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Getting Started

Introduction

Friends of the Earth groups consist of ordinary people who volunteer their spare time to try to improve the environment locally, nationally and internationally. The way they are involved is varied, from helping to deliver leaflets to fundraising, to lobbying councillors and MP’s to having street stalls, and giving school talks. There is a role for everybody in a FoE local group, regardless of the amount of time they have available, their experience and their knowledge of environmental issues. The only thing that all FoE local people have in common is a commitment to our natural environment and a determination to protect it and improve it.

Groups are important

Over the years Friends of the Earth could not have achieved it’s many successes without the commitment and determination of our local group people. Friends of the Earth groups highlight environmental problems and suggest sensible solutions to decision makers in the areas the national organisation cannot reach as easily. Members of Parliament are lobbied in their own constituencies, local authorities are persuaded by local people in their own communities, and consumers are convinced by fellow townspeople in their own high street.

Friends of the Earth groups are also the eyes and ears of the national organisation. By having groups in nearly 250 communities throughout the Country, we are in a unique position to be able to spot problems as they are just occurring and propose sensible solutions. Because our local groups are important we try to provide a lot of support and advice for the people volunteering for them

How to start a new group

Okay – before we go ahead, make yourself a cup of coffee and be prepared to be taken through each step of getting a new group together.

Getting started…

The first step in starting a new group is to get in touch with a few friends and others that might be interested in joining your group. If you decide to go ahead you might form a temporary “steering committee” for the first few months until jobs are shared out and things settle down. One of the first things you will need to think about is where you want to “launch” a meeting, when and how you are going to advertise it – you might also think about doing an informal public opinion survey to find out what other people in your area are concerned about – see Annex A for some hints.

The launch meeting

At this meeting you will want to let people know who Friends of the Earth is. For this is a good idea to either contact Hampshire or National FoE or ask for one of their current members to do a short talk for you. After a short break, either you or one of your friends could say why you want to launch a local group, and, if you done a survey announce the results. You could also involve a local well known person to either talk briefly or perhaps chair the meetings.

People’s names and addresses could be collected (possibly as they arrive to the meeting) or you could encourage them to join the group there and then!

At the end of the meeting people would be thanked for coming along and would be told of the date and time of the next meeting. They could be told that the next meeting will choose; which campaigns to run and who will do what, as well as things sorting out how often the group will meet.

Don’t panic!!!

…. if all of this sounds a bit daunting – a first meeting could quite easily take place in your local pub or perhaps over lunch and need not be so formal – sound out those that might be interested in forming a new group before you decide on a suitable time and place for your meeting.

The follow-up meeting

This meeting could choose what campaigns to run – it will share out the jobs that need doing, either by running through the Annex B or, if that exercise has already been done, then by looking at the cards collected at the launch meeting. The group will agree on how often it will meet (usually monthly), where and when.

Starting a campaign

Once you have sorted these things out, you are ready to campaign (apart from a few administrative formalities, see Annex C). Once you have started to campaign it is important to remember that help is at hand from Hants Foe, from the national Foe and usually from other nearly groups. There is also a mountain of information you can tap into, produced by National Foe.

Financing a new group

National Foe will provide you will limited funds to help you set up a new group. This would normally include the cost of hiring a hall for your first couple of meetings, expenses incurred for the launch meeting and the cost of some publicity.

Next Page: Getting an idea of what local people think