June 17 marked the end of a momentous week for Greenpeace Netherlands. From June 11 to June 17, a team of volunteers launched and coordinated Zero Plastic Week, an initiative challenging participants to refrain from using plastic for a week.
But Zero Plastic Week represented more than just a campaign to reduce plastic usage. It was just one of many activities being organized through GreenWire, a digital mobilisation program established by Greenpeace Netherlands a year ago.
Jitske Varkevisser, a volunteers trainer, explained that the online community, which currently has 1,619 users, gives volunteers the opportunity to connect and collaborate with each other on spearheading actions in support of Greenpeace campaigns.
“One of the ideas to create more change makers was to select a group of five volunteers who could enter a traineeship of a different NGO, Verbeter de Wereld,” said Varkevisser. This NGO helped them organize their projects. From Greenpeace I was the one who supported them.”
Ries Mentink, a Greenpeace Netherlands Fundraising Team member and one of the five core organizers, said that the plastic soup, an underrepresented issue that corresponded with the Greenpeace Oceans campaign, was the impetus for Zero Plastic Week.
The group used a multipronged arsenal of online and offline mobilisation strategies to garner the support of 1,498 official participants and, based on newspaper and TV show subscriber counts, the attention of over a million people nationwide. Some of the mobilisation tactics included:
- A website, available in both Dutch and English
- Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, with incentives such as a photo contest
- Newsletters to engage participants
- Press releases
- Coverage in blogs, three national radio stations, and local and national TV
- Promotions at festivals
- Cover in two national newspapers, including a front page story
The week was not short on challenges. Mentink described how his team of volunteers originally wanted to turn the week into an international event, but had to go back to the drawing board when they realized that they did not have the time and resources to fulfill these objectives.
The organizers were nevertheless pleased with the event, pointing to the minimum of 450 kilograms of plastic saved through the event and the buzz surrounding plastic usage as key successes. Mentink stated that he would be surprised if they did not organize a second Zero Plastic Week in the future, with even higher targets in participation and an international focus.
So what are the main takeaway points for others trying to mobilise support for their activities?
- Empower volunteers through online and offline means, such as online forums and in-person meetings, to take charge of their own activities
- Know your target audience (i.e. national vs. global, young vs. old)
- Use a diverse range of online and offline mobilisation strategies, but not at the sacrifice of quality
- Evaluate the relative effectiveness of each strategy partway through your campaign and adjust accordingly
To learn more about what Greenpeace activists and volunteers are doing in the Netherlands via GreenWire, visit https://www.greenwire.nl. For more information on Zero Plastic Week, visit http://zeroplasticweek.org.