Divestment Guide

“It makes no sense to invest in companies that undermine our future. We need an apartheid-style boycott to save the planet” –Desmond Tutu

Want to join the divestment movement? Then you’re in the right place.

Whether you’re new to campaigning, or have been saving the planet for years, dive in and join the fastest growing climate campaign around.

When it comes to divestment, it’s the taking part that counts. Getting local authorities to divest isn’t just about getting money out of the fossil fuel industry – it’s about taking away their social license. We might not bankrupt them, but we can politically and morally bankrupt them. We can break their stranglehold on our politics and economy. Running a public campaign is as important as actually getting the institution to divest — every new conversation about the role of the fossil fuel industry is another little victory. So make sure your campaign is public, loud and proud.

Don’t get too bogged down in backroom negotiations with local government officials. You don’t have to be a financial expert to be part of the divestment movement. Your role is to get your local authority to publicly commit to divest. They’ve got access to the financial experts who can make it happen.

1. Get Started

‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’ –Margaret Mead

Build your team

All successful campaigns start with a good team. Gather together some people that you can work with. Start with people you already know and trust. Speak to your friends, family, neighbours and co-workers. Are there people that you’ve campaigned with before? Do you know people that care about the environment? Once you have some people in mind, it’s a good idea to reach out to them personally: give them a call or better still meet up for a cup of tea. Explain why you’re interested in divestment and try and share your enthusiasm with them.

If you don’t know anyone who can join your team, or you need more people, there are plenty of places to look for recruits. Get in touch with groups and individuals in your area who are already working on issues such as climate, environment or social justice.

It’s okay to start small, there will be plenty of opportunities to get more people involved as the campaign gains momentum. The most important thing is to get together people that you know you can work with, have fun with, and that you trust.


Get Together

When you have a small group of people who are all interested, bring them together to meet each other. It’s best if these get togethers are informal and fun, but it is still important to put thought into planning this first meeting. Think about what you want to achieve in the meeting. Don’t worry about doing lots of research at this stage, but it would be good to have a few bits of info with you e.g. who are the potential targets for your campaign? And make sure you can speak about divestment.

Try and meet regularly, either once a week or fortnight. A regular meeting schedule allows your group to grow, improves communication between people, and builds momentum and trust. Remember to have fun when you get together, try and hang out between meetings and build relationships that go beyond the campaign. Decide how you’re going to communicate between meetings, maybe you want to set up an email list or facebook group. Whatever works best for you.



Get Active

You’ve got your team, you’re meeting regularly, and you know who your target is. Now it’s time to get active! Here are four ways that you can get active with your campaign. You don’t have to follow these in sequence; they can all be done at any stage in your campaign. Agree what to do with your team and do what feels comfortable.

Organise a public meeting

This can be a great way to build more support for your campaign or to kick it off and go public. A public meeting gives you the opportunity to invite a wide range of people from your community to engage with divestment.

You could start with a screening of ‘Do the Math’ to set the scene. Here’s a step-by-step guide to organising a public meeting.

Start a petition

An online petition gives people an easy way to engage with your campaign. It’s also a simple way to show decision makers that you have a lot of people behind you. Once people are signed up you can contact them via email, inviting them to events or actions and updating them on the campaign.

Starting a petition is easy, use our online tool to get started.

Send a letter

You might want to start your campaign with a friendly letter to your target letting them know that you want them to divest. You could ask other people from your team and community to co-sign it, and could even think about making it an open letter to your local paper.

This will let your target know that they are about to come under scrutiny, and may even result in an early win.

Organise an action

Why not start with a bang? Divestment campaigns are at their best when they are public and engaging, so do something that will capture the imagination of other people, and grab the attention of your target.

From flash-mobs to banner-drops there are lots of things you can do. Have a look here for ideas and inspiration.

2. Build Your Power

Your campaign is public and up and running. It’s time to think a bit more about how to take the campaign forward, and to build your support and power.

Make A Plan

It’s nice to have a plan. A strategy can help guide your campaign to ultimate success. You won’t want to get too stuck on this as it’s good to be flexible and go with what’s working. But a little bit of time working on strategy can save you lots of time in the long run, and it’s easier to do than you’d think.

Strategy is your overall plan: the steps you’ll take in order to achieve your aim. Your strategy will include different tactics/activities – the things you will do to implement the plan. There are lots of different ways you can approach this, check out the resources below. The most important thing is to  do this with your team and come up with something that works for you. Think creatively and be ready to adapt your plan as the situation changes.



Build Support

Public support and engagement will be an important part of your campaign. Running a public campaign is as important as actually getting your local authority to divest – every new conversation about the role of the fossil fuel industry is another little victory. So make sure your campaign is public, loud and proud. Don’t get too bogged down in backroom negotiations with local government officials.

Reach out to active groups in your area and try and get them on board. Spread the word for your petition through social media. For a digital presence, you may start with a facebook group and twitter account, and start to think about creating your own website so that you can posts blogs, upcoming events, and resources. Plan some creative actions that makes divestment fun.

Grow a list of names, emails and phone numbers so your group can bring people out at key campaign moments. The work of a campaign can grow quickly, so be ready with reinforcements. As you build support, remember to always be looking for allies with skills and ask them to join your team. One of the best ways to secure meaningful support is by following up with new people with one-on-one conversation over a cup of tea or a pint.



3. win

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win” –Mahatma Gandhi



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