Local politics usually have different competences and regulations and vary a lot throughout Europe (they vary a lot inside Germany alone). It is impossible for FSFE staff to cover all this. A lot of work could be done by local groups like us though. During the meeting in Essen, we had one work shop in which we discussed just that.
What do we need to help people getting active and promote Free Software in their neighborhood?
This page tries to summarize what has been discussed with the goal to condense it even further with your help and create a wiki page where the thoughts and best practices will be available for everybody to learn and share their own experiences.
- Local politics/advocacy
- How do you even establish the first contact with politicians?
- harvest low hanging fruits first
- stay in touch - sustainability/familiarity/continuity
- Don't be too pushy, but friendly offer your insight
- Free Software Pact on local level
- Collect FS mentions in party programs
- I'm a Fellow in the middle of nowhere. What can I do?
- What we need
How do you even establish the first contact with politicians?
The group in Munich made good experiences with showing up on public events where the parties present themselves with booths. The fellows there just approached them and talked with them. The politicians at the booth were not always the responsible ones but they knew who it was and the contact could be established by exchanging business cards.
I guess being introduced by a party member is more impressive to the person in charge than just sending them an email. Not to mention the effort to find out who to contact before that even happens.
Similar experiences were made in Berlin. "You've got to approach them in person. Email is not enough."
In Frankfurt, it went a little bit different as the political parties contacted the group of people who organize Cryptoparties. As the fellowship group provides a considerable amount of crypto angels, thez picked up the ball quickly and organized a cryptoparty for the "Young Greens" in the area.
harvest low hanging fruits first
It is advisable to pinpoint those politicians that are most likely to buy our arguments and tackle them first.
To do so, just grab a list of candidates (e.g. the upcoming or last voting ballot), identify the ones that are close to our values and contact them personally. By doing so, don't get into an argument, try to explain the issue in a friendly manner so that they see it more as a service.
It was reported about that a fellow inspired a parliamentary question by the Green party in 2010. Personal contacts to politicians and their staff was crucial here, too.
Once a single Fellow got the process started, Matthias who gained a lot of experience how to deal with politicians, was able to give valuable advice, forwarded drafts to other experienced people to proofread and improve, and was in general very helpful.
This effort was successfull as the Green party now officially supports FS in their program which may have not been the case without the initiative of that Fellow.
Such contacts made it even possible to write the FS related portions in some party programs that stayed there until this day.
stay in touch - sustainability/familiarity/continuity
It is important that politicians deal with one person as point of contact and not 5 different people to establish a certain trust level. That doesn't mean that the same person has to take care of all politicians in the area.
To gain some trust, the dutch team suggested to a politician to have a look at the Free Software Pact before he went to a public event where they (the dutch team) knew he (the politician) would get some headwind if he goes there unprepared.
The politician chose to ignore their advice and failed misarably - and contacted the NL team afterwards asking them to explain the issue to him.
Don't be too pushy, but friendly offer your insight
Being a politician isn't easy. Seriously. If we provide help to them, they will gratefully accept it.
Of course, they do need to understand the concept of Free Software and be aware of the benefits. Only then, they can make a good statement in public when no Fellow is nearby to whisper in their ear.
Explaining = sustaining
Free Software Pact on local level
Erik had the idea to re-use the Free Software Pact as a hook for local politicians as well. At open hours or public Q&As etc.
Collect FS mentions in party programs
we may collect the portions of party programs that are in favor of FS and point politicians of these parties to it. Sometimes (frequently), they are not aware that "they" (their party) support Free Software already. It's just the individual that need to be educated. Through this, they may gain some courage to articulate it, too. For Germany, we started to gather this on WahlUndParteiprogrammeDeutschland.
I'm a Fellow in the middle of nowhere. What can I do?
Sometimes it is a problem for Fellows and activists who sit somewhere where no active Fellowship group is around and they don't feel like creating one themselves.
One suggestion: visit (as a private person) open hours of politicians and talk with them about FS and blog about it
Erik shall work on this topic while planning the new Fellowship strategy
What we need
FS pact on every level
-> Erik will provide more info on that
collect party positions on FS
exchange of experiences and best practices
How do politicians think and work? How to approach them? What worked in the past or elsewhere? How can we convey any experiences that were made to new activists? Share your experiences here and everywhere else!
Advocacy (lobbying) workshop for Fellows
in general: more training for activists!
- role plays at workshops
- how shall I present myself?
We've started to collect public courses and seminars that are available for everyone. It would be helpful if we had a list of such offerings from every country. Here is what we have so far, please expand!
help with argumentation
Which arguments do I use best in which situation? update advocacy pages in this wiki! (Guide with argumentations - bullet points how to convince)
clarify role of the volunteers
We want everybody to participate and share ideas! You are allowed to act!
Make it clear for individuals (new fellows or 'non-paying' activists) what they are allowed to do if they want to get active. Maybe explain it with a letter/mail to new Fellows. List possible actions more prominent on the website. For example:
- visit open hours of politicians and blog about it
- the following people may help you with your argumentation or provide tips and advise how to approach them
- What's currently happening at FSFE?
- Which activities or events are upcoming that may need help? (DFD, SFD, translations) and how can I contribute?
- Which mailinglists may I subscribe to?
- join an existing group
- create a new one - Where can I find help doing so?
- What's happening in my area?
- Who do I contact if I want to do something and have questions?
better contact management
as AYC actions require the management of many contacts, follow-up, etc. (Matthias wanted to look into this how we can make use of the systems we already use on EU level)
It is helpful to have business cards when dealing with politicians. Right now, it seems to be unclear what is supposed to be printed on these cards. Currently, all official FSFE cards will show the address of the Berlin office which may not so advantous for NL Fellows or even the group in Munich. Who's entitled to even get the cards?