How to run an MP Engagement Group

Hosting an MPEG doesn’t have to be a big deal! And it should be fun. Here is a suggested way of structuring the meeting time so that it’s enjoyable and productive. You don’t have to follow it exactly but there are some tried-and-true things in here we’ve learnt work better than others. Remember the goal is to tell our Federal and State politicians we want much stronger action on climate!

Before

  • Email/text your group the day before the session to remind them of the date/time and to bring their laptop/tablet. Repost on social media.
  • Email/call/text new people who have RSVP-ed through the website, give them the venue details, thank them for their interest and let them know you’re looking forward to meeting them. Personal contact means they are more likely to follow through and show up.
  • Set up the space - around a big table is good
  • Make sure your internet works and you have the password handy
  • Check you can access all the resources links
  • Think about and shortlist the issues you might like to write about

Beginning (10-15 mins)

  • Hello, Welcome, Check-ins, Acknowledgement of Country
    • Welcome everyone as they arrive
    • Keep the mood up, relaxed and friendly. Climate change is serious but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun!
    • If there is someone new to the group it’s good to have a quick whip around the table so everyone can introduce themselves. Keep it to 30 secs: name, why they’ve come, how they’re feeling
    • If everyone knows each other just do the “how they’re feeling” bit
    • Acknowledgement of Country - there’s some words here if you need them
    • Make sure everyone knows where the bathroom is, and where water/tea/wine refreshments etc are
  • People (especially newbies) might not know have any idea to write about, or feel overwhelmed and not know what to choose. It can help to have a group brainstorm before you begin.
    • Ask if anyone has any specific current or ongoing ideas they think are timely to write or call about
    • What is current in the media or parliament?
    • Are there any campaigns by other climate organisations that could be supported?
    • Add your own ideas - have two or three ready to suggest
    • Check here for suggestions to write about if you don’t know where to start
    • Check the letter folder for other ideas
  • Make sure everyone has your internet password (or can tether to their phone if you’re in a public venue) and can login, and the link to the List of resources.
  • Remind people to send copies of what they write to you (and then forward to me), particularly if it’s a new climate-related issue, so we can add them to the collection
  • Invite them to get started and to ask for help if they need it

NB: If you’re in a pub, try to get everyone together for this first few minutes and try to find a quiet area - people can order drinks after the intro, before they start writing

During (1-2 hours)

  • People who have been to an MPEG before will be happy to have a chat with each other while they’re setting up and then jump into it.
  • New comers: Take some time to show newbies the List of Resources and how they work:
    • First link is to the How-to pages on the website; second link is to the downloadable collection of letters folder; third one is to issues and ideas to write about; other links are mostly to MPs addresses; one link is to some information documents from other organisations
    • Suggest they take some time to explore and familiarise themselves with the resources
    • If they are unsure of how to start (lots of people have never written a letter to an MP) suggest they find a letter in the file, download it and alter it by substituting their own words. Or give them the letter template.
  • Make it fun! At our MPEG, we generally have a glass of wine as this relaxes us and lightens things up a bit. However if that’s not your thing, tea or soup or BYO snacks work just fine. We all feel overwhelmed by climate change at times but it’s amazing how a bit of social collaborative action can lift your spirits. Sometimes we’re quiet and focussed, but usually there’s lots of conversation and laughs while we’re writing. Keep an eye on your guests and check on how they’re going now and then. We often call out to ask each other for opinions or information, check what each other has written, to help proofread, check MP’s titles and that we have the right personal details in the sign-off. Or just chat. However...
  • Do take action: It’s easy to get sidetracked into chitchat. People will only continue to come if they feel they’re actually doing something, so talk and share ideas but don’t let too much time pass without actually doing what you’ve planned.
  • Quantity is more important than quality: Remind people not to agonise over the wording. A perfectly-worded but unsent email to an MP is worth nothing! Other things you might need to remind people of:
    • Put your letter in the main email window - don’t send it as an attachment!
    • Keep it short - one issue per letter is good
    • Include an “ask” - a request of what you want the MP to do (actions resource)
    • Don’t agonise over the wording:
      • The word from pollies is it’s quantity (not quality) that counts
      • Your MP probably won’t read your email/letter themself - it will be a staff member in their office who will scan it, count the number of letters they receive on particular issues, and present a summary of correspondence to the MP
      • The more correspondence they get on any particular issue, the more seriously they will take it (feedback from staffers; feedback from MPs about the live sheep exports campaign, where they were all inundated with calls and emails, so it became an issue in Parliament)
  • Set personal (or group) goals: This isn’t essential but can be useful to inspire people! Sending one email might be enough for a newbie, but others might want to set a bigger goal. The first letter of the night takes the longest, then you can cut and paste and send the same (or similar) email to any number of MPs!
    • Our group emails their finished letters straight away to the rest of the group so we can alter and resend them easily. If you do this, remind your group not to copy them exactly.
  • Calling: if anyone wants to call MPs instead of writing, try to find a quieter place for them to do it. If they haven’t done this before, remind them of the How-to page and the sample script folder.

Finishing up (5-10 mins):

  • Let people know when it’s getting close to the end of the session and get everyone together for 5 mins at the end for a quick debrief
    • Check-in with everyone - What did you do? How did it go? What worked well/not so well?
    • Ask for any comments, or questions
    • Thank everyone for coming and their efforts
    • Set or remind people of the date for next time (and to RSVP now)
    • If you want your group to grow, suggest everyone bring a friend to the next one

After:

  • Fill out the google feedback form
  • Email everyone who attended to thank them for coming and remind them of the next date
  • Let me know if you have any questions or need any help
  • Return to the start and repeat!!
  • Register the next date (and any more you may have lined up!)

Extra tips

  • If this is the first session for a new group, you might want to take a minute to set some ground rules and group principles (by consensus) – eg: non-violent, respectful, compassionate etc. Turning up and leaving on time, and/or anything else you think is important.
  • It’s good to have a regular time your group meets, whether it’s once a month, every four weeks, or every two weeks. Making it regular makes it easier for people to block out that time and prioritise it. Make sure everyone knows when the next one is before they leave.

 

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