Mobilising the Community into Action: the Basics

When you talk about plans to mobilise the community, most people automatically think of protest marches down the main street or demonstrations outside Government offices. The reality is that many of the efforts to unite the community behind a certain cause, action, or idea are less spectacular - but no less important.

For decades not-for-profit groups and community leaders have been mobilising their local communities to lobby to change attitudes, to change policies, to change legislation, and sometimes to change votes.

Sometimes these campaigns have been on major national issues, but often they've been about people uniting to make a difference in their own local areas - opposing an inappropriate development, ensuring a park remains public space, fighting for extra funding for a local health service or employment project, etc.

One of the most powerful tools any community group can have is the ability to inspire and mobilise support for the benefit or development of the greater community. This isn't just about recruiting individual volunteers - it can also be about rallying support within a community from institutions, other not-for-profit groups, government agencies, and media outlets.

Many campaigns of community mobilisation start from a little seed and just grow and grow. Often there's too little time to plan, but here are some pointers to help groups maximise their next community mobilisation effort.

  • Identify the need within the community, and be clear about exactly what needs to be done to address it.
  • Contact other key individuals and groups and gather support around the need to take action. Aim for a broad and representative coalition.
  • Be clear about your aims for the community mobilisation, the key messages you are trying to sell, and the action you want to take to achieve those objectives.
  • Establish an action plan setting out how you think you can best achieve your goals and listing what needs to be done. Not everything goes to plan, but at least an action plan provides a basic roadmap when you get stuck.
  • Advocate your position far and wide. Seek support from government, business, other non-government organisations or funding bodies, and media outlets.
  • Plan a range of activities to get the message out - a public event, say, a function, a photo opportunity, a protest, the establishment of a website, an email campaign, a lobbying campaign (federal, state and local government), a petition, a letter-drop campaign, or a combination of any or all of these methods.
  • Keep up communications with your coalition partners and supporters, the general public, and those you want to influence.
  • Keep up the momentum by always striving to mobilise more people to support your campaign.
  • Continue to review, refine, and implement your plan. Be flexible enough to be able to adapt to change, and continue to seek community input and support for any changes.
This advice originally appeared in Finding the simple secrets of successful community groups - over 400 tips on running a more effective community group and school.

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