So we’ve been testing #wewillgather, and getting ready for our official launch on 11th September.

And while we’ve given lots of attention to the tech side, it’s time to start thinking about the more important stuff; the actually getting people together bit. Watching as people have tested #wewillgather, and reflecting on years of community organising, has made me realise that while you can get people together, it takes the right ingredients.

You need to aim for something do-able, get people behind that idea, and then show them how they’re going to do it.

So here’s an ABC to help you:

Achievable: Apply some common sense; Is the thing you’re trying to do within reach? Are you really going to get that number of people to do the thing you want?

Look at the action you’re planning. If it’s too big, can you scale up, starting with something small that you can do with a few volunteers, working up to the bigger thing and getting a larger group of people over time? Keep it in bite-sized chunks, and let one thing follow on from another.

Look at the size of your network; Twitter followers and Facebook friends especially. And think about how many of them are local enough to the action you’re starting. And how many will actually turn out for your call. Set a required number of volunteers that’s enough to get the job done, no more. Don’t just hope people will find your page on #wewillgather – Tweet about it every day, post it on Facebook and generally tell everybody that you know.

Can you fix the whole park? Probably not. Can you litter pick here, do some weeding over there, give those railings a lick of paint? Yes.

Benefit; The whole point of #wewillgather is to get people to turn out, and the best way to do that is to give them some measurable, attainable reason for doing so. That can be a free coffee, some homemade cake, or a #wewillgather badge on their profile page.

Those incentives don’t have to cost you; if you’re working in the local park, for example, would the café in the park give everyone a free cuppa?

Remember that benefits don’t have to be a gift, though. If people are fed up with the scruffiness of where they live, the real benefit of taking part in your action is to make the place look better and meet like-minded people. Think about how to tell people about the less tangible benefits of turning out, and remember to focus on what they get out of it, as an individual.

Clearly: It’s blindingly obvious, but people need to understand what they’re turning up to do. ‘C’ could equally stand for clarity, or for concise.

If you ask people to turn up to volunteer to collaboratively achieve physical improvements to the borough’s open spaces, they might not understand; ask them to spend 15 minutes helping pick up litter in the park, and they know what they’re signing up for.

Tell people where to meet, exactly what they’ll be doing, what they should bring and what they should expect to happen. Speak clearly and avoid jargon.

Put the three things together, and there’s a pretty good formula for getting people out to help you.

So, in one sentence – be realistic about what you can achieve, offer benefits to people that help, and tell people clearly what they’ll be doing. Then you’ll find #wewillgather is really helpful.

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