Category Archives: Collective action

How are youth-led movements and campaigns mobilizing and engaging people in India?

Four weeks ago, I left a cold wet Australian winter and arrived in the heat and hustle and bustle, of Delhi. In the month of July undertook a research project for Haiyya in order to investigate the types of methodologies, tools and practices utilised by some of the top youth-led activists, movements & community organizing groups in India. The aim of this project was to identify the community organizing practices activists and campaigners are utilising in their work and to disseminate the findings with Haiyya’s networks. The hope is that this in turn will provide the community organizing sector with a resource to support campaigning and leadership initiatives in India.

Key Findings

Which is the most common approach of community organizing being utilised?

The survey revealed that all participants utilised community organizing framework in one way or another. The approach varied, some participants utilised peer education and others took a participatory approach. However, the most common theme was the use of narrative. The sharing of stories and experiences with others in order to create relationships, empower people to lead and create lasting social change. When deciding the types of campaigns that the activist or community organizing group should undertake, participants largely responded that they or their organization were guided by social justice issues impacting communities.

Is an organizing plan necessary for campaign initiatives? And if so, what should this plan consist of?

Seventy-five percent of participants felt that an organizing plan was essential for campaign initiatives. These participants stated that a good organizing plan should incorporate interest and input from the community volunteers, mentoring and supervision of volunteers and new leaders, and agreement on goals of desired impact. In addition, participants stated that in order to build a campaign on the right foundation, it is important for a plan to include participation of all stakeholders, how progress will be monitored and to always consider the social justice issue you are working towards in the approaches you undertake.

So why do people mobilise to act on social justice issues?

Pinjra Tod, n.d

Activists and community organizers stated that people are predominantly motivated to act or lead due to oppression, the social justice issue at hand or the immediate consequences of the campaign. For example, one particular activist was working on a campaign to normalise and reduce embarrassment surrounding women’s undergarments, the campaigner hung bras on a wall to protest an issue and also to normalise women’s undergarments. In addition, the survey revealed that activists and organizers felt that people are also motivated to act through a sense of belonging, relationships of trust built with campaigners and community, and hope for a better future.

What are some key challenges community organizers face when mobilising people to act?

FAHRENHEIT211, 2015

Participants stated that some of the key challenges surrounding mobilisation to act involve the stigma surrounding the issue, inaccurate knowledge about issues,and fear of repercussions of participating in campaigns from community, family, authorities or religious faith. For example, one participated stated that the main purpose of their campaigns was to end the practice of female genital cutting. The participant stated that their “main challenge is countering all kinds of pro-cutting arguments that are rooted in religious faith and convincing our target audience that we do not wish to antagonise the community or critique the religion or their faith.”

What makes for successful campaigns?

Participants in the study stated that a successful campaign should take a grass-roots, bottom up approach that incorporates open communication, a functional and proactive feedback loop and be process orientated as opposed to outcome orientated.

What makes for unsuccessful campaigns?

The study revealed that most activists and community organizing groups found that a campaign that incorporated judgemental language, was antagonistic towards the community they were working in and one that used a ‘cookie cutter’ model of campaigning with no flexibility was destined to fail.

By Karen O’Reilly
Karen is a student at University of Sydney pursuing Masters of Human Rights. She worked as a researcher for Haiyya for the months of June – July.

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Turning the tide on plastic pollution through community cleanups

 

When 29kg of plastic was extracted out of a 10-meter-long sperm whale that washed up dead in southern Spain earlier this year, it carried an urgent message for us: we are killing animals with plastic! In a way, I was equally responsible, for not having done my bit. While the news made me angry at human apathy, around this time I read about Mumbai’s Afroz Shah who initiated one of the world’s largest beach cleanup drive at Versova to tackle marine litter.

Sheer scale of Versova beach cleanup prompted urgent action

The sheer scale of the initiative prompted me to undertake a similar activity in Delhi. What added momentum to my drive was a Swedish fitness craze called ‘Plogging’ (picking up trash while running), which has become a rage in western countries. This became my way of taking affirmative action on plastic! So, in March this year, me and Anurag Sikder (a close friend) went plogging in Jahapanah Park in Alaknanda (New Delhi). It was a fun way of taking care of fitness and environment. I thought it would be easy to mobilise people. But for a month, we were the only ones plogging. Despite plaudits on social media and assurances from friends, none showed up. It was disheartening at first as we questioned people’s real intentions, but continued doing our job. Eventually, we extended our drive to Sanjay Van park for a change of location. This was when we posted before/after pictures of trash on the their Facebook page and park authorities took note of that. Some volunteers also came forward to support us.

At this point, it was clear our cleanup drive was generating awareness, so we shifted our focus closer home: our colony in Chittaranjan Park (New Delhi). This is where we could mobilise more people, and inculcate a sense of collective responsibility.

From random cleanups to community cleanups

What began as a random cleanup activity now coalesced into a more structured movement with our first community cleanup in C.R Park last week. We created a Facebook event and sent out invites to friends. Many expressed interest and some wanted to attend as well. But when the day came, none showed up, again! Who would want to wake up early morning to pick up trash and get their hands dirty anyway? To give us a moral boost, my family and neighbour came forward and kickstarted our drive from H-block. We walked around with jute bags collecting trash from parks and roadside, arousing curiosity of residents, some of whom also joined us. As an epiphany, we decided to replicate this drive to other blocks and hold discussions on alternatives to plastic and discuss waste segregation at source. Picking up waste, I think, is the first step to all waste management drives. Soon we will be quantifying and identifying the plastic we pick up and call out businesses to take action. We want C.R Park to become a model colony in south Delhi, whose cleanup template can be replicated in other neighbourhoods.

Biggest challenge is to break stigma around picking trash

However, the toughest challenge was and still is to break the stigma attached to picking trash being limited to lower classes. Through our cleanups, we want to challenge this status quo. We’ve had people tell us stuff like, “I feel for the cause, but I have an OCD against anything dirty so…” But broadly, we need people cutting across religions, castes, celebrities, priests, businesses to actively participate in trash picking to fix this problem. The idea of collective responsibility needs to be inculcated.

The other big challenge is mobilisation. To address this, I plan to collaborate with educational institutions, NGOs, fitness clubs, government institutions to rally more volunteers for cleanups. This will not only increase reach, but the mobilisation bit will be distributed across multiple channels.

And while it’s important to address the issue at source, I believe cleanups provide for lasting behavioural changes and forces people to think about plastic alternatives.

Delhi Police is onboard for June 3 cleanup in C.R Park

The biggest success we’ve had till now was to get the Delhi Police on board for the June 3 community cleanup drive in C.R Park with theme ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’. They have agreed to assist us with volunteers, SDMC support and cross-promotion of the event on social media. The timing of our cleanup is important because India is hosting this year’s edition of the World Environment Day on June 5 in New Delhi.

Cleanups to be concluded with educational, follow-up action

In these three months, my biggest learning has been that while cleanups raise awareness more broadly, it should go beyond just shock therapy because this can leave volunteers feeling helpless in the absence of an educational follow-up action. So we will conduct discussions on alternatives to non-degradable plastics with focus on reducing, reusing and recycling. Second learning lesson is to collaborate, since organic mobilisation is tough, unless you’re an influencer. Lastly, if you don’t believe in your goal, nobody else will. So work honestly, smartly and consistently. This is where the biggest change will come from! Interested people can join me on Instagram @ploggaindia and on Facebook at Abhimanyu Chakravorty.

By Abhimanyu Chakravorty
I am a media professional working for an English daily based out of Delhi. I write on health, fitness, climate change and world politics. Of late, I have become some sort of a climate-change, plastic-shunning campaigner after being deeply inspired by three women who will be rowing across the Atlantic in December 2018 to challenge the everyday use of plastic. Closer home, Afroz Shah, who was part of one the world’s largest beach clean-up in Mumbai’s Versova.