As the dust settles on Election 2023 many people may be feeling discouraged and uncertain about what a change of government will bring. While this election may have seemed mired in negativity and divisiveness, many advocacy groups did a great job of campaigning with clear, positive messaging and a coordinated approach.
Here’s what we can learn from these campaigns to continue building a fairer, more just and sustainable world through advocacy and collective action.
We (not me): collective action for the common good
If any party slogan best captures the mood of this election it’s Labour’s In it for You, a shift from the collective tone of past slogans such as Let’s Keep Moving (2020), Let’s Do This (2017) or Forward. Together (2005).
The focus on the individual is understandable at a time when many New Zealanders are concerned about meeting their own basic needs such as food and housing and may be asking ‘what’s in it for me?’ If we want to build a fairer, more equitable and sustainable world, we need to ask, ‘what can we achieve when we work together?’
Practitioners of Narrative Change or Values-Based Framing such The Workshop (Aotearoa), Common Cause (Australia) and FrameWorks Institute (UK, US) propose that we can deepen people’s understanding of complex issues and shift mindsets to bring about positive social change by changing the way that we frame and talk about issues.
‘In it for you’ reflects an unhelpful mindset, that in a time of economic crisis and scarcity we need to look out for ourselves. This mindset is reinforced by public narratives and stories that focus on individual needs and competing interests. We can counter these narratives if we share and amplify messages that:
- Talk about the common good and shared values
- Share a hopeful vision of the future with concrete steps to achieve desired outcomes
- Use terms such as communities and citizens, not consumers and ratepayers
- Offer opportunities for people to connect, care and contribute.
The Workshop’s resource How to talk about government and its work for the long-term public good provides a practical guide to using framing such as the examples above to help people understand and engage with democracy.
It’s encouraging to see that many advocacy groups are already applying these principles to build movements and campaigns that shift mindsets. Generation Zero election advocacy campaign is a great example of this. ‘Our Future, Our Vote’ led with hope and focused on creating a shared conversation around hopes for our climate and communities. The campaign created a platform for young people to:
- Share their hopes for the future
- Have conversations with friends and whānau about the future they’re voting for
- Tell candidates the future they’re voting for
- Connect and create community through events
- Be informed, and get out and vote.
By encouraging young people to have conversations with whānau and friends about the issues they care about, Generation Zero created opportunities for connection around shared values:
Talk to those around you about what is important to them in this election. Remember to be curious, and connect to our shared humanity. Try connecting what they care about to what you care about.
Inform, empower and offer opportunities for action
Changemakers can counter misinformation by providing clear, easy to understand and transparent information about policies and political processes:
- Electionscorecards and https://policy.nz/2023 made it easy for voters to understand where parties stand on the issues that matter most to them and many other organisations provided scorecards and voting guides specifically focused on their cause.
Many advocacy groups provided guides to help voters understand how voting works and how to engage in the political process.
- Vote for Climate Action provided a range of clear actions that voters could take to get involved.
Amplify for impact
One of the best ways to show people that change happens through collective action is byworking with allies with shared values to amplify messages and reach more people. Election Scorecards and Triple the Vote are just two examples of coordinated campaigning.
With so much competition for attention (especially on social media) messages need to be clear, consistent and frequent to achieve cut-through. If you hear it or see it enough times, the message will stick!
This election campaign has seen advocacy groups working together using positive and impactful messaging to inform and empower voters, build community and create hope for the future. The election may be over, but the mahi continues!