What I learned at the Greenpeace Digital Mobilisation Skill-share #GPDMS

Greenpeace is at a very interesting cross-roads, as it restructures to more nimbly shift resources to support campaigns in the global south.  The Digital Mobilisation Skill-share, which took place in the mountains outside of Barcelona and was run by Greenpeace’s Mobilisation Lab , exemplified an organisation that is trying to get beyond what it’s traditionally known for, an innovative campaigning machine, and move towards being an organisation that excels at deeper, long term community engagement.IMG_0085

There were some popular themes at the skill-share that you would expect: getting beyond clicktivism and Facebook likes, how bees are the new polar bears, and learnings from recently waged campaigns.   A handful of guests provided relevant and innovative techniques in using digital meaning such as:

  • Rachel from Upwell, provided several well attended sessions about how Upwell monitors online conversations about the ocean (Upwell also gets massive respect for its by-line ‘the ocean is our client),
  • Amy O’Donnel from Frontline SMS, ran sessions about integrating mobiles into communication strategies,
  • Edguard Gouveia’s sessions focused on using online games to support community activism,
  • Johnny Chatterton from change.org gave an outsider’s (of Greenpeace) perspective on online mobilisation.

I gave a session twice on ‘What I learned from Sex Workers’ and despite it having a somewhat titillating title, I was happy to find participants that attended were actually interested in learning about what it took to work with marginalised communities.  I heard stories from some campaigners about how they regretted the short-term nature that their own engagements had with communities they worked in. I was also fortunate to be able to run sessions on strategic and creative approaches to gathering data and creating data visualisations, along with a session on ‘using the power pyramid to identify technology tactics.’


I also got to lead a session about that old chestnut – peer to peer learning, only this time focused on how to do it within a massive structure like Greenpeace.  This was a classic conversation that I’ve had with nearly every organisation I have ever worked with. Despite the difference in scale, the conversation wasn’t all that different.  In discussing what would motivate people to share learnings, a key point was made that if it’s not actually part of anyone’s job description, nobody will do it. A suggestion was made that staff should be required to spend 10% of their time sharing learnings.  That seems like a start, it still seems to lack key motivation.   After the session, Amy from Frontline SMS, tugged me and suggested that maybe they should think about gamifying sharing learnings, where people actually get points and acknowledgement for their efforts, similar to what techchange.org does.

Restructuring is always a terrifying notion for staff and at something at this scale you would expect a healthy dose of fearm resentment, and skepticism.  The goal wasn’t to get participant’s input on creating a new operating model, but rather input on how it would be implemented and rolled out.  Thankfully, Gunner from Aspiration was running the event and his facilitation format, breaking down hierarchies in session delivery, did the trick and through small group discussions participants quickly bought into the process.  There was ample opportunity to discuss new procedures and how it would impact those involved from a variety of perspective.  It was amazing to see how the high energy and enthusiasm at the skillshare continued after such sensitive discussions.

And if the wrap-up dance party was any indication, the good mood of the participants will have a huge impact on taking everything that was learned and discussed at the skill-share forward.