Tips, tricks and resources to help you run an effective local government divestment campaign
There’s no magic formula for running a successful campaign. But, based on learning from across the divestment movement, we can see that we are most likely to win when we successfully combine ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ campaigning.
In other words, it’s crucial to work ‘inside’ to lobby and convince decision-makers on divestment, as well as building ‘outside’ public pressure to force them to act.
This page outlines some of the key arguments and stakeholders you’ll encounter in the world of local government divestment campaigning.
Want to think more about planning your campaign? Make sure to use the Divestment Campaigning Guide – our seven-step guide to building power and winning your campaign.
One of the most crucial stakeholders in your campaign is the members of the pension fund. Although councils manage the money, it ultimately belongs to the members – current and retired workers from institutions in your community.
If you’re not sure what workers pay into the fund, you can usually find a list of employers in the fund annual report (always available on the fund website). The largest groups of employees are generally local government workers.
Create a member-specific online action – several campaigns have created specific online actions for members to take, to amplify their voices and use their leverage over the fund. Check out this letter tool for the West Yorkshire campaign – if you want to create one of these, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Engage members at their workplaces – one way of finding members is to go directly to their place of work (e.g. council offices) and and petition or give out information. The Oxfordshire campaign have created a specific leaflet for members, including a freepost section for members to send off their fossil free feedback to the fund – read about their ‘leaflet tour’ here.
Flyer or have a stall outside fund members’ meetings – lots of pension funds hold annual ‘members’ meetings’ to allow pension-holders to ask questions and find out more about their fund. Several campaigns have gone along to these and given out information to members outside, encouraging them to raise divestment at the meeting – check out this blog from Divest London from their action at the meeting.
Host your own member forum – if you’ve already built up a list of members who are supportive via a petition or similar, how about hosting your own event specifically for members? You could do a panel discussion, a film screening, or a meeting where members come up with their own pension fund manifesto – get creative!
The local community
To win your campaign, it will be crucial to demonstrate strong public support and make lots of noise.
One of the most common ways of showing public support is to launch a petition for divestment – check out some examples of local government petitions, and make your own here. Our petition tool is also powerful because it allows you to contact signatories via email at any time to keep them updated and give them more ways to be involved (check out the Divestment Guide for more information). Taking to the streets to collect signatures is a great way of raising the profile of the issue in your community.
However, petitions are only one tool in the campaigning toolbox and aren’t very powerful in isolation.
Do regular creative public actions – nothing will grab public and media attention – and put pressure on your target – more than creative and unusual actions. Thinking of planning an action? Check out this Action Development Checklist to help you plan, and this Creative Action Manual for some inspiration!
Unions could be some of your strongest allies in your campaign.
Public-sector and ‘general’ unions like UNISON and Unite represent huge numbers of fund members of local government schemes, and often have some kind of representation in pension fund decision-making structures.
Unions are also one of the biggest progressive political forces in the country and building solidarity and alliances with them is crucial if we want to fight for just and democratic climate solutions.
Join a union and get involved! We can all be union members and/or supporters, and growing union power and membership is a crucial way of building the kind of progressive, democratic politics we want to see. You can find a union to join through the TUC.
Reach out to your local UNISON branch – get in touch with your local branch to tell them about the campaign and start building relationships. Some campaigns have jointly hosted events with local union branches, or held stalls at union events as a result of the strong relationships they’ve built.
Help members pass a branch motion – one of the clearest ways of demonstrating union support is having a motion pass at local branches. And in the lead up to UNISON National Conference in June 2017 we have a unique opportunity to leverage branch motions and get national policy in favour passed. If you want to work on a branch motion, contact Mika from Platform who can provide a model motion and more information: email@example.com.
A lot of the arguments you’ll face in campaigning for local government divestment are the same general arguments we see across the board, so a good place to start in addressing these is the Divestment Arguments page (particularly the decision-makers section).
However there are some particular arguments that are especially crucial to tackle in local government campaigning. Check out the following blogs to explore them in detail:
Fiduciary duty and legal responsibility (coming soon)
There are campaigners all over the country (and the world) working on local government divestment – linking up with them can give your campaign the support and boost it needs.
Local government divestment campaigners who want to get connected should join the Fossil Free Network. The Network has an email discussion forum, a Slack to connect with global campaigners, and hosts regular calls to share tips and resources.
In October 2016, we hosted the first ever Fossil Free Network Gathering – 40+ campaigners from across the country came together for a weekend of discussion and workshops.
Want to join? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get linked in!