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Are you an armchair campaigner?

Woman sat in armchair with laptop

Do you add your name when you get an email petition about an issue you care about? It’s an easy way to ‘do your bit’, but does it actually help – and what persuades you to engage more than just hitting ‘send’?

Are you a member of the Barbie Investigation Bureau, completing missions on behalf of Greenpeace to spread the word about the latest phase of their deforestation campaign?

Or perhaps a campaign group has recently spurred you into emailing your MP or donating to a cause in need?

My favourite campaign

Campaign organisations websites are saturated by calls to action, and we at Which? are no different, but what does it take to get you to do something? Greenpeace’s ‘Barbie’ campaign launched with a nationwide treasure hunt to find dolls that became the finder’s entry into the Barbie Investigation Bureau.

I was disappointed not to find any of the Barbies in my area, but it’s testament to the creativity of Greenpeace’s campaigns team that they got me and hundreds of other people across the country hunting around parks in the rain.

I support their campaign on deforestation; who doesn’t want to stop the destruction of Indonesian rainforests and protect orang-utans? We all stand to benefit from preserving ecosystems and keeping CO2 in the ground – but was it the campaign issue that spurred me to action or was it the fun of the campaign’s activity?

What’s the impact of email campaigns?

Working in the campaigns team at Which? means that I often send or receive various ’email your MP/a CEO/whoever’ actions and I’ll sign most things if I believe in the issue, but do these emails have an impact – and what does it take to get people away from the easy click of a mouse and into MP’s offices?

Do our good intentions via email translate into everyday actions; is the mum who emailed Mattel about making sure Barbie’s packaging doesn’t contain paper from Indonesian rainforests really going to resist Barbie at birthdays and Christmases?

There’s something very easy about sending an email or donating online, but as more and more issues demand our attention it’s starting to take something really eye catching like the Barbie campaign to engage us into moving outside of the ease and speed of ‘making a difference’ outside the comfort of our home.

What has it taken for you to be part of a campaign? Are you feeling email fatigue and keen to find more substantial ways to make a difference? Have you got any ideas of what campaigns could do to really get people to sit up and take notice?

Richard Martin says:
9 August 2011

Emailing your MP / CEO / whoever has an effect, and is a useful contribution to a campaign, but often the personal touch has more effect. Anecdotally a MP values a personal letter from a constituent at roughly 10x a standard email / postcard. The same sources suggest a personal visit is worth perhaps 50 standard emails / postcards.

Hiding Barbies was a great way to reach new people, have some fun, and draw attention to the issues. Greenpeace is also keen to train people to lobby their MP / CEO / whoever, face to face; http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/lobbying and of course we need more people to help hide the next wave of Barbies (or whatevers next); http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/active

Thank you for the positive thoughts

Jamie W says:
10 August 2011

As one of the people at Greenpeace who developed the Barbie treasure hunt, I’m really pleased it caught your imagination and the question you raise about motivation is one we’re constantly wrestling with. There are so many campaign groups working on issues which are all as important as each other, so I’m sure you’ve found that it can be a challenge to be heard and grab people’s attention. Being as creative as possible is one way to do that, but to get new people involved there is an argument to make it fun as well with plenty of participation. It’s not always appropriate (and it doesn’t always work) but sternly lecturing about the importance of the rainforests is, frankly, a turn-off. That said, there’s still a place for simple ‘send an email’ actions, particularly to get people involved in the first place.

I’d love to hear what other people think about this, as it’s a frequent topic of debate between campaigners from Greenpeace and elsewhere.

As the PA or admin doing the persons work will be following corporate process on remits not to forward .They all copy each other [ like the marketting call centres] even the charities & regulatory & Governmental organisations . As “discretion is disregarded ” HMCS, what is going on? Certainly not democracy .

The whole system should be deconstructed ! But then the unemployment figures would rocket . As for the forums , e petitions , pledges [ with rules & regulations[] they have just taken off my honest contributions as libellous & I have also been barred from FOI website [ My Society] showing how useless system is . All the innane replies were made downloadable. Yet volunteers, with another agenda suspect, did this so not democratic. Giving one to wonder who is running the country since DEREGULATION ? As all[ including the Government] ignoring The Chronically Sick and Disabled Act 1970 ? Otherwise why?

Hi Julie, sorry to hear you’re having problems posting on certain forums – but it is part of a moderator’s job to take off or edit libellous comments!

Also, we’re finding it a little bit difficult to understand the point you’re trying to make on this Conversation, owing to the structure of your sentences. Although you should feel free to type in a way that’s comfortable and natural for you, it’s important we understand what you’re saying – so please try and read them through before you post them.

You can find more about this in our Commenting Guidelines: https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/

Thanks! 🙂


On investigating why I couldn’t add a truthful review , found that CAG website are really a LIMITED COMPANY making scam propositions of assistance [ Money Saving Expert.com] at a cost . So obviously they have other agendas pretending to be well meaning even saying have nothing to do with this .

The people scammed are on money saving expert.com and when put on plebble found from postcode they were Gallantknight Finances ??!!!

Sophie Gilbert says:
16 August 2011

I completely trust Amnesty International when they ask me to send emails and tell me they make a difference!

Henry R says:
18 August 2011

I’m part of a team developing campaigns at Friends of the Earth and – it sounds obvious – one of the best ways to engage people in campaigns is to ask them what they care about!

We’re doing just that at the moment for some work we’re preparing on energy – asking people up and down the country, through our local groups and online, what are the issues that really matter are.

Jamie’s right; we’ve often found lectures on wind turbines and the like will turn people off – but talking about tackling prices, skyrocketing bills and energy companies having us over a barrel has people interested and motivated to take action. A fun and creative approach is the icing on the cake.

Of course, numbers matter, and masses of people coming together behind a cause makes change happen: our Big Ask campaign, for the world’s first climate law committing the Government to slash the UK’s carbon emissions, was a success thanks to 200,000 supporters emailing, writing and meeting with their MP to show their support. So keep emailing!

Rose says:
21 August 2011

I’ve signed up to various campaigns but would like more information on how I can campaign against something effectively, and an organisation or website that takes key issues and brings like-minded people together so that they can campaign together.
EG I’ve been banging my head against a brick wall locally for over 3 years writing to my local council and MP about continual (almost daily) bonfires in the neighbourhood (constant choking smoke/toxic burning smells for hours at a time) but, because I seem to be the only person at home most of the time in the neighbourhood noticing it, I am being ignored. Meanwhile, my health’s suffering and I can’t afford to move (and why should I have to move!) and the local Council has notices all round the area saying “Tackling climate change” (not!!). I’ve searched all over the Web and checked the websites of Friends of the Earth etc but just can’t get the answers I need.