The other day I was sent a message from the Finnish National Coordinator, Teemu Koskimäki asking me a few questions about the level of TZM activity in Australia over the past couple of years, how our chapters are doing now and about any challenges we have faced. This got me thinking about all of the valuable lessons we’ve learnt along the way, especially the local chapter in Brisbane and how we’ve managed to end up with a solid active growing group.
Burn-out is super common amongst social activists – and I’ve noticed it particularly with TZM activists. Once people discover the importance of educating everyone about the monetary/market system, the concept of a moneyless society, the scientific method and the overwhelming immediate need to change the world – it can become incredibly stressful and disappointing when others around you don’t understand or don’t follow through.
If you are in a different part of Australia (or the world for that matter) and you’ve been thinking about starting a chapter, or you’ve started one and you’re not sure where to go from here, here are a couple of pointers, lessons and experiences we’ve had that can help you on your journey.
- Find the core group and low-hanging fruit
I wouldn’t say our success has been anything to do with the ‘type of people in this city’. As a matter of fact, I think a large amount of people in this city are generally quite ignorant and dismissive of global problems, or they’re caught up in local political debates.
Don’t go all out expecting to change everyone’s mind – especially as a lone wolf or couple! The first step is to find other people who are on the same level already. Yes, they are out there – especially if you live in a city of a million or so people! These people probably already feel alone and misunderstood too and would probably love to connect. I’ve found starting a Meetup to be incredibly effective, as well as starting a Facebook group. Attending other sustainability events and connecting with people can also be helpful. Start with organising something super simple – hanging out at cafes, having picnics, dinner parties, movies and so on. Unnecessary over preparation for a young chapter can be exhausting and lead to burn out.
Once you get that awesome little group, don’t be surprised to get a lot of you-shoulds, it’d-be-better-ifs and why-don’t-yous. Of course suggestions are welcome! However, you have no obligation to follow through on suggestions. Remember you are only one person and can only do so much. If I think it might be too much to take on, my response might be something like, “That’s a great idea! I’m happy to support you in organising that in any way I can.”
- Utilising national and global resources and support
Especially with marketing, don’t make everything from scratch. There are so many resources out there made by passionate and skilful activists from around the world. Check out Emboonite’s stuff on our activist material page. Also, if you hold movie nights, it might be a good idea to show a part of one of the Zeitgeist films, or a short Z-Day presentation from somewhere else in the world. Here’s a great example from Abby Martin.
I received an email a couple of months back from someone who used to be part of the Perth chapter, who explained that the core group didn’t want to have much to do with global because it was a ‘centralised’ system, which is in essence against the core train of thought. I would say coordinators have no interest in policing – we have absolutely no control over who starts a chapter or who doesn’t. We can only choose who we support and who we don’t. Networking, brainstorming, finding solutions and sharing ideas. That’s what it’s all about.
Involvement in monthly global Teamspeak meetings has kept us up to date with what’s happening with other chapters around the world. We get updated with the latest available material and latest events and share what we are doing too. You can also help with their projects from afar – be part of the global team, help with adding to online content or if you’re more technically minded you can help with their website or even decision-making processes.
- Start an event like “Monthly Movies that Matter”.
Our main public event in Brisbane is a perfect opportunity to connect with like-minded people and discuss the Zeitgeist Movement train-of-thought. Its advertised on the main website, Eventbrite, sent out to the Australian mailing list, Facebook (the national and local chapter pages) and Meetup. This draws in people from a range of different backgrounds and experiences and sometimes brings in people who actually don’t know much about TZM but are interested in sustainability in general. It’s a great environment for them to learn and connect. Not everyone will understand or be into it, so just focus on the successes and remember that it takes some people a while to fully comprehend several of the concepts we discuss. Keep it simple and focused on a topic that’s not too controversial, until you have a fairly solid group.
- Hang out!
Most importantly, I believe the success of our chapter comes down to developing long-lasting friendships. Over the years of hard work, we’ve also got to know each other personally. Events are the most exciting time of the month and in between that we have movie nights, parties, go on trips together and generally have a lot of fun. We are honest with each other and not always dead serious about changing the world – TZM activism is something to be celebrated!