By running a candidate for local office, you can highlight the issue of climate change in the election, and if you win, elect someone who is a climate champion into local government. Campaigning for local office is achievable with a small volunteer team, but will involve a significant investment of time, regardless of the position you are running for. Be sure to read through the excellent resources provided by our partners at the Candidate Project to help decide if this is right for your group. These resources were developed primarily for communities in the United States, but are likely applicable in many other contexts.
A few tips
- Rely on others with campaign experience - seek out those in your group or community who have worked on past political campaigns to help out with organizing.
- Think outside the box - don't get stuck in only utilizing traditional campaign tactics. Get creative in making your candidate visible!
- Work hard - you may not have as much money as the other side, but you have energy, passion, and importantly, a deadline. Support everyone to work hard organizing until election day and you'll succeed in raising awareness and possibly electing your climate champion to office!
Get it done
1. Pick the race
Picking the right race is critical. You'll want to choose a race that is relevant to climate issues and that plays to the strengths of your group and allies. There are many positions in local government, so it might take a bit of research to discover possible races to run in and evaluate ones that are relevant and where you have some possibility to win. In the US, two great resources are the Election Finder and the Election Research Checklist.
2. Pick a candidate
Think through who could be a good candidate out of your group, and whether they are able and prepared to take on the task of running in the election. This slideshow from the Candidate Project is a great resource to help think through whether someone is ready to run.
Looking at the possible races and candidates you've evaluated, discuss with your group whether you're ready to take the leap and launch an exciting organizing campaign to elect your climate champion to office! Discuss your availability to help pitch in time, your possibilities to fundraise, and the different experience you can rely on from your groups members and allies. If you're ready to campaign... read on!
4. Build your team
You'll need to find people to volunteer to take on key roles in the campaign. The most important roles to fill include a Campaign Manager (someone who can deal with the day-to-day details besides your candidate), a Finance Chair (a person with connections who is willing to help with fundraising), and a Volunteer Coordinator. If possible, work to make sure everyone gets trained in campaign basics - there are some great resources from the Candidate Project for this, as well as from our own 350 Workshops page.
5. Make a plan (and stick to it)
The key things are to make sure you set clear goals for how many voters you plan to reach, make plans for how to reach those voters, define your campaign narrative, write a budget, and make a plan for volunteer needs. Pick your core messages and boil them into a few talking points if possible, and encourage your team to stay close to that message throughout the campaign.
6. Pursue your goals
Once you've set goals for reaching voters and fundraising, its time to get it done! Its important to mix both traditional campaign tactics - going door to door talking with voters, calling people, building alliances with local community organizations - with more creative, experimental tactics like street theatre, a poster competition, or other ways to garner visibility for your candidate. Use every opportunity of campaigning to educate the public about climate change and the importance of climate action to your community.
7. Empower new volunteers
A campaign is a great moment to empower volunteers to take on more responsibility and become great leaders. One great way to help build leadership in new members of your team is to give them responsibility for recruiting voters from a whole neighborhood, or type of organization (like faith groups).
8. Have fun, learn, and follow up!
No matter the outcome, you'll have built up volunteer capacity, educated more people in your community about climate change, and reached a lot of people who may be interested in ongoing organizing. Be sure to keep good records of voters you've reached so that you can follow up about your campaign, and ongoing local climate action!
The Candidate Project
— this website has incredible resources that go more in depth than the guide above - read through them carefully, and contact the Candidate Project for more support!
— these resources may be useful in training your team in key skills like volunteer recruitment and media work.