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Turning Revelations Into Revolutions: How To Start A Movement At Your Workplace

Every fortnight, we hand over the blog to one of the London Shapers, to give you a flavour of what they do, how they think and what's really going on in our hearts and minds. Today's piece comes from Charlotte Chorley, Communications and Engagement specialist and Trustee for Fumble.

“You want a revolution? I want a revelation

So listen to my declaration:

‘We hold these truths to be self-evident

That all men are created equal;

And when I meet Thomas Jefferson,

I'm ‘a compel him to include women in the sequel!”

Kudos to the Hamilfans who picked up the reference already. For those at a loss, I’m taking as inspiration for this blog the infamous words of Angelica Schuyler from the Founding Father musical Hamilton. What now follows will be a demonstration of me shoehorning my favourite lyric from the play into an analogy of social organisation and change in the workplace. Bear with me - I hope you like cheese. 🧀

If you work in an organisation, especially a well-established one, then it can sometimes feel a bit daunting to draw attention to issues that sit outside the explicit company mission. In large organisations, it can also be tricky to identify like-minded people to build a coalition that can bring important issues to the attention of decision makers. In every place I’ve worked - from student’s unions to large corporations - I’ve tried to champion a cause I’m incredibly passionate about: intersectional gender equality. Sometimes there are already systems in place to promote these issues internally, and sometimes there aren’t. Sometimes people already get it, and sometimes they don’t.

It’s tough, but I’ve learned a few things along the way which conveniently map to the bar-spitting verse at the start of this blog. These lessons can be applied to any movement, whether it’s getting people to be more considerate about hiring practices, to compelling your organisation to using less plastic.

1) You want a revolution? Then identify the need

First things first, you need to know what you’re fighting for. Is there something you don’t think is getting enough airtime, or is being a bit overlooked? Are there rumblings from your co-workers about a specific issue but nothing is getting done? Is there something you’re super passionate about that you want more people to know about? Then be clear about your message. You want to be able to condense your cause into a snappy elevator pitch - what do you care about, why does it matter, and why should somebody else care?

2) Build a following by getting individuals to listen to your declaration

Start small, one-to-one, like Angelica and Burr. Reach out to those you know are interested already, and maybe organise an after-work drinks meet-up to chat about the issue further. You could send out an email seeing if people are keen to start a weekly bulletin, or circulate relevant articles on internal channels to get the conversation going. You want to make it easy for people to participate, so you could also set up an internal web-page or chat group to organise information more easily, or create regular events for people to drop by and educate themselves. If there are external organisations working in this space, consider inviting someone in to talk - hearing the message from someone outside the organisation might help reframe the issue for your co-workers and make them take notice.

3) Find the power and meet Thomas Jefferson (you get the gist!)

Organisational change happens as much from the bottom up as the top down, so work out who the key influencers are in your organisation. You want to engage a cross-functional set of senior people who will be able to influence in the rooms you’re not in. Think about who the best advocates would be, reach out to them for an informal chat or coffee, and present your cause. It’s important to have some momentum behind you at this point to demonstrate it’s an issue people care about so make sure you have some numbers in the bag.

4) Compel him/her/them to champion you

It’s critical to build advocates across the organisation, and encourage them to think critically about how your movement affects their daily role. When meeting with influencers, frame your issue into how it will impact their work and why they should care. Always end these meetings with an ask: would they be willing to speak at your next event? Would they send an email in support and raise awareness across the company? Will they pass on the message to people above them? It’s important to get them to put skin in the game so they feel a part of the movement too!

5) Include women and everyone in your sequel, and be open to other voices

Any organisation, especially large ones, will have a mix of employees with differing views, experiences and politics. Stick to your core message and mission, but be open to new ideas and perspectives. Be patient with yourself - these things take time, but always be ready to have a conversation and broaden the coalition.

Now put your mind to work...

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