Starting a local group
Always keep in mind:
- It's better to start easy and slowly build up. Don’t wait to figure everything out. Begin with what you've got and trust that it will grow.
- Don’t be afraid to fail. Learn from your mistakes so you can develop.
Whatever your circumstances, there are 2 things you'll definitely need to do:
- Decide what you are going to work on.
- Find people to work with.
If you are not sure what you want to do, find people first and then decide together.
A few tips to help you find people:
- Talk to your friends.
- Use our Community Mapping exercise to figure out who to approach.
- Post something on social media or Streetlife. Could be as simple as “Is anybody in X town interested in getting involved to protect our environment. I would like to start a Friends of the Earth Local Group.”
- Start a Facebook group and keep it updated. Check out our guide on using social media.
- Create a flyer and post it up around the community.
- Talk to local community organisations.
Your first 3 meetings
They should be informal and relaxed. Pick a venue like a local cafe to ensure that people from all backgrounds and ages will feel comfortable attending.
Here are some suggestions for your first 3 meetings.
First meeting – relationships
Creating change is all about relationships. So spend your first meeting getting to know each other. Be open and make sure that everyone understands that this is what the first meeting is about.
- Who is everyone, why are they there?
- What are people's stories?
- What do they want to work on?
- What are their skills and passions?
- What gets them excited?
You'll have loads of time to campaign. Focus on building healthy group dynamics that will carry you forward. Successful campaigns are all built on strong relationships.
Make sure you leave knowing where and when people would like to meet in the future, as well as how they prefer to keep in touch.
Second meeting – issues
Now it is time to think more about what you want to do – even if you think you already know.
As a group, answer the following:
- What makes your heart sing? There are so many issues in the world – pick the ones that excite you and give you energy, not those that bring you down.
- What are the problems in your area? What work is relevant locally?
- What are other local people going to be interested in and care about?
- Is there a Friends of the Earth major campaign that interests you?
- What kind of activities do people want to do and which ones do they not want to do?
Working on issues that are relevant to the local community is likely to pull in more members and lead to success.
This would also be a good time to set out ground rules and agreements.
Third meeting – actions
If you haven’t yet figured out what you want to work on, revisit the questions in the second meeting.
If you do have a good idea, start thinking about campaign strategy and campaign planning. Think about other activities that will engage people and lead to some easy wins.
Some ideas might be:
- Film screenings
- Litter picks/ beach cleans
- Existing demo or rally
- Stalls (street, local festivals)
- A letter/column in the local paper
- A stunt to raise awareness
- A debate or public meeting
Now is also a good time to think about recruitment, retention, and roles in your group. Have another stab at the Community Mapping exercise to identify more people and groups to approach and to map our your skills and resources – and any gaps in these.
Don’t worry if you haven't got lots of people. Build relationships, promote yourself and capture people’s email addresses, and you'll hopefully see your group growing quickly.
Once you are up and running get in touch with us. We'll go over the paperwork and official bits with you so that you become a licensed Friends of the Earth local group.