Guide to running your own local organising event
What is an organising event?
Organising events, sometimes called ‘barnstorms’, are events for inspiring volunteers to join your campaign and take action. We can use these kinds of events to funnel new volunteers into the campaign at scale, and build leadership on your campaign by enabling people to take purposeful actions in the campaign.
The main aim of an organising event is to turn as many attendees into active participants in your campaign, by giving everyone a clear, simple and discrete task to do.
When should an organising event take place?
For the most part, organising events are most effective when your campaign is already established, with agreed demands or objectives, and a pre-existing infrastructure for new people to join. Because fossil fuel divestment campaigns usually have the same demand – to end fossil fuel investment – these types of events are perfect for our campaigns, when used at the right time.
If you don’t currently have a campaign infrastructure, it’s probably not the right time to host an organising event. If you’re just getting started, this online guide has lots of tips on setting up a divestment group, or you can get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org for advice.
Here’s a basic template for how to run an organising event or ‘barnstorm’ that you can adapt for your campaign. Keep your event to under an hour – as close to 45 minutes as possible is best.
You can host an organising event in-person or online. This template is designed for online events, but this guidance is broadly replicable for in-person events.
Step 1: Opening the call
Open the call, welcome all participants and outline the agenda for the session. This sets the tone for the call. Be brief, specific, and sound excited about what’s to come.
While the call is starting, directly welcome people as they join by saying “Welcome xxx”, “thanks for joining”, “fantastic to have you with us”, etc.
Write down what you are going to say in the introduction, so it is easier to keep to the point. Lean into emotive language such as “I’m so excited to hear from our amazing speakers tonight”.
Move around a bit and stretch out before you start the call, this will help you bring a good amount of energy to opening the call!
This section should take no more than 5-7 minutes.
Step 2: Speakers to energise the audience
Invite two speakers to your event. Ask each speaker to speak for no more than 5 minutes each.
Your first speaker should be someone with a slightly higher profile who can speak with authority about the campaign and the broader issues you are campaigning for/against. This speaker might be a prominent local figure, whether a political figure, a campaigner, or a community leader. Or it may be someone from a national campaign network who can speak passionately about the issue. Their talk should set the scene of your campaign. Get them to briefly outline what the problem is, and your plan to address the problem.
Your second speaker should be someone with a personal experience of being involved in the campaign. Get them to talk about their experience of taking part in the campaign, and to tell the story of their journey from not being involved in the campaign to being an active part of the campaign.
The host should then thank the speakers for coming, picking out one point from each speaker to praise or comment on.
Step 3: Make your organising ask
This is what you want the attendees to do. Make it a simple task and share resources in the chat for people to get involved. This should be a simple, discrete task that your attendees can take action on immediately – such as contacting their councillor with a template message. Your task should not be complicated, or require the attendee to create new materials.
Keep your organising ask brief, and repeat it a few times.
For example, if you are hosting your organising event in advance of local elections, then the purpose of your event will be to get people to contact their local election candidates and ask them to sign the UK Divest pledge.
In the chat, you could share links to the UK Divest elections page to encourage attendees to:
- Find out who their candidates are.
- Ask them to sign the pledge using the template email.
- Contact their friends and family and ask them to do the same.
If the ask is likely to be a bit tricky or fiddly for some people, make sure to build in time to provide a demonstration of how people will go about doing the ask and space for questions, if people have them. For example, this video demonstration of contacting your election candidates only lasts for 4 minutes but runs through the process of using a new website and provides some examples of where you might go when searching for candidate information
Step 4: Working together (optional)
Prompt people to start doing the ‘ask’ on the call together.
If you have a larger group of people, consider breaking off into smaller groups (of 2-3 people) to go and do the task together. If you’re online, you can use “breakout rooms” to do this, or if you’re in person, make sure the space you’re using has enough space for groups.
Spend around 20 minutes doing this. Go between the different rooms/groups to check in and see how they are getting on. Support anyone who is struggling with the ask.
At the end of this section, invite feedback from 2-3 people about how it went and what they are going to do next.
Although this section is listed as optional, we strongly recommend that you encourage people to get started on the action at the event. If you choose not to do this section in your organising call (e.g. if the numbers are too high to be able to support people with the task), make sure to emphasise the need for people to complete the action as soon as possible.
Step 5: Closing the call
Before you close the call, you’ll need to:
- Let attendees know what the next steps are for their involvement in the campaign. Tell them when your next meeting is, or when you’ll be in touch with them next.
- Repeat your organising ask (especially if you skipped Step 4).
- Thank your speakers again, and your attendees for joining.
View our event checklist for more tips on how to host amazing events for your campaign.