Find your purpose

With the team, answer the following questions:

  1. What is our goal? What are we trying to accomplish together?
  2. Who are the people that will be our focus?
  3. How are we going to act?
  4. What are we specifically going to do and how?

The level of specificity is important. You need to get down to the details so there is no confusion about what you are setting out to do.

Define the goal

Someone will need to facilitate the meeting to ensure everyone gets the same amount of time to speak and to lift up agreements and tensions.

Ask each person to write their understanding of the team’s goal: what are you trying to accomplish together? People may have varying ideas and that is ok. Put all the ideas up on a board. Go around the group and this time ask each person which statements resonate most with them. Circle those statements. It is ok if more than one is chosen.

Go around the group again and ask from those circled, which one resonates with them most. It may be that in the end more than one is chosen. Can you bring the two together? Read it out loud. It’s ok if it is not perfect. Each time you go around it will get stronger.

Example: our purpose is to increase voter registration in the next General Election.

Who are we working with to deliver this purpose? 

The next question is about where will the team be focusing their energy? We can not work everywhere. Is it in a constituency, an institution? Will you focus on a particular community or demographic? Which group will give this team the most energy? What group/area could strategically help you reach your goals?

Follow the same method as you did with identifying your goal. Once you reach an agreement add it to the purpose statement.

Example: increase youth voter registration in the next General election in 3 swing areas of South England, across ten colleges/universities driven by 18-25 year olds.

Winnable and worthwhile

There are so many issues to work on; big issues that can overwhelm us. Here we break them down into actionable steps.

Example: A college has identified environmental issues are the top priority for students. A team has come together to build a college wide campaign to address these concerns.

A scatter graph with worthwhile and winnable on the axis

Here the students have marked possible actions on the worthwhile and winnable table.

Solving global warming goes on the far right corner at the bottom of the graph. While it is a seriously worthwhile action, it is not very winnable for this small team. This could overwhelm their efforts, and stop them from starting. Not a recipe for motivating action.

Putting up posters goes in the top far left corner. While it is very winnable, it is not very worthwhile. It does not offer much team development or encourage others to join, and is unlikely to change anything.

The two in the box hit the winnable and worthwhile line. The work on solar panels is more likely to win because it is just in the college, where the team has their power. The road action is more difficult because it involves the public. It could be more worthwhile because the effects go beyond the college. Both are impressive actions that will require work. With some creative strategy, both would bring meaningful change to a significant number of people.

We need to be pragmatic as well as principled on the actions we take. The small can be powerful and does not mean we are losing sight of the big nut we need to crack.

How ambitious can you be?

The more resources you have and the larger the team, the more ambitious you can be. That is why you should prioritise growing your base of people through 1-to-1s and issue meetings. It is how you find the folks that make change happen.

For example: what if the group above was part of a wider network of colleges? Or the success of this action started this network? Imagine if they collectively worked together to tackle a nation-wide campaign on air pollution around schools, or for all schools to run on 100 percent renewable energy by the year. Hot damn that is massive change.

Small wins matter

You may feel your action is insignificant for the big picture, but those small actions, their coordination and sustained energy, build the pressure to enable bigger change to happen.

Never under estimate the power of small wins on the people. We will not be winning all the time, but when you do, claim the win no matter how small. You have got to communicate to the people we can win; that their time, energy and resources matter. Our motivation and appetite for action grows as each small success persuades us that change is achievable. The unfolding story of our action, builds the unfolding story of our movement and the unfolding story that a different world is possible.


Decide what is worthwhile and winnable

With your team complete the worthwhile and winnable table together. What actions fit in the box that you would all find worthwhile and achievable? Once you have the action, we build on it.

How are you going to act?

Are you running a media campaign, a public action, protest, education in schools? Following the same method as before, identify how you are going to act. Pick the most strategic and the most enjoyable. It can be more than one action, but ensure you are not spreading yourself too thin.

Example: increase youth voter registration in the next general election in 3 swing areas of South England. We will achieve through voter registration drives in ten colleges/universities and run an online get out the vote video driven by 18-25 year olds.

Now you have purpose, let’s give everyone a role.