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The Activist Whisperer

Award-winning activist Sarah Corbett is the founder of the global Craftivist Collective and a pioneer of the art of Gentle Protest. In her new weekly Agony Aunt column for Lush Times she tackles those issues that may be stifling someone from being part of the change they wish to see in our world.

Dear Activist Whisperer,

I’ve been part of my local anti-fracking campaign group for months. I’m committed to stopping fracking happening in my area but we are losing campaigners and struggling to recruit new people to join. We had lots of momentum at the beginning and some media but I’m worried we are losing the fight. What should we do?  

From ‘Fracked off’ Katherine



Dear ‘Fracked Off’ Katherine

This is such an important question because what you describe happens so often in campaigns. People are angry about an issue, react and then get frustrated when progress is slow or looks non-existent.

So here’s my advice from my own experience: first remember that you are an important part of the campaign to end fracking but you are not the whole part and so don’t carry all that pressure. Make a list of your group’s successes, big and small, but also share and celebrate the successes of other anti-fracking groups.

You're part of a movement helping to keep support for fracking low in the UK and the same government opinion tracker shows 85% approval rating for renewable energy in April 2018. Fracking is staying in the media because of groups like The Nanas that are in solidarity with you.

I find the language of “fighting” can lead to stress which saps energy. It can also put people off joining you because of this aggressive feeling of ‘us’ against ‘them’. Neuroscientists tell us that if our brain focuses on a problem and what we don’t want then we can get fixated on the problem and waste energy in despair. Whereas if we visualise what we do want then our brain starts to figure out how to get there and what it would feel like to be there, making us more hopeful and energised and thus more likely to progress in our goal.

Martin Luther King  is my favourite role model for non-violent activism. He didn’t proclaim ‘I have a complaint’! He declared ‘I have a dream’ and invited everyone in America to join in. What is your dream? What is your alternative to fracking? Focus on promoting the benefits of alternative energy sourcing so that fracking becomes redundant . Discuss your dreams with your group and share that positive goal with others, inviting them to join a clean energy movement.

With this campaign issue you have a wonderful opportunity to reach a diverse audience. Attract people with different motives for being against fracking. It can be difficult to work with people you disagree with on many issues but focus on what you have in common. For some it’s the climate impact that concerns them about fracking, others may be more concerned with groundwater contamination or don't want their beautiful countryside being dug up. Help your broader audience feel special and not another name on a petition. I learnt this lesson as a climate campaigner at music festivals: after giving the same mini-speech for two days at the first festival I only got signatures from people who agreed with the petition. Then I started asking questions not just talking at people: what does a healthy planet and local community look like for them? Every comment they made I linked to how our petition would help their vision become reality whether they believed in climate change or not.

Attracting unusual characters to your campaign makes your campaign more media-worthy too. The more diverse your group is the more people from all walks of life will see themselves represented in your group and the more people will want to join. Attracting Conservative voters to join you strengthens your campaign as it’s the Conservative party pushing for fracking and they are more likely to look and listen to their core voters concerns than yours - sad but true.

Campaigning is often a slow, complicated process before you see change. To retain motivation share your vision and strategy with the group including clear aims, realistic solutions and demands, including key dates by which you need particular people to take particular action (lobbying their MP, attending a council meeting, being part of a media stunt before an important government vote or drilling starts etc.) and emphasise how their involvement is really important for local, national and international positive change: do speak to a respected charity on these issues like Friends of the Earth. People can lose momentum when they can’t see how a meeting fits the bigger picture.

Finally, enjoy your time together. If you’re having a planning meeting encourage people to bring snacks (homemade is always best) to share, maybe a bouquet of local wildflowers for the centre of the table, and I often bring some lavender, a warm yellow-coloured table cloth and my little speaker to have instrumental music in the background to create a safe, hopeful and welcoming space.

Have a clear agenda so people see your meeting as a good use of time and end with your shared vision for a lovely community with your solutions in place and the realisation of progress you are working towards.

Your campaign is far more than saying NO to fracking: you're saying yes to a happier, healthier environment for your community and that’s something you don’t want people to miss out on.

Yours in perseverance

                       The Activist Whisperer


Helpful resources:

  1. Article on the fracking movement in the UK:

  2. Connecting to others in the anti-fracking movement

  3. Positive psychology in your activism:


Award-winning activist Sarah Corbett is the founder of the global Craftivist Collective and a pioneer of the art of Gentle Protest. In her new weekly Agony Aunt column for Lush Times she tackles those issues that may be stifling someone from being part of the change they wish to see in our world.

If you have a question for Sarah, email her at: [email protected]


Martin Luther King didn’t proclaim ‘I have a complaint’! He declared ‘I have a dream’. What's your dream?

Comment (1)
1 Comment


about 2 years ago

As a pacifist activist, I truly appreciate your work. If the devious nature of the hidden hands behind corporations and governments knows no bounds, then nor do we. Nigel of tunnelmental.