Community Engagement: How to Create Change Boot Camps

Community Engagement: How to Create Change

Successful campaigns have the support of strong, organized communities. This requires building knowledge around the issue you are advocating for through effective communication, discovering people’s needs and priorities, developing a shared understanding of your goals, and motivating people to take action, make a difference, and influence those in power.

Leading the Movement

We use the term “everyday energy leader”—a person who is taking action to advance the transition to clean energy both in their personal life, community, and beyond. Whether it’s driving an electric car, advocating for solar on a local school, or a host of other actions, individuals can step up and play a meaningful role—and help show the way forward for others around them.

Anyone can step up to advance the transition to clean energy – everyday energy leaders are people just like you. Check out this video to learn more about the true heroes of social movements.

“Use the tools that are already available and accessible in your own community.”
“You are not a hero. You are better than that. You are real.”

Bringing People Together

So how do you organize people to help achieve your purpose? Simple: you show them how getting involved helps them reach their own goals. Everyone’s reason for coming to the table can be different, but we have to show people how we’re all united. We have to define not just what we’re working against, but what we’re working for. If we come together, we can change the world.

Video: Organize and Change the World

Make your vision something people can’t refuse to take part in, take advantage of your personal network, go digital, and reach out to other community leaders who share your values. Establish need, stay positive, and reinforce how you are building a community.

First Follower Principle

One person can push for an idea to move forward, but starting a movement really relies on others having the courage to follow in someone’s footsteps and join their cause. We don’t all have to have our own movements, because if we build upon each other’s progress, we can be more successful at advancing the transition to clean energy – together.

Leadership Lessons From Dancing Guy


  1. A leader needs the guts to stand alone and look ridiculous, but also must be easy to follow.
  2. A movement must be public. Make sure outsiders see more than just the leader. Everyone needs to see the followers, because new followers emulate followers – not the leader.
  3. The best way to make a movement, if you really care, is to courageously join in and show others how to follow.

Connecting Through Peoples’ Stories

Whether they are written or spoken, stories elicit emotions that resonate with others and encourage empathy. They help us connect to strangers and those unfamiliar to us through the relatability of shared human experiences, and they can empower you to build a stronger community to support your cause.

Retaining involvement requires you to connect deeply with your team. Start by listening and connecting with those you are collaborating with to find out their background. Surveys and data can be helpful, but they don’t enable you to truly discover who people are on a personal level. Creating impactful change starts with storytelling.

Organizing Your Team

Once you have your team, how do you move forward? Assigning roles without understanding the individuals who are filling them can mean missing out on setting volunteer teams up for maximum success. There are four main personas to identify and assign certain tasks to.1


Data Heads:
Hyper-organized, data heads prefer graphic depictions and quantitative goals over verbal instructions and will keep your timeline on track. They are often technologically skilled, leading to cost and time savings.

Creative Types:
Motivated by aesthetics, current trends, and identity, creative types often have artistic skills and will thrive at creating graphics, fliers, or compelling written content.

Event Experts:
They’ll want to know timelines and how things fit together so they can plan ahead. Put them in charge of organizing major events, working with partners, and running your team’s calendar.

Motivators tend to be high energy, social, and conversational. Their ability to empathize will help the team overcome challenges, such as when morale is low, and work to boost energy and productivity.

Campaign Strategies

The science behind behavior change
Which campaign strategies are the key to success? Kevin Green, RARE’s Senior Director at the Center for Behavior and Environment, shares his input on the role of behavior change in climate change. He describes three behavior activators that you should consider adopting: emotional appeal, social incentives, and choice architecture.2


Emotional Appeals

We know that humans are a highly emotional species.

Psychologists say we have two systems in our brain. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional, while System 2 is slow, logical, and rational. Both systems are important and powerful. To motivate change, we must be careful to communicate to both systems.


Social Incentives

Contrary to common assumptions, people are not inherently selfish.

We have evolved to become intrinsically social animals with a profound need to belong and a desire to cooperate. We care what others think about us and are highly responsive to social influences, often modeling our behavior after those we like and trust. In other words, we behave not purely as individuals, but as members of any number of social groups to which we belong. Thus, changing an individual’s behaviors means changing a group’s norm.


Choice Architecture

Humans have strange, seemingly irrational ways of making judgments and decisions that have been helpful throughout evolution, but that often defy rational logic.

Highly influenced by the context of our decision-making, we instinctively look for information that confirms existing belief and ignore information that contradicts it. We prefer simplicity, have a limited attention span, and go out of the way to avoid hassles – even when the costs of avoidance outweigh the benefits. We can influence the choices people make by changing the manner in which options are presented to them.

Changing Behaviors to Reduce U.S. Emissions: Seven Pathways to Achieve Climate Impact

Read the Report

Behavior Change for Nature: A Behavioral Science Toolkit for Practitioners

Explore the Toolkit

Climate Change Needs Behavior Change: 2018 Report

Read the Report

The campaigns of tomorrow
Michael Silberman is The Global Director at The Mobilization Lab, a global learning and collaboration network powering the future of social change. He provides his input on the transformations taking place in campaigns due to the role of digital media, design thinking, and dynamic strategy transformations. Check out this podcast for more information on what the future of campaigns might look like and for his tips to community-level activists.


Gen180’s Pathways to Action

There’s no shortage of ways for you to step up and help accelerate the transition to 100% clean energy. Ready to make your next car electric or advocate for solar on your local school? We’re here to equip you to take real, impactful actions in your home and community. Get started by checking out our pathways to action.

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Boot Camp Certificate

With the information available throughout Boot Camp, you’ll find all the tools you need to become an everyday energy leader. We hope you enjoyed the material and feel equipped to take part in the clean energy transition. Interested in a Certificate of Completion? Test your knowledge and take the quiz!

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