A Summer of Outreach, A Lifetime of Lessons

Looking Back on my No Tankers summer

I’ve been a part of the climate movement and attended community outreach events for several years, but this was definitely a summer of learning, both as an organizer and as a member of the No Tankers team. Over the last four months Dogwood canvassers and organizers spoke with over 20,000 people about the threat of oil spills on BC’s north coast – and how they can get involved in the campaign to protect our coastlines.

I thought I would share some of my lessons learned with you, as many Dogwood supporters are doing similar work in their own communities. Here’s a quick recap of my time at community events talking to people about Dogwood’s No Tankers campaign this summer:

Placement is everything. Getting to the event early and making sure your table is in a good spot is key. Sometimes, like at the Vancouver Folk Festival this July, we had a table in a spot that was tucked away from the crowds, which means we needed to find a creative way to catch people’s attention. Which brings me to my next lesson…

Canvassers and good volunteers are critical. All the events we visited this year, from Folk Fest to Justice Rocks, from the Pride Parade to farmers markets, were made all the better by our fabulous volunteers and canvassing team. It’s one thing to have a presence at an event, it’s a very different thing for a team to take the initiative to meet and recruit as many people as possible. Although our Vancouver Folk Festival table was not in the best location, we had a team of volunteers ready to canvas, and that made all the difference. We were out in the crowds, at the lines of people waiting for washrooms and water, talking to people eager to sign our petition. This tactic paid of: While some tables got as little as 150 signatures over the weekend, despite our out-of-the-way table, we got over 600!

People love the NoTanker Loonie decals and the No Tanker campaign. We’ve canvassed and tabled far and wide across BC and we very rarely come across people who don’t want to sign the No Tanker petition or help out on the campaign. People of all stripes – Liberal voters, NDP and Green voters, old people, young people – almost everyone wants to help out on the campaign. Polls show over 80% of British Columbians do not want oil tankers on our north coast and it’s easy to see the support out on the streets. But of course, sometimes we find ourselves in tough spots, where support is low and people have no time for tanker talk or petitions…

Bad places to canvas include: anywhere that is busy and packed with people like a city downtown business district at lunch hour. When people are in a rush, or are made to the feel that way by the pace of the passing crowd, they are less likely to stop and chat, or sign a petition. I don’t think it’s because they care any less, but that it’s harder to take time out of one’s day to have a conversation when life around you feels too rushed to take a break.

And finally, I think the most important lesson I learned, is that balance is everything. It’s so important to take time to breath and reflect on all the ways in which I am blessed: To be part of the No Tanker campaign at Dogwood; to be part of the climate movement in BC, and to be able to live my values every day on the job. Throughout the summer I often found myself thinking, “Wow, this is my job…speaking to people about protecting our coast, helping them get involved – this is so great.” It’s sometimes hard to remember this when you’re juggling a busy schedule, which is why it’s so important to take breaks, take time to breath and sit back and watch as this inspiring movement unfolds.

Let’s keep spreading the word!

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