James Foskett, group leader of our Brighton RESULTS group, shares four things he has learnt campaigning for RESULTS over the past year. This blog was first posted on the RESULTS Brighton blog.
I have been campaigning with RESULTS UK for a little over 3 years now and am currently the group leader of the Brighton RESULTS group. As the year draws to a close, I wanted to share four things I have learnt about being a grassroots campaigner.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
First you sign up, then you attend your first meeting or campaign call, then you start taking actions and then you become really passionate about the cause. Seems like an easy journey but each of those steps can be surprisingly tough to take. When I first signed up I did so because my friend, Larissa, was taking over as RESULTS Brighton group leader. This made it really easy for me to sign up and go along to a first call. But I have been to other groups and, although you may put your name down because you care about a topic, when you don’t know anyone who will be there or much about the group it can be really intimidating to go along for the first time. But when you do it is always worth it!
Once you turn up there are actions to complete, campaigns to get involved with and sometimes quite a short amount of time to do them in. However passionate you are, life can occasionally get in the way and it is very easy to lose motivation. You forgot to send a letter, or sign that petition or you couldn’t make it to the last meeting. You know what, this is all OK. No one is perfect and if you keep trying you can still make a difference next time. Every month there is another great campaign or action to get involved with. You are always welcome back, however long it’s been.
But the best bit is this, if you do manage to write a letter to your MP and they reply, or attend a talk and ask a question or even have a conversation with someone in the street and get them to take action, it is a great feeling. You can genuinely make a difference and every action you take from signing a petition to meeting the leader of a political party is worth it.
Support campaigns that matter
The campaigns RESULTS UK work on are incredibly important and they are what keeps me motivated and involved. This year we have campaigned on the eradication of polio, nutrition, education and tuberculosis. I truly believe that these are some of the most important issues facing the world at the moment. Polio, a disease that once killed 300k people a year globally, has almost been entirely eradicated. Nutrition has a direct causative link to the opportunities children have in later life as well as their ability to get the most out of their education. Education is essential for not only the recipient but also their entire families future. Tuberculosis, the world’s most deadly infectious disease now kills more people than AIDS.
These issues will continue to kill millions of people, cost the global economy hundreds of trillions of dollars and entrench poverty and suffering around the world unless we do something about them now. Campaigners for RESULTS have been able to raise awareness and put pressure on the government to act and pledge money to help combat these issues. But there is always more that can be done and I know in 2018 we can make an even bigger difference.
Make the most of opportunities
Through my grassroots campaigning I have had some great opportunities to expand my understanding of global poverty issues and make a difference. I have met my MP twice and she really listened to what I had to say. I was told very early on that MPs are not contacted by many of their constituents and so if you do contact them then they are likely to listen to you. My MP is Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion constituency, and on the two occasions I have met her she has been extremely passionate about the topics we discussed and listened to what I had to say. She has even commented that she couldn’t remember the last time any of her constituents had come to see her about international development issues. Her influence, and that of the other MPs that RESULTS campaigners have contacted around the UK, has a real and long-lasting impact on Government policy.
Through campaigning, it really is possible for members of the public to help direct funds to help the poorest and most vulnerable around the world.
Connect with other campaigners
Finally, RESULTS also gives you a great opportunity to connect with people around the UK and across the world who care about international development. Every month, on the campaign call, we connect with groups from around the UK and once a year we all meet at the national conference in London. Around 100 campaigners come together for three days to talk about a range of issues and learn from guest speakers. There is also an opportunity for a small group of campaigners from the network to go to the International Conference in Washington DC. One member of the Brighton group, Ellie Wason, went last year and wrote a blog on her experience.
Campaigning with a grassroots organisation like RESULTS really does give you the opportunity to make a difference. As the world face unprecedented challenges, it is more important than ever to use your voice to help change the world.