Reflections and wisdom from seasoned campaigner, Jess Beckerling from the WA Forest Alliance, who has campaigned for over 20 years to ban logging in native forests. Jess gave an inspiring talk at the FWD + Organise 2021 Conference held by Australia Progress. Here are her learnings from playing the long game.
This article includes photographs from Western Australian Forest Alliance campaigning since 1990.
1. Know your Decision-makers and find Places to Build Relationships
- Ask yourself lots of questions and go find out the answers.
- Why are they failing to make the changes you are advocating for?
- Is it because they’re ideologically opposed, or because they’re hamstrung or facing particular barriers?
- What are those barriers, or what is that ideological position based on?
- Can you dismantle the barriers? How?
- Are you going to convince them to make the necessary changes, or are you building power and waiting them out?
- Who is the alternative? Get to know them too.
- If the decision-maker is a company or companies (rather than a political player) what are their vulnerabilities?
- What processes can be used to intervene?
2. Open Doors
- Don’t paint people into corners, especially if they’re your best bet.
- Where you find common ground, build on it.
3. Who are your Opponents?
- List them all by name and learn about them.
- What are they doing to prevent you making change?
- What is their power based on?
- How are you going to reduce it?
4. Power Mapping
- Use the power mapping approach and look for groupings
- If some players were grouped in a new alliance, would that increase their power?
- Who is the best person to move particular players on the map? It might not be you.
5. Build your Power
- Build your power as well as reduce the power of your opposition. Both matter.
6. Communications are Critical
- Think carefully about what you’re saying, how you’re saying it, through what channels, to whom, and to what end?
- How do you want to be perceived?
- What education do you need to do?
- What persuasion do you need to do?
- What tone will you take and what is your strategy for reaching people?
- Think of how every message is going to land with three audiences:
- your base;
- the potential supporters you’re bringing on board;
- and the decision-makers.
- Test that you’re doing this by stopping before you write a banner, a media release, a social media post, a speech etc, and think about how it will be received by each audience.
- Check that you’re building towards your goal, not just speaking to your base or having a spray for your own entertainment. If you are just having a spray, at least do it consciously.
- Look back over your communications every 6 months or so.
- How did they go?
- Have you changed your style?
- What’s working best?
7. Your Team
- A team made up of committed, skilled, collaborative, smart, people who believe in the strategy and are loyal to the cause, each other and the movement is better than one full of experts on paper. It’s nice to have both.
- Have great meeting facilitation and take care of each other.
8. “Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast”
- Have a great strategy based on
- up-to-date info,
- insights that you have, and
- those you gain from great conversations with colleagues and experts.
- Be able to enact it with dynamism and flexibility because you have a great culture, people are committed, optimistic, collaborative, authentic and smart.
9. Have Procedures
- Have procedures but don’t spend any more time on them than strictly necessary.
10. Be Fiercely Accurate
- If you want people to trust you, share your materials and take you seriously your info must be reliable, evidence-based and current.
- It helps to have good grammar, or at least not glaringly bad.
- Work to maintain being trusted and respected, then you can grow, and build the important relationships
11. Build Power
- Build power, but never at the expense of your authenticity, ethics and a greater sense of what is right and just.
12. Make Yourself Redundant
- Put the outcome first.
13. Take Care of People
- Take care of people, honestly and with heart, but know when to let go of or de-prioritise individuals or specific programs if they’re holding up or undermining progress. Your job is to guide the whole, with compassion and integrity towards an outcome bigger than any individual.
14. Don’t be Smug
- You’re not here to prove yourselves right, you’re working for the greater good.
15. Find Unusual Allies
- Find unusual allies and build them up.
- Be open with each other about the limits of your association and then be loyal, open and support each other.
- If your opponents are going to hate what you’re doing, try nonetheless to instil respect.
- Be honest, fiercely accurate and show compassion – but never surrender your aims.
- Get someone else to do your fundraising and accounts. It takes up more time than it should and is the death of enthusiasm for many campaigners.
18. Know you’re Playing the Long Game
- If you’re playing the long game, know that.
- Bite off chunks as you go and celebrate them.
- Keep going.
- Find out what gives you what you need to maintain your capacity long-term and do it.
- Keep your eyes on the prize.
19. Be Ambitious
- This is not the time for small horizons but be realistic.
- When you see a win on the horizon, focus on it like a laser beam and don’t allow yourself to get distracted until you’ve got it securely in the bag, durable and safely stowed away.
20. Remember the Big Picture
- The situation we find ourselves in is a result of many injustices and the path to a better world needs to recognise and deal with them.
21. Be optimistic
- Shit happens. Look past it.
About the Speaker and Conference
- Jess Beckerling, Campaign Director, WA Forest Alliance
Jess (she/her) is the campaign director of the WA Forest Alliance. Jess lives on the south coast of WA on Pibulmun Country and has been involved in the WA environment movement, principally forest conservation for more than 20 years. Having recently succeeded in a community campaign to end native forest logging in WA, Jess is focused on ensuring the full and secure protection of the South West forests and building the capacity of the movement for climate and biodiversity.
- FWD+Organise 2021 was a conference held by Australian Progress for community organisers and digital campaigners from across Australia and Aotearoa to share practical skills, learn innovative approaches to advocacy and build lasting collaborations to win systemic change. Sessions included keynotes, workshops, masterclasses, and expert briefings. Access other conference sessions here.
- Reconciliation in the forest? An exploration of the conflict over the logging of native forests in the south west of Western Australia
- Environmental Blockading in Australia and Around the World – Timeline 1974-1997
- The WA Forest Conflict: The Construction of the Political Effectiveness of Advocacy Organisations
- Power Mapping and Analysis
- Power Mapping Guide
- The People Power Manual: Campaign Strategy Guide
- Campaign Strategy Planning Template
- Spectrum of Allies
- Becoming allies: Reaching across the divide
- Coalition Building: Start Here
- Australian Progress (Conference)
- FWD + Organise 2021 (Australian Progress Conference - Australia)
- Lessons learned_Reviews_Reflections
- Movements_Campaigns - Environment_Nature
- Movements_Campaigns - Environment_Nature - Western Australia