Power Shift!

Heyy, so today is Blog Action Day, so I’m going to blog about my amazing weekend at Power Shift last weekend.

On the friday evening I coached it from Bristol down to London, and ran all the way (I was very late) to the Institute of Education in the middle of London. As soon as I got there I was kitted out with a reflective vest and told to register people…..but there was no one arriving….my heart sank as I started to contemplate what would happen if the projected hundreds of young people didn’t become a reality sometime soon. Over the last year I have watched a large number of my friends being subsumed trying to organise what ultimately promised to be -and was- the biggest environmental youth summit the UK had ever seen.

Half an hour later the numbers were rolling in and the wristbands out so all was ok. The first plenary was nearly full so speakers like the  hip hop teacher Ian Solomon-Kawell, Emily Cummins only 23 and a successful inventor already and Emma from UKYCC were met with lots of interested faces. As soon as that was over I rushed off to meet my friend who was coming from Wales on the train. On the saturday we got up bright and early to get there for 9.30-probably overshot that by about half an hour-but we arrived in time to catch Jason Isaacs up on the stage talking about the power of stories. He should know, he’s a well known actor (Malfoy’s Dad in Harry Potter to name one). He was an amazing speaker, he begun by saying he has a fat brother, who insists that “the jury’s out” on the fact that eating less will make you thinner, and inevitably happier in his case, because, in Jason’s words, “he’s not big-boned and jolly he’s fat and miserable.” Where is this going I hear you saying, but his analogy on climate change and fat brothers is steadfast-no one wants to change if you tell them what they’re already doing is wrong, in fact telling someone not to do something is exactly why they do do it. Same with alcoholics same with drug addicts, why is it any different for us as carbon addicts he asked?

Then came the mainstay of the weekend, and that was learning the Marshall Gantz technique of telling your story to campaign on an issue effectively. Marshall Gantz is one of creators of the incredibly successful Obama campaign for the last election that won him his presidency. Obviously Obama himself is a very successful campaigner and orator, but look more closely and you’ll find that one of his most effective tools for moving the masses is his ability to tell a personal story. His Story of me.

So our mission for the weekend was to master 3 things:

1. The Story of me

2. The Story of us

3. And the story of now.

Combined in one fluent speech these three mechanisms are the perfect way to engage with your audience on your campaign/topic of choice. Not many people respond to being talked at with science, not many respond to scaremongering and political promises, what we do respond to is stories. Tell your tale of who or what inspired you to take action, what was the lightbulb moment, or why are you standing here today? Who’s influenced the way you think now? This 2  minute story of you contextualises why you do what you do, it connects your audience to you in a way they wont even know. Then you tell the story of us, of the collective, of the movement you’re a part of and the movement they could be a part of, and the us that you’ll collectively form when more people get on board. What is it that you stand for and that you can achieve together? Give people a sense of belonging, and then take them with you to your story of now, why is now the moment? Why you, why us, why here, why now? There has to be an uplifting vision of what you can achieve in the current climate that inspires people into action. And that’s what Power Shift was all about.

On the saturday night my friend Rob from Wales spoke about his green building aspirations and the reality of working in the normal construction industry as a brikkie, with lots of jokes and yummy pictures he got a big round of applause, not least because he’s a rare example of a green collar job. The best thing was, although he couldnt stay for sunday and monday, he was really inspired by the day he spent at Power Shift. Meeting all the lovely like-minded people, and developing his story. His realisation that no, it wasn’t just for hippies and moralistic campaigners, it was for him too, and that guy over there, and him and her and her too. I really think that the environmental movement of young ‘uns in the UK has taken a major leap forward this week, thanks to Power Shift.

And lastly, they spent some of the weekend practicing, with the help if Madonna’s choreographer, a flashmob dance to be performed outside the Houses of Parliament….see what you think HERE!


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