Partnering for Change

Achieving change is easier if you have support from others. Depending on your walking issue, you could partner with groups with similar aims. It can often be useful to work with others on larger or more complex issues. Other interested groups could include the local school, shops, people with disabilities, parents, and older people in your community. There may be existing groups in the community or online (Facebook or other social media) and you might be able to tap into these too.

The more people who help to make change, the more success you will have. Identify your prospective partners and discuss who you are and what your interests are. Allow your group to realise its commonalities and differences. Your role will shape the focus of the walking project. It can be useful if you have a variety of people in your group, especially if they’re experts in a relevant area (such as planning, engineering, public relations). You can always ask expert professionals to come and talk to your group.

Define the issue and your goals

Most community change begins with planning a campaign, or a project that has tangible, measurable goals and objectives. A group’s mission may be broad (such as revitalising Main Street), but the defined issue of a campaign should focus on a specific topic (Main Street is unpleasant to walk along and difficult to cross). Formulating an issue statement will build the foundation for your campaign and help you focus on achieving the overall goal of your campaign. You can create your statement by following the same steps set out in Making your case.

An ideal goal is a “SMART” goal: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. You can also divide goals into three types: short term, medium term, and long term. People or organisations with limited resources may focus on short-term goals but build in a long- term goal to increase capacity or to have another organization continue the effort. Once your goals are settled, you can decide how to tackle them.

Assess Your Resources and Opportunities

It’s now time to align your goals with your current resources, strengths, and opportunities. It’s also important to identify any shortcomings that may need to be addressed to make your campaign stronger and more successful. Work with your team to do this and identify where you can focus your energy for maximum impact! This will help you to set tactics and timelines for your goals that are realistic.

Communicate

Change depends on communication—talking to people, posting fliers, emailing constituents, earning press and editorials, using social media, etc.—to build support for your campaign. Effective communication depends on the message as well as the medium. You will be most successful if you can provide a comprehensive range of objective reasons that support your walking campaign. These can focus on benefits for economic development, transportation, health, recreation, and so on.

Financial Assistance

Many campaigns require financial resources to meet more substantial goals. These funds can be used to pay for staff, materials, communication tools, etc. There are many helpful resources that can guide your efforts to raise money.

[This information is based on material from a partnership between America Walks and Sam Schwartz Engineering. Visit here for more information on the partnership.]

TIP: For most small-scale efforts, managing resources may have more to do with people than with dollars. Volunteers help with groups, write letters, attend meetings, and help with communication. Make sure your volunteers feel valued and included in the overall effort. Small tokens of appreciation, whether gift certificates, T-shirts, or shout-outs, can let volunteers know you value their efforts. Consider this a circular process of asking (for help or funds), informing people about progress and needs, involving people in the advocacy effort, and thanking people for their time or money, which then leads back to asking.

If your focus is on improving the local main street, local businesses or your local councillor might be happy to help out either financially or in kind (such as printing brochures or flyers).