From commercial to political campaigns, we live in a world where everyone has an agenda and everyone wants two things; money and attention.
However, some campaigns are more worthy of our attention, as I learned at an advocacy and activism training event on Saturday last, hosted by Cork Feminista.
I was one of five speakers at the event, which was aimed at preparing campaigners to lobby TDs, gain allies in the media and ultimately, change the social issue of their passion, through campaigning.
There was no shortage of zeal from the 25 participants hoping to campaign for rights for children, disabled, women, migrants, travellers and members of the gay community. There were those too in noble pursuit of changing laws and attitudes around sexual health, abortion, gender issues, mental health, religion and food sovereignty.
The event was a melting pot of ideas which are stewing in Cork. I’ve no doubt it will yield a feast of passionate lobbying and campaigning in the coming months.
The message that went out from the event was clear; TDs are accessible, journalists are accessible, campaigns are possible and change is achievable.
Newspapers want to run stories about local people making a difference because ultimately, journalists are campaigners at heart.
However, some great ideas never get past the starting line and not because the cause is unworthy.
Some groups are organised. Many are not. Speaking at Saturday’s event, Ciarán Lynch TD, said many groups just don’t know what they want.
It’s a shame to see incredible ideas fail for want of a clear objective. Passion, knowledge and life experience is not lacking but campaigning skills might be.
This week, newsrooms are being bombarded by groups seeking protection against the upcoming budget. Is it all a waste of time?
Deputy Lynch says that a consistent campaign throughout the year is more effective that one press release or one email to a TD in the week before the budget, when the decisions have been made.
Then again, some groups are the exception to the rule. Let’s not forget the stand that the pensioners made against cutbacks in 2008. Rather than hoping that you will be this exception, sit down and increase the odds of success by planning your campaign for the year. Keep a consistent presence in the community and make allies in the Dáil, with the support of the media.
The folks over at Mad Pride in Cork probably started with a pint in the pub or a coffee around a table. Armed with an idea, passion and sheer frustration, their commitment has yielded a review of the Mental Health Act 2001. There are many examples of successful campaigns such as this, that have brought their issue to the relevant Dáil committee and brought injustice to its knees.
Those seeking a change in the rights of gay couples have also seen a slight shift in the wall of ignorance this year too.
The need for change might stand before you like a mighty wall and you may fear that you will crumble before anything changes. It might feel that right now, you are still chipping away at the bottom of that gigantic wall with nothing more than a tiny plastic spoon. Take a seat and begin to chip away. As allies join you, the wall will eventually come crashing down!