We planned out precisely the number of toilets that would be needed for a quarter of a million people … how many doctors, how many first aid stations, what people should bring with them to eat in their lunches.
Bayard Rustin

March on Washington. Martin Luther King looking out onto thousands of faces, with his arms raised up.
March on Washington, August 28th, 1963. Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The March on Washington was planned with strict attention to detail. All of the need-to-knows were put into one document called Organising Manual No. 2. It was developed by a man named Bayard Rustin.

In twelve pages he covered the practical must-dos, the business and the values the march embodied. It gave details of why we march; our demands; who will march and all the key logistics to get you there. It had maps for toilets, lunch stations and merchandise. Nothing was left to chance, and everything was organised for a targeted response.

We want to run actions with Rustin like precision.

Delegating the team

We delegate responsibilities across the team to get the most out of everyone we are working with:

Volunteer outreach

The people responsible for volunteer outreach work across all the teams to provide the volunteers needed to support the action. This is the biggest and most crucial team. Any person who wants to volunteer meets with them first. They learn each volunteers interests and move them to the appropriate group. The turn-out figures also fall in the responsibility of the volunteer outreach team. They ensure the turn-out is on target and all captains have explained events and code of conduct to their people.

Training

The training team relates across groups to understand what training is needed and lead on this. For example, turn-out training, story, pinning etc. is the focus of the training team. It is the responsibility of the other teams to inform the training staff what they need and when.

Media and communication

This team is responsible for all communication and media leading up to the day; local, national and online. They will relate to the script and VIP team, who will have the speakers who can share their story with the press.

VIPs

This team deal with the politicians, celebrities and powerful leaders. They ensure VIPs are taken care of on the day, agendas have been sent to them in advance, and ensuring they arrive on time.

Stage

If you have a stage in your action, everything that happens on it is this teams responsibility. They work closely with the script and volunteer team to ensure the smooth running of the action. When people come on, off, power points etc – it all comes under their brief.

Script

Script team work with the speakers to ensure their words give the greatest impact. They are in charge of ensuring the script is to time, people are prepped and pinners have rehearsed. If you are not running a big assembly like action, you still need to script your agenda, responses and anything else that will be spoken on the day.

Events team

Events team book the venue, organise space, sound, hospitality, entertainment and accessibility. Nobody enjoys an action when they are hungry and cold, no matter how good the speakers are. The events team is also responsible for managing the mostly-volunteer floor team. They work with security to ensure people are safe and can enter and exit with ease.

Delegate weekly meetings

Each team will then delegate out all the roles within their area of responsibility.

For example: the communication team will nominate a lead whose job is to have full oversight of communications. They will then divide communications into different areas of responsibility.

For example: local, national, online, tv and print media will all be a sub-group. Each person in the team will take on one of these areas of responsibility and will manage this specific part of communications. Underneath them will be a number of volunteers ready to support the work.

The managers of the sub groups will feed back to the lead of communications weekly until action day. This can be over conference call or in person. It shouldn’t last more than one hour. The purpose of the meeting is to check in on how each person is doing.

The agenda of the meeting should look something like this:

  • Chair
  • Minute taker
  • Time-keeper
  1. Go through the next steps from the previous meeting and check what has been done.
  2. One highlight/lowlight of your week.
  3. Priorities for next week.
  4. What help do you need and who can support?
  5. Next steps for the team.

Final meeting before acton day

The final meeting checks in with all the leads. This meeting should ideally be in person with one and a half hours set aside. It follows a similar structure to above:

  1. In one word, how are you feeling?
  2. What has been achieved?
  3. Priorities before action day.
  4. Three biggest worries and concerns.
  5. What help do you need?
  6. Next steps

Final checklist before action day

  • What is our turn-out looking like?
  • Have final reminders been sent out to everyone?
  • Is there any concern that our VIPs will not show?
  • Do we have press confirmation?
  • Has the script been proof read and sent to all speakers?
  • Has everyone rehearsed?
  • Do we have enough volunteers for the event?
  • Sound/accessibility/seats/props/banners all confirmed?
  • Do we have a plan for unwanted guests?
  • Have any security forms e.g. permission for photography been signed off?

You are ready for action.