How to use your collective and individual power to create change

Advice from Lord Duncan of Springbank, Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords.

Building and connecting. Photograph by author.

What can a Baron in the House of Lords, London teach young people about creating change?

These were practical steps about how to approach politicians to make a change, based on Lord Duncan of Springbank’s experience. The Uprising charity hosted the discussion. This is my personal summary.

· Understanding the volume of information someone receives and the value of their time.

There can be a lot of information coming in from emails and social media, so I can have empathy with Lord Duncan. He emphasised the value of not using templates in emails but making them personal. If it is something, I care about this should show in the presentation of the material. I watched a video recently where an author replied to a letter because it came as a snail mail and was from prison. Be respectful, capture attention and curiosity.

· Helping them make the changes they want to make

Getting someone to “flip” can be a difficult process. If they have to change an idea or belief, they hold there is more resistance than if it’s a new idea. New ideas need to excite. It is easier to make a change happen by approaching those who already hold this view. I need to decide whether to move those individuals further towards the change or commit the time and effort to convince those who are unaware or hold opposing views.

· Looking for the ones with influence

In Parliament, civil servants and academic researchers may not be in the politician limelight but are making many of the changes behind the scenes. I need to be aware of hidden ones and decide the best approach to contact them.

· Interesting the interested

We are more likely to read a letter and take action on things we are already interested in. If we know a little about something, we are more willing to learn more. For example, Lord Duncan is enthusiastic about the environment, so changes in environmental issues are of interest. I should approach the right people by considering who is already curious about this subject.

· Feeling lucky and timing

The appreciation that it may be a good idea, but it’s not the right time. This is the long game and being ready and in the right place for when things come together. It is also the realisation that events can overtake any change I am trying to make.

The summary for me was that there are outside factors to making change happen, but most of the work is on a person to person level. Empathy with those I am connecting with, seeing their world view, and considering their day to day life is important in the approach. Remembering that they are human, with limited attention span, overwhelm, already interested in some things, that they want to feel comfortable with an approach, and that I am trying to help them achieve something they want to do.

Which leads to how can I help them?

Approaching the change as a partnership where we both work together.

Uprising is a UK Charity to open up pathways to power and equip young people with the tools to follow them. The discussion was hosted in October 2020 by Uprising with Lord Duncan of Springbank as guest speaker.

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