Creating change from the ground up
There's more than one way to win a spat, and if you're working to create change in your community, you need to be adept at all of them. Politics is a competition of ideas, and the community sector can't shy away from that - no, it must be in the thick of it.
At Communities in Control 2017, we heard from five weary veterans and charged-up crusaders on how to mobilise the grassroots and get them rallied and ready for the many battles ahead.
Below is just a taste of what they had to say during a high-energy panel session called "Power to the people: creating change from the ground up."
Matthew Phillips, human rights coordinator, GetUp
Sometimes we get hung up on talking through technicalities. We're preoccupied with engaging in the kind of discourse that we understand amongst each other, but we fail to communicate what we mean, urgently and compellingly, to the public. In part, that question can be answered through the way that we communicate our campaigns, communicate our values, in a way that enlists people in support.
Katerina Gaita, Climate for Change
What (social diffusion theory) tells us about changing anything, whether it's society or your school, is that the people we need to engage are not the deniers. The people we really need to engage are the majority of the population, who would say, "Yes, climate change is real. It's serious. We should be doing more. Australia should play a leading role. Even at some cost." Most people in Australia would answer yes to all of those question on a questionnaire.
Rodney Croome AM, equality activist
In my experience, over 30 years, I've found those personal stories are crucial. In the case of marriage equality - where, to begin with, there were many people who didn't quite understand what the reform was, and now where there are a few people stridently trying to stop it - personal stories have a really, really important role to play. As activists, as advocates, we have to make space in all the heated debates for those people to come through and talk quietly about why this matters to them.
Sonja Hood, CEO, Community Hubs Australia
We can bypass an awful lot of that political process if we stop being so hung up on what they're [politicians are] saying about each other. Because that's all they're talking about. They're talking about each other. They're not talking about us half the time. Leave the airspace to the issues that really do need regulatory change. But the rest of us, I think, in the meantime, could be just getting on with the change in our communities.
Luke Hilakari, secretary, Victorian Trades Hall Council
The personal story counts, whether it's your own story or a story of your occupation - firefighters talking about emergency services, say, or doctors doing the same thing, teachers talking about education. You have that opportunity too. You come from these amazing community organisations, and you'll be trusted absolutely on the areas in which you do your work and give advice. That's the place you need to come from. Don't come from the domain of facts and science, because you won't convince a soul. Tell the personal story of the people you're working with.
Read a transcript of the whole panel sessions here.
Watch the panel session on YouTube here.