«A. Telephone Interview 1 Particularly interested in: “Input/consultation on campaigns and materials planning/design” Found the discussion group ...»
A small number of telephone interviews were help to allow some participants to go in to more depth on
issues they felt were of particular importance and to allow for yet further colour and depth to be provided to
the issues overall. The notes from these are below. They have been anonymised.
A. Telephone Interview 1
Particularly interested in: “Input/consultation on campaigns and materials planning/design”
Found the discussion group useful. Surprised at low turn-out.
Materials Food – would have liked to do it as it’s simpler but live in country and have upset farmers already due to other issues so felt that local press would have gone for them so avoided it. Plus MP would have supported it anyway.
Generally don’t have to pressure MP as he’s good – Norman Baker.
Get Serious – Therefore opted for this. They felt a bit like they ought to do a big campaign so this was the one leftover. Have two councils there (district and county) – responsible for different bits of the Get Serious work. It wasn’t made clear quite what a big task it was or how long it would run for. In original mail out it seemed like it would be over by Christmas. Next mailing seemed to show it went on for ages. Wouldn’t have started it if knew how big it would be. Have now dropped it as they’ve got nowhere with it. Did all the postcards but have a lot of councillors and it was really hard work and didn’t want to just keep doing that. Was hard to track too as didn’t know it would be continued for so long. Would have liked help for two-tier authorities. Went to see RLC about it to get advice. RLC said suggest on District Council but in the end didn’t take her advice. Has been in touch with ND but ND’s not been to see them yet. Needs to see how few there are and how aged – not all young, although do have time.
Campaign designs seem to be designed to fit big cities. Perhaps most groups are in cities?
Get Serious poster: They all look serious and if you don’t get the campaign it’s not attractive. The pictures are too small to see from 2 feet away so it doesn’t work on a stall. The letters are small and pictures don’t register. It’s fine on a booklet but as a poster it doesn’t work. With the Big Ask people seemed to not hear it right and think of Big Arse.
Graphics for that were a bit strange too. A while back someone did postcards with well known land marks with flooding and deserts etc. Those were good and hard-hitting and striking. Need striking images. Think that doing design of activism with an outside agency is a mistake as they aren’t familiar. Was quite an urban design to Get Serious, not working for rural.
Design of campaigns: Generic posters would be nice. They have the old logo on them. Eg the teddy drowning in water, about climate change. Still use the Orang Utan poster too. Fluffy animals are always good. A poster with chimneys and smoke was good. Big striking images and lettering would be really helpful, on a few core issues (climate, biodiversity, but not too specific). Save Cash and save was good, very generic ones are good. Renewables ones were nice as they were pretty and quite generic. The planning campaign was good – scene of town with bad stuff and with “coming to a town near you.” Nice big poster and strong image. Sometimes too complicated.
Can’t comment on internet and web campaigning as don’t use it.
The campaigns in general and guidance: They are very helpful. The halloween one was good. Simple advice, simple stunts that take a short time. Things that people can enjoy. Really liked the Gordon Brown aeroplanes one. Got a great turn out to that. That’s because it was a very short time for people to get involved with. Instant actions are good. Quite like press stunts and they are fun. Groans come when they get postcards again. They know they work and people don’t mind signing them. Postcard fatigue can set in, with groups and also with the public. Plus the twocard version in Get Serious caused confusion and was complex and boring to deal with.
Resonate locally – if we asked the groups to translate a campaign in to a more locally resonant version, would they have the capacity and motivation? A: Depends on the issue and the group is quite variable. Main people are keen but they are quite busy too. Need more active people.
Do you feel groups are valued and their voice I heard?
Yes, feel valued and yes feel we are heard (speaking today is evidence). Yes, people have a chance to take part.
Without groups it would be different. There is confusion between belonging to national organisation and belonging to group. Q: How would you feel about one database? A: In theory it would be good but not sure how you’d do it.
Odd that there aren’t more groups in Sussex. Q: Is that because we’re doing something wrong do you think? Can’t easily see a way of sorting this. Campaign Champions is a great way for people that can’t be in a group. Wouldn’t be surprised if the group stops soon as no one wants to do much and she’s tired of being coordinator. Q: Is there too much pressure put on coordinator? A: It’s difficult as you need someone to send things to. General stuff is OK.
Getting people to do things is the hard thing. Would be good to delegate that. Can’t see how to get support in doing that sort of thing but would be nice to have some support somehow.
The Transition Towns is huge. Set it up with a huge fanfare. Have lots of separate groups focusing on different things. Food group has achieved things like a local market. Not sure what the other groups are doing really. TT has the success because it’s new. It’s hard to keep it going though and it’s the same story there – people suggest things and then they don’t get done. FOE group ran their own evening to network with green groups in the area. Some TT stuff was treading on the toes of groups that are doing stuff already. Can be irritating. Can be a bit “speaking to the converted” at times.
Need lots of warning for things. If get just six weeks’ notice and hear after last meeting, it can be hard. Planning for things that we should know about is key. We’ve got better at that recently though.
Main areas of interest: Main interest now is fact that people don’t realise the big picture of things. Site battles not central at the moment in FOE. In their group there’s a local biofuels plants proposed and weren’t sure if it was a good thing or not. Felt that due to big picture of energy (see David MacKay book) they weren’t clear if it was needed due to energy mix. Spent 6 months looking in to it and decided it wasn’t related to big picture. If the big picture isn’t there the groups have a lot of work to do to work out if what they are doing is the right thing. If hasn’t done work they could have been wrong. Currently feel unclear in the same way on nuclear due to big picture.
Worry that there isn’t the big picture out there. Sustainable development is there as an overarching theme. Look at FOE’s Tomorrow’s World book. Has limits on everything. Very comprehensive. Took two months to read it. Says how it should be done too. You can see that our recent campaigns come from that book or are embedded in that. If you see the campaigns you don’t see the big picture of the book.
So they can point to the big picture when working on particular areas.
Q: What’s missing? A: A pictorial thing on web to show how things are linked. A flow diagram that shows how it all links up. Something to show how what we’re doing links up. More of a narrative and connectedness to show how the different aims and campaigns link together.
I say that not sure how we could sort that research issue. Not convinced that groups would have questioned the biofuels plant in the same way that her group has have. Their group has more expertise than most and are quite independent. It’s because the big picture’s not out there. What’s happening feels bitty.
Q: Why do you think groups wouldn’t look in to the biofuels plant as well as you have?
A: Groups will consider what they can thin of but will they think about the big picture. Get them to think not only on the carbon emissions for example but that it’s the land and how we already use too much. That’s not obviously part of the biofuels issue as such and so you don’t make that connection.
Likewise the public don’t see the big picture.
On biofuels work, did talk to Campaigner and the biofuels network and found that really useful.
Q: What else would have helped?
Losing staff that had expertise in these areas is a shame. Loss of campaigners with expertise in this and can pull together this big picture is a shame. Losing expertise in parts of the big picture is a shame.
Nothing much else would have helped. They found things that were new and someone had to do it. Other people need to know that their work’s been done so that it can be used.
In the “Revenge of Gaia” the problems are tiny compared to climate change. Are we instinctively opposed to it?
Questions around support etc:
1. Didn’t need to do much on Food Chain as they emailed MP and he signed the EDM. Didn’t feel like post carding was useful. Have tried to do much on farmers side. At the Moovement stuff, again didn’t feel it was needed. Has asked her to sign the EDM and attend second reading. Needs to be a second aim, not just the MP action but also something else. eg. public services and made something that could be engaged with locally so that there’s more locally than just the MP stuff.
2. Said the cards aren’t always needed and are a waste. Could be sent an electronic version of a card and other resources that could be edited. Send the imagery etc and allow groups to change it to suit their needs.
3. Would be interested in being able to choose the amount of resources rather than just a standard pack. Tend to get guidance with resources.
4. Campaigns needs to be more flexible.
5. Have heard that MPs should still get cards but feels like there are better ways to do things. Should trust groups to interpret how to lobby their MP, with guidance.
6. Again, the big picture needs to go in to the campaign. So resources and guidance need to show the big picture so that they can identify ways to do things differently.
Would be good to have groups upload their ideas on big campaigns as they develop their versions, for other groups to see and use.
Staff should be there to inform FOE, not just to be on call for groups all the time.
Other Qs Campaigner networks will be really helpful. They allow groups to be linked up and working on a range of things. Find ND very helpful.
Q: Do you feel your voice is valued and heard.
Yes feel valued and heard and plenty of opportunity to be heard. Not sure if staff/board listen to what’s said in motions.
On more thing: All the information that comes out that explains everything, would be good to have it in different sections so that bits of it could be shared out. That would help a lot.
Follow up email to interview two, from interviewee:
I have been a FoE local group member for 3 1/2 years now, yet it has taken me until fairly recently to really understand sustainable development. The first big campaign our group did was about plastic bags - which was very successful in terms of activism - it got the group enthused, got us in the local media lots, got us contacts and friends in the area, and we reduced plastic bag use - which were our aims. But I question now whether it was successful in terms of the wider aims of sustainable development. When we did it, there were mutterings at a lg gathering from staff who were more in the know, about local groups who did plastic bag campaigns. Having vastly more knowledge, they could see how insignificant the impact of it was, compared to the challenges we face. When I tackled a staff member about it, feeling a little insulted that our great campaign was not being valued, the staff member of course reassured me that it was great - but obviously didn't. And I now understand why. I worry that it takes so long for a local group member (i.e. me) to understand what we are repeatedly told by FoE is our underlying principles (since the CLGF has challenged it, as in the response to our motion on p22 of the motions paper 2010). When did we last have a session at any gathering or conference explaining sustainable development? What things could our group have done in the time we were doing our plastic bag campaign that would have had more effect?
At the moment, there is a very fragmented approach, where as local groups we do the national campaigns - and we do our own local things, and there is no obvious linkage between the two. As a local group, what mechanisms are there to help us choose what will be an effective local campaign? An overall awareness of sustainable development would do this - 'Tomorrow's World' explained well would point out all the really effective things that could be done. I'm not saying I think local groups should be more controlled; just that they should be better informed. I would feel happier now if our group's energies had been put into a different campaign - there are loads of other things we could have thrown ourselves into and made a successful campaign of, which could also have involved the whole community, the media, etc, but that might have made people think a bit more about sustainability. I hope that the links we built up in the plastic bag campaign will help us with our next ones; it did help our profile with the general public - but I wonder if it made us look very amateur and irrelevant to people who knew more about sustainability and who would have been our potential allies.