Exploring digital activism: Learnings from climate action month
Today is the last day of Climate Action Month and as we wrap up the content, I am reminded of the day I first sat down to brainstorm with the rest of the team. The KAIROS Climate Action Month digital campaign was born out of a desire to stand out and do something different with our website, visuals and social media. We sensed an urgency in the air, and the need to amplify voices and thoughts like never before.
The growth in digital activism, or e-activism, is largely due to having several people on various social media channels at the same time. Digital activism is an effective way to create movements like #FridaysForFuture, a digitally present idea that penetrated deeply enough to mobilize students all over the world to walk out of their classrooms. Digital activism is multidimensional and can get complex, especially if you try to quantify the real impact of engaging in advocacy online. Are likes and shares equal to impact? Do a thousand clicks on an ecological justice blog post mean something? With these and many more apprehensions, I set out to create a content strategy calendar to help us explore digital activism in a new light.
Our Ecological Justice Coordinator, Amelia Berot-Burns, and Indigenous Rights Program Coordinator, Chrystal Désilets, laid out the basic structure and identified the need for an e-calendar (ecological justice calendar!) for September 2019. On each day, there would be an event, resource, blog, or all three pinned to the calendar to help people visiting the website engage with climate action related content. That is already a lot of content and the challenge for me was to –
a) come up with strong visual and design elements,
b) disseminate the content in a way that would not overwhelm online readers, and
c) create a social media plan.
By incorporating a 30-day climate action challenge in each day’s content we were able to not only keep our readers interested, but also get them hooked on receiving new content every single day. These challenges were nothing more than simple, everyday lifestyle changes that can help an individual reduce their carbon footprint or add to the awareness of climate emergency.
Here are some of the things I discovered in being part of the planning and executing of this digital campaign:
1) The first step in planning a digital campaign involves identifying goals, outcomes and brainstorming creative ideas. Our goal was to engage online communities in climate and ecological justice-related content every day throughout September in Canada and around the world. Some of the outcomes included reading our blog posts, using climate action resources, completing 30-day challenges on social media, sharing reflections, etc.
2) It is important to research and know what you want to do with every platform you are present on, be it your website or your social media channels.
3) For Climate Action Month we started collecting blog posts, reflections, articles, photographs and videos well in advance of the actual start date. This helped us plan content for each day meticulously.
4) Collaborating with others in the online community enriched the activism. We were pleased to spotlight Birch Bark Coffee Company, a First Nations owned organization, through Climate Action Month. We offered coffee giveaways from Birch Bark to people who completed the 30- day Climate Action challenges and posted their stories on social media.
5) Finally, being on the ground during the Climate Strike and covering it live on Facebook and other social media channels was a great way to make KAIROS’ digital activism accessible to a lot of people on the streets, marching for a change. Activism, even online, must find a way to be on the ground and to create a ripple effect in that process.
By Deepa Venkatesan is the Digital Communications Coordinator at KAIROS.