Four lessons on NGOs and social movements finding common ground

Energy campaigners share their learnings on collaboration and building community power

Greenpeace energy campaigners recently came together to share experiences working with social movements. They identified four lessons for NGOs and social movements looking to find common ground.

Communities battling climate change impacts are often up against pervasive obstacles of inequality, poverty and power. They’re also striving for the agency needed to equal the fossil fuel industry’s political influence. People at the center of climate change impacts have an important role to play in campaigns while NGOs working on climate change can help communities gain the power needed to combat a range of economic and social justice challenges.

Four lessons for finding common ground and partnering with social movements

Greenpeace and other organizations are increasingly working with movements around the world – and finding they have much to learn. Earlier this year, NGOs and social movements collaborated on Break Free Action Week.

In many ways, Break Free was a demonstration of organisations, movements, activists and volunteers collaborating in a directed network campaign model (see a recent report by NetChange for a deeper look at directed network campaigns around the globe).

As part of a non branded coalition, 350.org and Greenpeace brought communications, direct action and legal experience to Break Free. This helped local leaders escalate their work against fossil fuel projects and made room for direct actions questioning the social license of fossil fuel companies around the world.

In July, the Climate and Energy team at Greenpeace International organised a Climate University session on working with social movements. Staff shared lessons from their work with social movements around the globe.

Based on their experience and recent Climate University sessions, Greenpeace campaigners have agreed on four golden rules for NGOs to follow when forging partnerships with social movements. 

Four lessons for partnering with social movements

1. Don’t be too bureaucratic

Four lessons for working with social movements: Don't be bureaucratic. Illustration by Milan Mezei, Greenpeace.We learned that social movements and NGOs are very different entities. Those with more resources (budget, staff, equipment, offices, etc.) need to be aware of different timeframes, decision making structures and resources. Many of  procedures NGOs have in place to help their work seem cryptic and unnecessary to community groups who often meet face to face and agree on things verbally.

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