same theme – the narrowness of the pavement walking down to the local secondary school. One majored on publicity stunts and the other explored wider options for improvement.
This route has been a problem for decades. The the number of pupils has doubled, traffic has worsened and the speed limit remains 40mph – though as the Guides said, at the time they walk down, the traffic is hardly moving!
At the end every group remained committed to their chosen campaign. But after a sleepover in the church hall tonight and a day out in London tomorrow, will these campaigns be forgotten?
Even if none of these ideas are taken forward now, I hope that the young people are more prepared and confident to campaign when a critical issue grabs their attention in the future. All in all, a refreshing and eye-opening evening.