Here is a sample script and tips learnt from having climate conversations whilst door knocking in the lead up to the 2022 Australian election.
Aim and Background
In this guide, I aim to assist community organisers in structuring conversations on the issues they campaign on. Often these community conversations are brief, so a concise method is required. A sample script used for the 2022 election will be studied to this effect.
Over the past year, I have been reading about how to have meaningful climate conversations that connect with people and move them to take action. In the context of the 2022 election though, most of the conversations we were having with community members, at markets and through door knocking, were very brief and so an adaptation of the popular canvassing format was required to move everyday people to take action on climate for the election.
The following script was used to great success by the Macquarie Alliance, a community-led climate coalition, in the electorate of Macquarie for the 2022 election. The alliance had thousands of conversations canvassing in the Hawkesbury and Lower Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.
The script was developed with support from the Macquarie Alliance’s Serena Joyner and drew from a range of precedents including a door-knocking cheat sheet provided by the Nature Conservation Council.
Introduction: Humanising your cause
Hi my name is —-, this is —-, and we’re volunteers with the Macquarie Alliance – a group of locals who are worried about the impacts of a changing climate on our area.
In this first sentence, you begin by naming yourselves and letting the community member know you are volunteering your time. You then explain your cause and connect with the person as a member of the same shared community. This is a crucial step to humanising your cause and building rapport for the conversation to come.
Question 1: Connecting with the issue
Do you think we’ve been seeing more extreme weather in the last few years at all? …What sort of events have you seen?
Immediately after introducing yourself, you dive into the first question. This avoids the person getting away. The example question seeks to connect the community member with the issue directly, an essential first step in moving them to take action.
By asking the community member to think about the issue and how it impacts them you are passively making them take a stand that the issue is impacting their lives – which is a monumental first step.
Even if the community member only answers this question, that has made a difference in the way they will think about the issue. In my experience, community members are always happy to answer this and usually jump to tell you about how last week their garden flooded, they had mould or bushfires impacted their friends.
Question 2: Identifying systemic causes of the issue
Do you think our current government is doing enough on this issue?
This question seeks to link the issue and the causes behind it. Since we were campaigning on the election, we wanted community members to make the link between climate action and the role the federal government plays. In my experience, almost all people responded with no, but there was not great awareness of why this is the case.
[Optional] Question 3: Connecting with conservative values
What do you think about the fact the government subsidises coal and gas to the tune of $22,000 a minute?
If someone is very conservative, chances are they are not worth your time. For our issue though, there was a large group of people who were both conservative and wanted more action on climate – it was these people we targeted with this question. This is because the question predicates on the conservative value that subsidies are inherently bad.
The question also had the bonus of showing how the government currently takes action on the issue, which was a great follow-up for people who answered yes to question 2 or were unsure of steps the government can take.
Question 4: Connecting the issue with personal action
Would climate change and disaster recovery influence your vote in the upcoming election?
This was the juicy question. By this point, the community member knows that climate change is impacting them, that government has a role in making change on the issue, and that the current government is not doing enough. Now you are asking them to take personal action on the issue – that they may have not really thought about before.
In my experience, this journey almost always led to a yes answer to this question, which allowed us to then hand a pamphlet explaining how the candidate’s climate policies stacked up. We didn’t stop there though, now that they’ve committed to taking one action, it’s important to follow up with more.
[Optional] Opening up the conversation
If the person has been really engaged and supportive in the conversation so far you might have the opportunity to go deeper with them and see if they are open to taking more action. You could ask questions to find out more about them, what they care about, and their personal experiences of climate impacts. If you like, you can also start these questions from a place of your own experiences, to build connection and trust.
Taking Action: Something Small
Would you like to sign our open letter to our candidates, asking them all to do better for our climate?
First, have a small action that they can take – this should include some form of data acquisition so you can contact them and remind them of their commitments. We had an open letter that we took to all our candidates that got thousands of signatures but also included a ‘get updates’ box.
Taking Action: Something Big
We’re giving away Climate signs for people to put in their yards and windows. Would you like us to put one up for you?
Then have a bigger follow-up action. Ours was asking them to put up a sign saying climate action now. Since it asked them to make a statement to their neighbours about the issue, it was a bigger deal for most people.
Finishing the conversation
Here is a leaflet you can share with your neighbours and friends, there is a link to our website where you can sign up to volunteer. Thanks again, goodbye!
It’s always good to leave them with something they can use to get in contact with or share with others.
I hope you found this helpful!
Sample Script in entirety
- Hi my name is —-, this is —-, and we’re volunteers with the Macquarie Alliance – a group of locals who are worried about the impacts of a changing climate on our area.
- Do you think we’ve been seeing more extreme weather in the last few years at all? …What sort of events have you seen?
- Do you think our current government is doing enough on this issue?
- What do you think about the fact the government subsidises coal and gas to the tune of $22,000 a minute?
- Would climate change and disaster recovery influence your vote in the upcoming election?
- Would you like to sign our open letter to our candidates, asking them all to do better for our climate?
- We’re giving away Climate signs for people to put in their yards and windows. Would you like us to put one up for you?
- Here is a leaflet you can share with your neighbours and friends, there is a link to our website where you can sign up to volunteer. Thanks again, goodbye!
- Door knocking
- Elections_Electorates (Australia - Federal - 2022)
- Movements_Campaigns - Climate Action